On Christmas Eve 1937: Santa Claus flies by plane to the Fair Isle

WITH his sleigh presumably sat in the garage, Santa was determined not to disappoint the children of the Fair Isle on Christmas Eve 1937 - travelling to the remote settlement by plane instead.

Santa arrived on the Fair Isle by plane on Christmas Eve 1937. Picture: fairisleghosts.com
Santa arrived on the Fair Isle by plane on Christmas Eve 1937. Picture: fairisleghosts.com

“Santa” was in fact a qualified aeroplane pilot, Captain J. Annesley Harkins of Northern Airways (sorry to abandon the illusion so early).

It is not recorded whether or not Captain Annesley Harkins required a fake beard, but we can be sure that he flew the plane in full, or at least partial, disguise.

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Setting off from Kirkwall on 24th December 1937, Captain Annesley Harkins reached the remote little island, famous for its rugged landscapes and wooly jumpers, within just half an hour.

Santa circled the island before making a perfect landing on an emergency airstrip located near the Fair Isle’s post office and lighthouse, to the sheer delight of locals.

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A crowd of 100 people, much of the island’s population, had gathered to welcome good old Saint Nick in a “hearty Norse” as he stepped out the plane and on to Fair Isle soil.

Most importantly, the Fair Isle’s children were out in force - all 17 of them, 13 boys and 4 girls.

As the man himself approached them, some of the younger children were initially “speechless and timid”, but their nerves soon disappeared as they set eyes on Santa’s cluster of balloons and numerous parcels filled with toys. Delighted children hugged their gifts - none of them knitted sweaters we presume - as they received them.

The toys had been well-cushioned in the event that Santa had failed to land safely. In such an instance the gifts would have been air-dropped instead.

Each of the islanders embraced Santa, shaking his hand before he took off again back towards Orkney. The return flight is said to have been fought against a gale, but thankfully brave ‘Captain Christmas’ conquered the turbulence to make it back home in one piece.

Back on the Fair Isle, 17 very happy and grateful children would never forget the day Santa Claus flew 120 miles by aeroplane to visit the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom and shower them with presents on Christmas Eve.