‘Santa is Coming – 7p.m. Arrival at Market’
This was one of the headlines in the Carluke Section of ‘The Carluke & Lanark Gazette’ of 18th December 1953. And with that visit began another of the town’s lovely Christmas traditions that is held with so much affection in so many people’s memories.
During that first Christmas Eve visit, Santa, in his specially lit ‘sleigh’ laden with toys, made his way to the Cross via Market Road and Stewart Street, and, after meeting the children gathered there, he left the Market Place via the High Street.
Although there may have been a few added attractions over the years, the original format has been retained. At 6.00p.m. Carluke Amateur Operatic Society entertain the people gathered in the Market Place by singing carols. There have also been occasions when Carluke Primrose Flute Band have performed festive pieces in the lead-up to Santa’s entrance. Then, about 6.45p.m., Santa makes his way up the High Street to the darkened Market Place. On his arrival, the Gala Queen switches the Market Place Lights on again. Santa then alights from his horse and carriage laden with toys and spends time walking round and speaking to the some of the families gathered there and distributing oranges to the children. For many years, Carluke Round Table helped with this task. His visit over, Santa climbs back into his carriage and leaves the Market. A magical 15 minutes for the children of Carluke.
Over the years, Santa has received help from some very special men. From the 1950s through to his death in the early 1980s Roy Russell, who, with his brother Jim, came up with the original idea, took the reins. Then, following Roy’s passing, Jim took over and he was followed by George Babes and Bobby Hunter. Each man has brought his own unique touch to the role. Apparently, Jim Russell ‘put the fear of death into you to get home to your bed’. Sometimes, it has to be said that Santa hit the odd obstacle in delivering his promises. One young lady told Santa that she wanted a doll and a pram, and he reassured her that it was on his sleigh. Imagine how upset she was the next morning when there was a new bike at her house but no doll and pram. A very busy man, especially at this time of year, I am sure he can be excused the odd hiccup.
In describing this particular festive tradition Santa’s horse cannot be overlooked. In Roy Russell’s time, his cart/sleigh filled with toys was pulled by Misty, his white horse.
Many of you will have your own special memories of this special Christmas Eve tradition.
Please feel free to share both written and photographic memories with us.