When a ho-ho-hopeful won a job with a grotto and clothes allowance

Christmas is looming ever closer and that means a chance to look back at the build-up to the big day through the decades.

Wednesday, 30th November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:38 pm
Dan Murray, centre, with his fellow shortlisted Santa candidates in 1985.
Dan Murray, centre, with his fellow shortlisted Santa candidates in 1985.

We start with the 1980s, and in particular 1985 - the year when Noel Edmonds was searching for Telly Addicts and the Flying Pickets were the guests on the Des O’Connor Show.

It’s the year when Hartlepool Art Club held its annual exhibition. That’s always a true sign that Christmas was almost upon us.

West Park Primary School pupils get a gift of kindness in 1985.

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But there was a special reason to get along to the exhibition that year as it had its very own Constable - aConstable with a difference.

It was a painting of an actual police officer which had been created by club chairman Mrs Margaret Wiles who was also a teacher at Hartlepool College of Art.

She did a portrait of PC John Bain as a thank you for the time when he modelled for her students.

PC Bain, a community relations officer at Hartlepool Police Station at the time, said he loved it and thought it was “absolutely fantastic.”

West Park Primary School pupils get a gift of kindness in 1985.

Hartlepool certainly got into the spirit of Christmas early that year, with a first taste of snow before the festive season had barely kicked off.

‘Chaos Everywhere’ said the headlines and it certainly brought the roads to a standstill.

The A19 was gridlocked and at a standstill, and the A689 was having its own difficutlies after a two-car accident.

Snow clearing teams were trying to keep the roads open from 3am with heavy-duty shifting gear and the then Teesside Airport was shut to all flights for a while when fog descended.

On the brighter side, it made for great snowball fights and sledging.

Christmas came early for the pupils at Ward Jackson Primary School in Hartlepool. Students were feeling glum after thieves broke in and stole £1,000 of computer and video recorder equipment but the Hartlepool and District Snooker and Billiards Association stepped in to replace the video equipment.

Elsewhere in town, the Valerie Armstrong School of Dance held its fourth annual Christmas production which was described as “a sparkling review of song and dance.”

In Peterlee, Dan Murray had extra reason to celebrate that Yuletide as he won a competition of great importance.

It was a plush job. The pay was £70 a week, there was a clothes allowance, a great ‘office’ and help from two elves.

Three men were on the Santa shortlist but it was Mr Murray, then 65, of Chester Place in Peterlee, who got to take the big white beard, red suit and black wellies.

The retired factory vehicle inspector said at the time: “I love children and they seem to get on with me, too, so I don’t think we will have many problems.”