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FLASHBACK: Your memories of the Merseyside Christmas grottos of yesteryear

Jade Wright looks back at your family memories of Father Christmas


CHRISTMAS is the time of giving and Merseysiders are famous for their generosity. Grottos we all have our favourites were awe-inspiring, magical places.

A visit to Santa was an institution for many families, from The Salvation Army and their wistful brass band sounds of Christmas hymns floating in the air outside Owen Owen to looking in the windows at Lewiss and seeing the impressive displays in Blacklers.

We asked readers to send in their memories of visiting Father Christmas. Here is a selection of our favourites.

Jimi Walsh from Kirkby sent in this photo of him with his sisters , Marie, Christine and Trudy at the TJ Hughes grotto in December 1967.

He says: Family visits in to Liverpool city centre were a regular occurrence especially over the festive period, when we always visited Santa's Grotto either at TJ Hughes, Lewis's or other big department stores. I remember that shortly before that picture was taken, while I was sitting on Santa's knee, I noticed his beard was somewhat dodgy and decided to give it a tug!

My sisters are laughing in the picture, but I had just been told off by my mum hence the solemn expression. It was a great childhood time, full of magical memories of Christmas, asking Father Christmas for bikes, train sets, toy soldiers etc, telling him 'yes, I had been a good boy for my mum' and getting a small toy from him and his elf helpers. But, like all good things, it comes to an end when you grow older and doubt creeps in. They were a good five or six years of wintertime wonderment that I will always fondly remember. It was a special family time that we all looked forward to.

Michelle Langan from Orrell Park sent in a picture with Father Christmas at Blacklers from the late 1970s.

I remember as a kid, going along to the grotto at Blacklers department store, she says.

Me and my brother Martin were really excited as we got nearer and nearer to the front of the queue to speak to Father Christmas. As our turn arrived, and we were just about to share our Christmas list with Santa, there was a knock on the partiton wall of the grotto.

The jolly, rotund Santa explained how it was Rudolph, wanting a carrot. We smiled as Santa promised he'd be back in a minute, and he was only this time, Santa was now a small thin man instead of the big fat guy from earlier. I think that was the first time I realised Father Christmas came in differents shapes and sizes.

Lisa Southern from Little Sutton sent in a picture, again from the late 70s.

She says: I cant be sure as we went to a few of the grottos over the years, but my mum thinks this was taken at Lewis's in Liverpool. I had the most terrible cows lick my fringe would never go the right way. Looking at the photo now he doesnt look like the most convincing Santa he looks more like Corrie's Alan Bradley but I was over the moon with my Post Office set from Father Christmas that year.

Jo Dunn from Wirral has this photo of her dad as father Christmas at Castleway Primary School from December 1989.

She says: He used to be parent governor at my primary school and would often be called in to be Santa at our Christmas fairs. I would go in, sit on his knee and tell him what I wanted for Christmas totally unaware it was my dad. Looking back at the pictures now it's blatantly obvious it was him. Oh to be a naive child once again!

Colin Crawford from Litherland also recognised a familiar face behind Santas bushy beard.

My Grandad John Crawford was Santa at various stores in the late 70s, including Blackers, TJ Hughes and I'm sure there was a grotto or a shop called Gimbles. This picture was probably taken at TJ Hughes Liverpool in about 1977.

The picture shows me Colin Crawford, Gary Crawford and Cheryl Crawford and of cause John Crawford Father Christmas. We all looked at him and instantly recognised him by his eyes and the way he smiled but my mum and dad denied it. When we went to my Nan's later that afternoon he was missing and we eventually got the truth out of him.

WE would love to see your old Christmas photos. Please send your pictures, with a few words about them and your name, address and telephone number to letters@liverpoolecho.co.uk  marked Christmas memories.

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