two months short of 100 years ago, a baby girl was born to an Irish couple (the McCarty’s) who came to Winchburgh, seeking work for the young man in the White Quarries shale mine of the Scottish Oil Company (now part of BP) outside the village. Both hoped for a better life, and the little girl (their first, and only child as it turned out) was part of the new start in life. MaryAnn was a bright, happy and helpful child, she grew up and started her working life at 14 as a seamstress. 15 years later she left work to look after her frail aging mother-her dad died in a mine accident-and at the age of 36 found herself alone in this world when her mum died, except for some friends and acquaintances she had no one. But MaryAnn was a kind soul and was a born villager, she settled in and adjusted to her life, MaryAnn had only to hear of someone unlucky and she was there, offering advice, practical and sometimes, financial, help, Mary Ann was very generous who had a kind word for everybody and everyone thought of her as the favourite aunt. Everyone thought she was bound for being a spinster, but just after the war she surprised everyone by marrying Gino, a former prisoner of war who stayed here after the war. Their family grew quickliy and they had 3 girls and 2 boys in six years. Alas after ten years of marriage, Gino was killed in a freak accident on the farm where he worked, MaryAnn was left to bnring up the children on her own, which she achieved, and the kids were a credit to her determination and hard work. As she grew older and money was tight, MaryAnn bought Christmas presents throughout the year for the younger ones and put aside cash for the older kids, she still help others down on their luck wherever possible. By the beginning of December she had the money in separate envelopes and all the presents wrapped up with each of them having a gift tag which read ‘With love to you at Christmas’. Mary Ann kept the presents in a large wooden chest of her parents, and long before Christmas the younger ones would pester her to let them see inside the chest, her eyes twinkled but the box remained closed. Once, a few days before Christmas, MaryAnn watched television as the news came though of a terrible famine in Africa, with tears in oher eyes at the sight, she quickly took out of the chest all the envelopes and removed the money, which she then sent off. Two days before Christmas the news came to Mrs Cavallarro that a young miner had broken his back in a cave-in at the mine and that his wife and young family had no gifts or ing tmoney for gifts, without hesitation MaryAnn gathered all the gifts and left them at the steps of the miner’s house for his wife to find. And so on Christmas eve before attending the service, MaryAnn went to the chest only to find it empty, it then hit her just what she had done, MaryAnn broke down it tears, what shall she do now, she had no gifts, no money for gifts, and no time to get any for her family. And so, when she finally went to bed, she tossed and turned, finally she did fall asleep only to awake a short time later by the sound of a baby crying, a beautiful light shone out of the empty chest, MaryAnn hurried over to the box and kneeling down saw a baby boy on a layer of straw, as she knelt before him she asked, “why are you here little one” and brushed some straw from his face, the boy smiled and opened his arms, at that moment, the kindly old heart of Mrs Cavallarro, stopped beating. And so, on Christmas morn, as her family gathered around the house MaryAnn by them still kneeling at the side of the chest. Oh look they cried, she was lifting our presents out to leave under the tree, for it was true, the empty chest once was filled full of presents each tagged ‘With love to you at Christmas’.

May I take this time to wish each and everyone of you, the moderators, the members, their families, a VERY MERRY and PEACEFUL CHRISTMAS, and to ask, make Christmas everyday, spread a little happiness around, a smile, a kind word, it’s all it takes, it may make someone’s day, remember, there is always someone worse off than you, somewhere in this world, who knows, it could be the next person you meet so be kind, brian