An Irish woman who has been organising Christmas dinners for people living alone for 32 years has received phone calls from people living in Spain and Holland wanting to attend her renowned festive fair.

Margaret Brown, from Sandycove in Dublin, has been organising the festive feast since 1986 after seeing people at a scout hall eating lumpy soup and cold meat huddled around a gas-fired heater in a bid to keep warm.

“I suppose the Christmas feast is the victim of its own success. The numbers we feed seems to grow every year.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have people as far afield as Spain and Holland wanting to come along but, I had to turn them down, as the demands from people even living in other counties such as Tipperary and Wexford is enormous.

“For most people here in Ireland, Christmas is a time for family, friends and celebrations. For others, its a time of loneliness, isolation and risk.

It is impossible to explain how hard Christmas is for people on their own The Dun Laoghaire Christmas Day Lunch founded in 1986 provides critical support for those at Christmas who would otherwise be by themselves and also for those in most need.

“Unfortunately, we can only cater for 300 people in Blackrock Rugby Club from 10.30am to 2.30pm and we are looking for volunteer drivers to bring people to and from the venue. Fundraising for the growing event has been taking place all year so it will be a marvellous day.”

Mrs Brown’s homeless dinners will also be going to Bentley House Homeless services in Monkstown, members of the Travelling Community and to three families living in caravans at the west pier in Dun Laoghaire and at caravans located in Ballyogan.

All together they will be looking after up to 600 people on Christmas Day.

Even some well-known bands such as U2 have also been known to drop in on the day to take part in the festivities.

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Having worked all over the world in catering and hotel management and for a long time for Jury’s Hotel Group, starting the Christmas endeavour came to Mrs Brown as a natural thing to do.

Over the next three weeks, the super busy mother will be adding to her list of last minute preparations for people planning to attend.

Both she and up to 35 volunteers start their physical preparations for the annual dinner in October every year.

“Every year of the 32 years of running the lunch has been enjoyable but now I’m taking it one year at a time as to how much longer I will organise it.

I had looked for someone to take over the mantle from me but people are so busy with their lives that finding a substitute has proved difficult. It’s a lot of work but I would miss it if I called it a day totally.

This year’s festive feast will include potato and leek soup, chilled melon with grapes, roast turkey and Limerick ham, vegetarian quick, Christmas pudding and cake, fruit trifle, tea and coffee.

Former Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Co Council and Fianna Fail General Election candidate Cormac Devlin said: “Margaret is someone who always gives of her time for others and she always seems to get things done so easily and meticulously.

“You often hear of people complaining about having too many people to cater for on Christmas Day but Margaret has hundreds to deal with and she never complains.

“She’s done so much for so many people, that will never be forgotten. Our community is better off thanks to Margaret.”

IRISH EXAMINER

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