Santa Claus Is Coming – To The Rescue!

The nativity play was over and Santa Claus was about to deliver gifts at a Dalbeattie care home – when his bleeper suddenly went off.

Dalbeattie butcher Norman Neilson, who doubles as a retained firefighter, stripped off his white beard and red costume as he made a dash from the Alma McFadyen Care Centre to answer an alarm call on Thursday night (December 15).

“I was sorry to have to disappoint the people waiting for me, who were singing ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ – but the emergency had to come first,” said Mr Neilson, aged 57, who is a crew manager at Dalbeattie retained fire station.

“I just stripped off my Santa outfit and a member of staff held the door open for me to fly out. I’m afraid Rudolph wasn’t waiting – so I just jumped into my car.”

He rushed to the station, just a few hundred yards away from the care home, and joined his crew members to answer the call-out to Threave Gardens in Castle Douglas.

“It ended up as a false alert after somebody accidentally broke the glass in the fire alarm,” said Mr Neilson, who is the husband of Alma McFadyen care centre administrator Margaret Neilson and who runs the nearby Neilson Brothers butchers.

“It wasn’t very good timing – but it’s something you just have to accept when you are a retained firefighter.”

Luckily the assembled crowd at the Christmas gathering in the home were not disappointed – because Alma McFadyen activities coordinator Jade Borrett quickly stepped into Santa’s boots and costume to hand out gifts to children who were attending.

Staff had staged their own nativity play for residents, relatives and friends, with senior carer Michelle Stitt as Mary and Kate Collins, a care assistant, as Joseph.

The three wise men were care assistants Alex Neil and Jacqueline Graham and senior care assistant Tracy Gilmour, while the shepherds were manager Leanna Mitchell, deputy manager Andrea Oneill and care assistant Rebecca McRoberts, The Angel Gabriel was administrator Margaret Neilson and care assistant Frances Rennie took the role of King Herod. Care assistant Karie Rae played Augustus.

Care assistant Jacqueline Crawford was Elizabeth, while her colleague Lizzie Norman was Zechariah and senior care assistant Margaret Docherty narrated the show.

The home’s lounge was packed with around 50 in the audience and a raffle raised £120 to take the residents out for a Christmas lunch.

Manager Leanna Mitchell said: “It was a brilliant night and the play was very emotional for the audience, who really appreciated the effort that our staff had put into the event.

“Then everyone was waiting as we sang ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ when his bleeper went off.”

The residents are expected to receive another visit from Santa during this week – in the shape of Mr Neilson’s older brother, John, aged 67, who will be touring various venues in the town. John’s wife, Christine Neilson, is also a staff member at Alma McFadyen Care Centre.

The 23-bed Alma McFadyen Care Centre is run by the St Philips Care Group and is based in Mill Street in the heart of Dalbeattie.

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