Just before Christmas in 2011, a County Down man was shocked to find that a letter to Santa written by his mother over 100 years ago had been found in a chimney. Victor Bartlem didn’t realize the significance of the tale at first as his wife read out the details in the Irish Times. The paper reported how Terenure resident, John Byrne, discovered the 1911 letter to Santa from brother and sister A. and H. Howard on a shelf behind a chimney at his home. The letter, slightly scorched after 100 years in a chimney, was written on Christmas Eve by 10-year-old Hannah, known as Annie, and her brother Alfred.
Bangor resident Victor didn’t make the connection with his late mother Annie at first, however, not even when his wife referred to the address of his former family home in Dublin.
It was only when Hannah’s name was mentioned that Victor realized his mother’s role in the fascinating story.
“I simply couldn’t believe it. I never knew about this letter. I never even knew it existed,” Victor told the Irish Times.
The letter, which captured the spirit of Christmas past, included a present wish list and a good luck message to Santa.
“I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee,” wrote Hannah, born on Christmas Day 1900.
“My mother attended the Zion Church of Ireland school in Rathgar before going on to marry Alfred Bartlem in 1931, with whom she had two sons, Howard and Victor. She and Alfred moved to a house on Lomond Avenue, Fairview, shortly after they married, where she died in 1978,” reported Victor.
He added that his mother had been extremely creative, excelling at various forms of needlework and later at woodwork and was also an expert baker of cakes and other confectionery.
Her niece Iris Murphy, who lives in Dublin, also contacted the paper after she was alerted to her aunt’s story when her daughter in Tasmania read about it on IrishTimes.com.
“My aunt was a very happy-go-lucky person with a great sense of humor,” said Iris.
* Originally published in 2012.