With their gracious, gentle hearts and giving spirits, the ladies of the Christmas Fair Fun have been making Christmas last all year long, for 67 wonderful years. We sat down with Michelle Blake and Gaby Lyle, two residents on the CFF, ahead of this year’s Christmas Fair.

Gaby gives me a huge smile as she sits down, and counts how many years she’s been on the CFF. “It’s about 38, I think,” she nods. Michelle shakes her head in amazement: “has it been that long?” She joined the CFF a few years ago, when the older ladies were in search of younger blood.

This is precisely the magic of the CFF: it is a beautiful blend of older members who display a remarkable willingness to assist those less fortunate, and younger women who keep the Fund fresh and energised six decades after its establishment. The Fund was started by Shirley Jex and Ruby Stewart, two farmers’ wives. “The nursing sister who worked in the outlying areas near them needed a car. So, Shirley and Ruby rallied the rest of the farmers’ wives and hosted a fête in the local town hall. They baked, sewed, knitted and cooked, and made enough money to buy the car, and had a little extra!”

Shirley and Ruby decided to make the fête annual, and the farmers’ wives formed The Christmas Fair Fund. The little fête has grown steadily, evolving into a highly anticipated fair that runs over two days at the Collisheen Estate, every year. The CFF has also grown, with a membership of 56: 30 of which form the strong core. “The ladies are all volunteers,” Michelle says. “We work along the North Coast, assisting families and charities wherever there is a need. We help people from all walks of life.”

Each initiative supported by the CFF is monitored by a member. The Fund does not hand over cash to recipients; rather, they ascertain needs, and assist in kind. “Our members visit the people and places we support. If they need groceries, we go out and buy, and bring it to them,” Gaby shares.

Planning for each fair begins in January: preparations are well underway for the 2019 edition, which takes place on Wednesday, 30th and Thursday, 31st October. As always, the ladies of the Fund will man the CFF stand at the heart of the fair. They handmake their goods: including their famous Christmas cakes, décor and other treats.

Keep up with the CFF on Facebook: The Christmas Fair Fund.

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