There has been a massive response to the plight of Cork emigrant pensioner James Gray who placed an advert in the Irish Post newspaper in London seeking someone to spend Christmas Day with him.
Gray, a retired butler, says he has been “completely overwhelmed” by the reaction with newspaper reports carrying the story worldwide.
The BBC, Irish media outlets and readers of Irish Central have responded in massive fashion. His story had generated over 4,500 likes on Irish Central’s facebook page by Sunday morning.
“It is so touching to me, after all these years alone, to see this response from people,” he said. “I’m so appreciative of the offers. I should have done this years ago.”
Volunteers have come from as far away as Scotland’s Isle of Skye and New York in the US.
Now Cllr Jake Morrison in Liverpool has invited him to a major festive bash in Liverpool, all expenses paid,
He told the Independent newspaper: “We put it out on Facebook and it's gone mental on Twitter, we’ve had 60 people say they will give up Christmas, volunteer, drive people around and help.”
Gray, who is originally from Midleton, Co Cork, said he is looking forward to receiving his first Christmas cards in years from some of those who have been in touch with The Irish Post.
“I did not get a single card for my birthday in August, but I just had to put up with it,” he said.
The County Cork born pensioner previously worked as a butler for some of the wealthiest families in Britain and Ireland and served the Guinness family at Luttrellstown Castle outside Dublin.
His last Christmas dinner company was provided by his accountant a decade ago but all that is set to change now.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “This heart-breaking case is all too often a reality for so many older people. It’s really common for feelings of loneliness to be exacerbated during the festive season and a huge concern that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk.
"We would urge everyone to help tackle this growing problem by calling or popping in to visit their older neighbours or relatives to check they are okay over Christmas."
If Mr Gray’s story has touched you and you would like to send him a Christmas card, The Irish Post will is now collecting cards to pass on to him. Please send it to: ‘Mr James Gray’ c/o The Irish Post, Suite A, 1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP, UK.
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