Got your Christmas tree yet? We’ve had ours for 100 years!
Family’s festive focal-point since just after WWI
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