Wooden figures carve out a niche in family tradition

THEIR long journey brought them from South Africa to South Yorkshire – but a pair of Christmas decorations can now lay claim to being among the oldest in the world.

The historic wooden toys – which are at least 111 years old – long ago became a part of the annual festive celebrations in the Hey family household after being passed down through the generations.

Housewife Sheila Hey said: "Every year the children have helped to decorate the tree and the wooden dolls have always been the last thing to go on and at the very front of the tree in a prominent place.

"Over all the years they have been hanging up many people have commented about them – we have never seen any like them before."

The two decorative figures were brought by Mrs Hey's mother-in-law, Mary Elizabeth Robinson, to England in 1899 from South Africa.

She was born in South Africa in 1895 and had been living there with her parents and her brother Charles, but the family came back to Mexborough in South Yorkshire at the start of the Second Boer War.

Mrs Hey, 64, fondly remembers the dolls being displayed on her mothers-in-law's Christmas tree, and they were then passed on to her husband Robin, 73, following her death.

The decorations have movable arms and legs and are both about three inches tall.

Mrs Hey, who lives in Flockton near Wakefield, said: "We took over the family tradition in 1967 and the two little black figures have been hanging on our tree ever since.

"My husband always remembers them hanging on the family tree. And they are in great condition for being well over 100 years old, with no serious damage."

The couple have two sons, John, 41, and Martin, 38, and two grandchildren, and hope the family tradition will continue.