Volunteers who deliver the magic of Christmas

Published date: 24 December 2013 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


You could hear the music, even though it had to travel through the winding streets and pierce a pane of glass.

Slowly, it would grow in volume, and I would push my head under the curtains (never open them, in case Santa saw) and peek above the window ledge.

Then the sleigh would appear, shining in the night and, with that fear that comes of being in the presence of a powerful person, I’d duck back down and pull the covers over my head.

Santa left a lump of coal for naughty children, and I was supposed to be asleep, but I also half-hoped Santa would catch sight of me and invite me on a whirlwind visit to his toy factory in Lapland.

When I was really young, I really believed.

When I grew older, I realised it was the Mold Round Table group, now sadly defunct, bringing Santa to the doorsteps of Flintshire residents.

Though it isn’t quite as magical as it was, it is still a significant herald of Christmas.

The tradition still continues in Deeside.

Mark Rowlands, current chairman of Deeside Round Table, has just hung up his flourescent tabbard after marching the streets of Hawarden, Queensferry, Shotton and Connah’s Quay.

He said: “You aren’t alone in getting a bit wobbly about it. The amount of people that say it was a big part of their childhood, I’ve actually seen grown adults with tears in their eyes.

“We’ve had real hard men come up to us and go: ‘Thank you for bringing Christmas to our street’.”

The Round Table is not the only group bringing a float around the residential areas.

Last week, Leader reporter Jamie Nield-Siddall told of how he took his son to meet Santa, with the help of the Rotary Club.

But from the New Year on, the Round Table will begin a recruitment drive, meaning that if you are a man aged under 45, next year you could find yourself escorting Santa in style.

Mark said: “We’ve been going out three or four nights a week. All the money we raise goes to local charities.

“We haven’t finished counting it  yet, but we’ve gathered in more than £3,000 already, and we know it’s going to be a record-breaking year. We’ve smashed last year’s total.”

Beneficiaries this year include the Dean Puplett Appeal, which was set up to support a Mold boy who was diagnosed with a childhood cancer aged just three.

Next year will be even bigger and better.

It’s not often you hear someone speaking about upgrading their reindeer, but the float gets a makeover each Christmas, and by next December, Rudolph should have a newer and more realistic set of friends.

Volunteers can sometimes spend four to five hours walking in the cold, but Mark says it’s worth it.

I asked who sat in Santa’s sleigh.

“Santa,” laughed Mark, as though I was an idiot.

“Yes,” I said, “But who plays him?”

“No, it’s the real Santa. He gives out sweets to any children who have stayed up to see him and he tells them to be in bed early on Christmas Eve.

“It’s great to watch. You can see the mum’s and dad’s hearts melting.”

Mark himself remembers a similar float in Little Sutton where he grew up, and said it was “fantastic”.

Like me, he used to wait at the window.

He said: “It makes Christmas real. That’s one of the reasons we do it. I’m an electrician and I graft all day, and the last thing I want to do is go wandering around in the dark for hours, but it’s all worth it.”

Rory Tompsett, vice chairman, is keen to get more volunteers on board.

He said: “The float is only part of what we do. I’m 44, so next year will be my last – it’s a young group and we need new members. I’ve been a member since 2000. I really get a lot out of it.

“It’s good to give something back to the local community.

“The look on kid’s faces when you pull up...”

The Round Table has been running a float since the late 70s, so there are two generations of Flintshire residents whose childhood Christmas’ will have been lit up by Santa’s sleigh.

Rory drives the landrover that pulls the sleigh (although it is the reindeer really, he assures me).

“I’m the only one who can reverse it around a cul-de-sac,” he laughed. “There’s quite a lot of work goes into it. You need to get collection licences and fill in a lot of paperwork.

“We get to choose the music. We’ll play anything from Slade and Wizzard to old-fashioned carols, but not Cliff Richard. Driver’s rules,” he added, smugly.

Currently, the sleigh is sitting on a drive in Hawarden, much to the bemusement of the children on the street.

Rory and Mark invited me to go and see it, and perhaps even sit on Santa’s seat, but I politely declined.

It’s not that I was too busy.

It is because, even after talking to the men behind the float, a tiny part of me still hopes that if I ever do sit on Santa’s sleigh, the reindeer will spring into life, leap into the air and whisk me off to Lapland.

I think my editor would be quite cross if that happened, and I’d be terribly disappointed if it didn’t.

l If you want to help out with the Round Table float next year, or are interested in joining the group, visit www.deeside.roundtable. for details.

You are eligible to join if you are male and aged between 18 and 45 (the website does provide links to community groups catering for different demographics).

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