Got your Christ­mas tree yet? We’ve had ours for 100 years!

Fam­ily’s fes­tive fo­cal-point since just af­ter WWI

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Paul Drury

ITS cheery car­ols first played in 1918, only weeks af­ter the guns of the First World War had fi­nally fallen silent.

And now, as­ton­ish­ingly, this clock­work tree con­tin­ues to spread its tune­ful mes­sage of fes­tive cheer – just as it has done ev­ery Christ­mas for the past cen­tury.

The wind-up dec­o­ra­tion, which plays Silent Night, has been owned by the same fam­ily since it was bought for the princely sum of £2 10s – equiv­a­lent to around £150 to­day.

Shop­keeper Robert Muir pur­chased the tree to cel­e­brate the birth of his only child, also called Robert, who came into the world on De­cem­ber 9, 1918.

It had been only a few weeks since the Ar­mistice of Novem­ber 11, which had brought an end to four years of con­flict.

Since then, the tree has been passed down through the gen­er­a­tions and now rests with young Robert’s daugh­ter, Aileen Stir­ling, who re­mem­bers ador­ing the Ger­man-made tree as a child, when it was the fo­cal point of fam­ily Christ­masses.

‘It’s been part of my Christ­mas for as long as I can re­mem­ber,’ said Mrs Stir­ling, 66, a re­tired bank worker from Ren­frew, near Glas­gow. ‘We used to play a game with it. Some­one would place a wee choco­late on one of the branches and the chil­dren would stand around it in a cir­cle.

‘It would play a Christ­mas carol and turn around for a cou­ple of min­utes. Who­ever was near­est to the choco­late when it stopped got to eat it.’

The ar­ti­fi­cial tree is 40 inches tall and stands on a sil­very metal base. When wound with a brass key, the tree ro­tates and plays Christ­mas car­ols, in­clud­ing the Ger­man favourites Ihr Kin­der­lein Kom­met (O, Come Lit­tle Chil­dren) and Stille Nacht (Silent Night).

The fact that the tree was made in Ger­many is all the more re­mark­able since Bri­tain had not re­sumed trad­ing with the coun­try when the dec­o­ra­tion was pur­chased shortly af­ter the end of the war.

Mrs Stir­ling, a grand­mother and mother of two, said: ‘My grand­fa­ther ran a newsagent’s shop in Ren­frew and the tree was placed in the win­dow to bring in cus­tomers.

‘That shows you how un­usual it must have been at the time.

‘We stayed in the flat above the shop and my fa­ther in­her­ited the tree when his dad died.

‘When I got it, I made sure it has been dressed and placed in a prom­i­nent spot in our house ever since.’

Mrs Stir­ling was seven years old when she fea­tured in a happy fam­ily pic­ture with her mother, sis­ter and grand­moth­ers in 1958.

An­other pic­ture shows her with the tree in 1976, when she was preg­nant with her daugh­ter, Joanne.

Her hus­band John, now 68, posed in front of it with Joanne for her first Christ­mas the fol­low­ing year.

Mrs Stir­ling said: ‘Joanne is now mar­ried and liv­ing in Spain and misses the chance to turn the key on the tree.

‘On Christ­mas Day I need to hold it near the phone while Joanne will say to me, “Play me the tree, Mum!”

‘It’s like a mem­ber of the fam­ily re­ally.

‘To think of all the Christ­mas par­ties it has wit­nessed of gen­er­a­tions of my fam­ily over the years gets me quite emo­tional.’

‘To think of all the par­ties it’s wit­nessed gets me emo­tional’

YULE­TIDE FAVOURITE: Aileen Stir­ling, cir­cled above left, with her fam­ily and the Christ­mas tree in 1958; preg­nant with her daugh­ter Joanne in 1976, cen­tre, and pic­tured this year with the ven­er­a­ble old tree, left

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