Christmas in Derry - 1948 style

Diamond in the snow.
Diamond in the snow.

AFTER A last minute spate of shopping that brought 1948 Christmas trading well up to the volume of the previous few years, Christmas Day in Derry City slipped past with the quietest tread for several years.

The holiday emphasis was on outdoor sport and big attendances were accorded the holiday football ties.

Snowballing girls.

Snowballing girls.

Postal officials had a Christmas period of increased activity and, in Derry, the Post Office handled and dispatched a total of 1,000 more parcel bags than last Christmas.

55,000 more letters than the previous year were also delivered by a staff of postmen, which included 40 extra recruits.

There was, in the main, a better class and range of goods of all kinds on sale in the shops and the public showed more discernment than in any of the years since the war.

Grocers had a nasty headache trying to make a still-too-meagre supply meet a big demand.

Boys in snow.

Boys in snow.

Still, the variety of foodstuffs was wider, but turkeys and poultry were especially scarce.

Christmas Day in the city hospitals were made as bright and festive as possible.

The wards and corridors of the Derry City and County Hospital [at Infirmary Road] were gaily bedecked, and for the benefit of the children their ward was presented with an illuminated Christmas tree loaded with gifts which were disbursed by Dr. J. B. Alexander in the role of Santa Claus.

There was no scarcity of turkey in the hospitals. Large helpings, along with plum pudding, were served to the patients who, although unable to spend the holidays with members of their families, received the next best thing when their friends visited them during the day.

In addition, they had a variety programme contributed to by local artistes.

In the other city hospitals, the programme was somewhat similar. Patients in the Derry and North West Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital [at Northland Road] had, in addition to festive fare, gifts from a Christmas tree and a musical programme contributed to by members of staff.

Many parents and friends visited the hospital during the day.

Both on Wednesday and Christmas Day, Waterside Hospital patients were visited by groups of local entertainers who diffused a holiday spirit that was augmented by a special Christmas dinner, gaily decorated wards that were a riot of colour, and gifts presented by Miss Duggan as Santa Claus.

On Monday afternoon, members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society visited the wards and distributed further gifts.

A concert programme followed, arranged by Mr. Samuel Burke.

In Derry Fever Hospital, the patients were enjoyably entertained by the Matron (Miss F. Donnell) and the nursing staff.

In St. Columb’s T.B. Hospital, Browning Drive, Waterside, there were prizes for the most gaily decorated wards which were judged by Mr. J. McCorkell, and, as well as an appropriate programme of carols, sung by the staff and friends, there was extra Christmas fare provided.

Several of the patients were permitted to spend the holiday in their homes.

Turkeys, plum pudding and a variety of other Christmas foodstuffs were included in the Christmas “table” for the patients in Derry Mental Hospital, Strand Road.

Afterwards, a dance was held in the decorated Recreation Hall.

Carols were also sung by Christ Church Choir, under Rev. E. G. Parke, M. A., Rector, and Guides and Brownies donated gifts of sweets for the female patients, while ex-Service patients received gifts from the British Legion and other organisations.