Wakefield family's 'oldest Christmas tree decorations'

At 111 years old a pair of dolls, passed down through generations, could be the oldest Christmas tree decorations in the world.

Originating from Africa, the ancient wooden toys have been a talking point in the Hey family home for the last 43 years and always take pride of place on their tree.

Housewife Sheila Hey, from Flockton, near Wakefield, 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.

"They really stand out on our tree as well, because it is decorated with miniature shoes, ballet pumps, stilettos, ski boots, Dutch clogs and roller skate boots. We call it a shoe tree."

The historic dolls were brought by Mrs Hey's mother-in-law Mary Elizabeth Robinson to England in 1899 from South Africa.

Mary was born South Africa in 1895 and had been living there with her parents and her brother Charles. The family returned to Mexborough, near Sheffield, at the start of the second Boer War.

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

Mrs Hey said: "We took over the family tradition in 1967 and the two little figures have been hanging on our tree ever since.

"They are little boy and girl with movable arms and legs and are about three inches long.

"The lad has on white trousers, green waistcoat and a little red hat while the girl has on silk skirt, yellow blouse, white apron and a red head scarf tied at the front.

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

The Heys, who have two sons and two grandchildren, hope the tradition will carry on.

Catherine Hinchliffe of Ward Hadaway

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