Morecambe Christmas lights switch-on was dream come true for schoolgirl in 1950
Seventy years ago today it was a fairy tale come true for a 10-year-old Morecambe schoolgirl who won the honour of switching on Morecambe’s Christmas lights.
Anne Langley of Sandylands Primary School, had only been in the mayor’s parlour a few moments when she won the ballot to be the town’s Christmas fairy.
On December 9, 1950, Anne Midgley (nee Langley) was sent a letter from the mayoress at the time, W Curwen, saying: “Dear Anne, I am very pleased to learn that you have been elected to represent your school at the ballot for the honour of switching on the town’s illuminated Christmas tableau, and I offer you my sincerest congratulations.
“The ballot will take place in the town hall during the afternoon of Friday, December 22, and I am sending you herewith an invitation from the mayoress in connection with this.
“I look forward to meeting you here at 3.30pm on Friday, 22 instant, and in the meantime express the hope that you will be the lucky girl.”
As reported in The Visitor, it was said: “With the wave of a wand on Friday afternoon, a 10-year-old schoolgirl dispelled the gloom of a dull December evening and transformed a section of the central promenade into a brilliant spectacle of light and colour.
“It was a fairy tale come true for the schoolgirl, Anne Langley of Sandylands Primary School who, in the mayor’s parlour at the town hall a few moments before, had won the ballot to be the town’s Christmas fairy.
“Into the mayor’s ceremonial cocked hat went the names of seven ten-year-old schoolgirls chosen by schoolfriends for their popularity. Nervously, hopefully, the lucky girls watched as the mayoress, Mrs W Curwen, dipped a hand into the hat and drew out the slip with Anne Langley’s name on it.
“Anne went white and for a moment stared unbelievingly but smiled prettily as the other six girls sportingly clustered round her with their congratulations. “Perhaps there is a charm on Sandylands School or maybe it was just luck that for the second year running a Sandylands girl has been the Christmas fairy.
“Anne, with crown and wand with a lighted tip, made a pretty speech to the several hundred people who watched the proceedings.
“The mayoress introduced fairy Anne, who confidently said: “I am very glad to be chosen Christmas fairy and I wish you all a Happy Christmas.”
The switch on was 20th century stuff - even the wand was electrified. It flashed and the 45 feet high Christmas tree, festooned with lights, became a blaze of colour.
Morecambe’s Christmas tree was the high spot of an illuminated Christmas tableau in Central Gardens which in 1950 was reported to be the biggest in the country.
As well as the Christmas tree, there was the Father Christmas tableau, with an eight foot high Santa waving benignly while reindeer drawing a toy-laden sleigh nod their heads. In the background was the winter scene from the four seasons tableau.
Before the switch-on a crowd of several hundred people clustered round the tree heard the publicity chairman Councillor H.R.V.Addenbrooke claim: “This is the largest Christmas tree on view in England. The one in Trafalgar Square is five feet less in height. This illuminated tableau is a picture not to be seen in any other seaside resort this Christmas.”
After the ceremony the Salvation Army led carols.
The tree and the tableau drew big crowds during the holiday, especially when carols were sung round it by local amateur theatrical societies and the Salvation Army. Admiration was widespread and enthusiastic - even among the locals.
Anne Midgley, 80, of Wray who was brought up in Morecambe and is married to Andrew, said: “I switched on the Christmas lights in Morecambe on December 22, 1950.
“My story appeared in The Visitor at the time.
“According to the press our tree was the biggest in the country. The one in Trafalgar square was five feet shorter!
“I got a letter inviting me to the inauguration and I was invited for tea with the mayoress as well.
“My name was pulled out of a hat after a ballot. It was 70 years ago but I remember being very nervous going to the town hall.
“There were a lot of crowds there at the lights switch on, they were very popular. My uncle used to come and tell me ‘one of your lights has gone off’ if a bulb blew.
“Morecambe lights were almost as good as Blackpool’s at the time.
“They used to have a lot of lovely displays in Happy Mount Park in Morecambe, I remember that.
“I do feel proud that I did it, it was a nice thing to do.”