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Meet the unsung heroes working across east London on Christmas Day

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:52 24 December 2018

Firefighters from Ilford Fire Station who will be on duty over Christmas. Megan Cutts, Jim Jobson and Chloe Cornhill.

Firefighters from Ilford Fire Station who will be on duty over Christmas. Megan Cutts, Jim Jobson and Chloe Cornhill.

Archant

As the majority of us are sitting down to roast turkey with all the trimmings on December 25, it’s important to remember the selfless few giving up their day to provide for others. We spoke to just a few of them.

Midwife Mandeep Kaur is looking forward to working Christmas Day at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust this year. Photo: BHRUTMidwife Mandeep Kaur is looking forward to working Christmas Day at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust this year. Photo: BHRUT

It is a time for festive cheer and selfless generosity – but this Christmas some will be living up to those ideals in a more literal way than most.

Across east London, in businesses, police stations, fire stations and hospitals – as well as a whole host of other vital endeavours – people will wake up on Christmas morning, and instead of rushing to their trees and tearing open their presents, will instead head to work and, in true British fashion, keep calm and carry on.

Well this newspaper thought it was important that these unsung heroes are acknowledged in some way, and so we set off across east London to meet just a few of our Christmas Day workers, and find out how they’ll spend their day, and what they think about working throught it.

Ward sister, Debbie Alexander, at Saint Francis Hospice says she looks forward to working Christmas day at Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower. Photo: Saint Francis HospiceWard sister, Debbie Alexander, at Saint Francis Hospice says she looks forward to working Christmas day at Saint Francis Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower. Photo: Saint Francis Hospice

In true heroic fashion, many of them actually felt privileged to be able to help others on such a special day. But enough from us, we’ll let them do the talking.

Midwife Mandeep

Firefighters from Ilford Fire Station who will be on duty over Christmas. Megan Cutts, Jim Jobson and Chloe Cornhill.Firefighters from Ilford Fire Station who will be on duty over Christmas. Megan Cutts, Jim Jobson and Chloe Cornhill.

Midwife Mandeep Kaur, 32, of Chigwell, has been at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust for five years and has worked Christmas Day several times.

She said: “The first time I worked Christmas Day I loved it so much I’ve requested to work it ever since.

Inspector Lisa Prior, who'll be answering 999 calls on Christmas Day. Picture: Ken MearsInspector Lisa Prior, who'll be answering 999 calls on Christmas Day. Picture: Ken Mears

“It’s such a nice place to be as everyone is full of Christmas spirit and in a good mood. We do everything we can to make it as festive as possible, every mum gets a present.

“I love working on the labour ward on Christmas Day as it’s like you’re helping to deliver the best ever gift for the mums.

“We try to discharge them as quickly as we can so they can get home to their families.

Staff at The Bull in Romford who will be working on Christmas Day. Gemma Bland, Carolyn Gore, Dan Campbell, Nathan Paule, Kirsty May and Tina Donno.Staff at The Bull in Romford who will be working on Christmas Day. Gemma Bland, Carolyn Gore, Dan Campbell, Nathan Paule, Kirsty May and Tina Donno.

“And we bring in food to share and make sure everyone gets a break to enjoy it

“My son is 13 and my daughter is 11 so they’re a little older now and not wondering where mummy is on Christmas Day, and I miss most of the preparation of Christmas dinner which I don’t mind at all!

“Usually I do a long day from 7.30am to 8pm, however, this year I’m on the early shift and finishing at 3pm, when I’ll be going home to have Christmas dinner with my family.”

Reverend Richard Bray, rector at St Anne's Limehouse. Picture: Ken MearsReverend Richard Bray, rector at St Anne's Limehouse. Picture: Ken Mears

Hospice worker Debbie

A team leader at a Havering-atte-Bower hospice’s Inpatient Unit says that they often have too many volunteers wanting to work at the charity on Christmas day.

Debbie Alexander, 58, ward sister at Saint Francis Hospice in Broxhill Road, will be working the early shift this Christmas.

“We always get too many volunteers who want to work at Christmas because it’s such a lovely place to work,” said Debbie.

“It just feels so special knowing that it might be somebody’s last Christmas. It really puts your life into perspective.

“We go in with our professional hats on and try to make the best out of what can be a really sad situation.”

On December 25th, patients will wake up to a present and volunteers wearing festive hats.

Debbie, who has been working at the hospice for 23 years, added: “It’s a very special time. It’s all about trying to be happy if you can.”

Firefighters Megan, Jim and Chloe

Ilford firefighters draw lots to decide who has to work the Christmas shift, according to seasoned watch manager Jim Jobson.

“But those of us that are older and whose kids are now grown up offer to come in and work,” the 57-year-old added, his two daughters now at university.

“Christmas when you have got young children is a magical time.”

Firefighters Chloe Cornhill, 20, and Megan Cutts, 23, who each joined the Brigade around a year and half ago, are excited to be working on December 25, despite seemingly drawing the short straw.

“This is my first time and I am looking forward to it actually,” said Megan.

“I worked Christmas when I had just started last year,” Chloe said. “They didn’t ease me in lightly”

“But we had a Christmas tree upstairs and a Christmas dinner.”

As residents get merry this Christmas, Jim warns merry partiers to be alert to hazards such as substandard Christmas lights, flammable trees and candles.

Police Inspector Lisa

Inspector Lisa Prior from the North East Borough Command Unit has worked every Christmas Day for the last 12 years.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Essex, will be answering 999 calls while the rest of the capital is opening presents and tucking into turkey.

Her shift runs from 7am to 3pm - which is when her Christmas officially begins.

“Depending on my shift depends on when we start our Christmas Day,” Inspector Prior said.

“This year we’ll have it at 5pm. My partner, who’s also a police officer, is working the late shift, so we’ll get about four hours together.”

Lisa will spend the evening with parents and in-laws. Despite the late start to celebrations, she’s not bothered.

“It doesn’t bother me massively,” she said.

“When I was still a constable, I would always work so those with children could spend time with their families.

“Those who don’t celebrate it, don’t have children, or just don’t like Christmas, tend to work.”

Pub workers at The Bull, led by Tina

Romford bar manager Tina Donno won’t be opening her Christmas presents until after she has served all her regulars (and then kicked them out for being a little too merry).

Jokes aside Tina has only had one Christmas day off in 36 years and she wouldn’t change it for the world.

Tina - manager of The Bull in Market Place - has been working in the trade pretty much all her life, and said that, perhaps unsurprisngly, the festive season is the busiest time of year.

She said: “We’ve got parties coming out of everywhere, it’s great for business but I’l be shattered by the end of it.

“I don’t mind working because it’s a day when people are always kind, happy, nice and in a good mood.

Tina said originally the pub was going to close on Christmas day, but after speaking to regulars staff and management decided against such a Scrooge-like move.

“Some of them come in every day, and I think it’s important we are open to wish them all a Merry Christmas,” she said.

Reverend Richard

For Rev Richard Bray, Christmas Day starts the same way as it does for many parents - being woken up by his children to open their stockings.

The rector at St Anne’s Limehouse will have got home late after holding the midnight service on Christmas Eve, but will be back in church for 10.30am on Christmas Day for the morning family celebration.

“There’s always a lovely atmosphere on Christmas morning, and usually lots of visitors,” he said.

After the service, the church holds a Christmas dinner for whoever wants to stay and tuck in.

“It’s members of the church family, and other people from the community - maybe even a few who we’ve just met that morning,” Richard explained.

In the early afternoon, he and his family will go home and spend time together, opening their presents.

“That’s when my Christmas holiday starts!”

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