A pensioner in County Donegal, Ireland got a magical Christmas surprise this week when he was reunited with letters he and his sister had written to Santa almost seventy years ago.

Local workmen replacing an old chimney at Neil Doherty’s family home in Buncrana this week discovered the old letters stuck in the chimney flue. Unbelievably, they had been well preserved and were easy to read. Doherty, now aged 74, was only five years of age when he and his sister Mona wrote their letters to Santa in 1941.

“My younger sister was three and I was five, and my older sister was nine,” Doherty told the press. “What strikes me now is the simplicity of it all. We started all the letters off with, “Dear Santa, Would you please send some of these toys...” And notice that we only expected to get some of them, not all of them! My sister asked for a Christmas stocking, a tea set and a doll and a pram. She didn’t get her doll and pram, and that must have been because her letter never reached Santa.”

The letters were jammed in the chimney for decades where no one could see them, so Santa didn’t know she wanted the doll and pram, Doherty imagined.

“In my letter I asked for a drum, a tool set and a little lorry, and my elder brother wanted a jigsaw puzzle and a target gun. My sister had also totaled up the cost of everything we wanted, and it came to six shillings and six pence – that’s about 33 cents in euros.”

Doherty said the family couldn’t believe the letters had survived virtually intact for over 68 years. This week he told the press he was moved and delighted to be reunited with them for Christmas 2009. “They’re a bit scorched, but the writing is so clear. These letters have brought back so many memories,” he said.