Friday 17 November 2017

Meet the holiday heroes who will rival Santa on Christmas Day

Fireman Brendan Lavin at Dublin Airport. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Fireman Brendan Lavin at Dublin Airport. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Jane O'Faherty

Santa Claus is not the only person with his hands full at this time of the year.

These people are just some of the thousands who will be putting in some hard work on December 25.

Sommelier Nisea Doddy and concierge Dennis O’Brien at the Shelbourne Hotel. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Sommelier Nisea Doddy and concierge Dennis O’Brien at the Shelbourne Hotel. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Brendan Lavin works in Dublin Airport's police and fire service, and will be on duty just after his Christmas dinner.

Mr Lavin and his colleagues are known as "rotators", and alternate between working in the police and fire stations.

And although there will be no flights departing or arriving on that day, Brendan and his colleagues will be ensuring the terminals, hangars and aircraft are safe and secure.

Other duties include responding to road traffic accidents or medical emergencies within the airport, and awaiting the rescue helicopter, which may be deployed.

Noel McMeel, head chef at Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh
Noel McMeel, head chef at Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh

"Anything could happen. It's still a day when you're working, and you still have to cover the airport," he said.

But Mr Lavin (42) says there is still a sense that it's a special day.

"It's the one day of the year when the airport is officially closed," he said.

"You look out to the aircraft parked on every stand, and you have this eerie feeling of nothing moving. On any other day, you would see aircraft arriving or departing."

He added:"On Christmas Day, you might even see a few hares running around the runway.

"Then the airport priest comes in and blesses the aircraft for the year."

Meanwhile, Paul Quinn of radio station Newstalk will be manning the newsdesk on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Read more: Families with young children in hospital on the 'awe-inspiring' place that keeps them going at Christmas

"I used to be home every Christmas, and I was very lucky I could do that," he said. "I don't mind working, and I'll be done at 2pm so I'll be back for dinner."

While the holiday can be a difficult time to track down news stories, Mr Quinn will be kept busy. "Christmas Day is different but it is still a news day," he said. "It's much quieter but we still have to do a bulletin every hour. We also do the network news service for local stations as well."

Mr Quinn is due to start at 7am on Christmas Day, but will be finished in time to join his family for Christmas dinner.

"At Christmas, I'm lucky enough to have a family," he said.

"But there are people who are alone at this time of year. For a lot of people, radio is their best friend. They feel like they know you."

For Noel McMeel, head chef at Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh, Christmas begins well before his shift on the day itself.

The setting of menus starts weeks in advance, and Mr McMeel and his team begin cooking in the early hours.

"For a chef in a hotel, it's the same as for someone who is feeding four people at home," he said. "It's all about preparation. It's all about mise-en-place. It's how you prepare the dinner table."

As the rush for dinner eases around 4pm, Mr McMeel and his colleagues will get a chance to catch up with their families in the evening.

But he says there is something special about Christmas in the hotel.

While there will be plenty of alternatives to turkey and ham, the highlight of the menu is Christmas pudding.

"I think any Christmas has to showcase what we've been brought up with," he said. "On these occasions, we have to show what we do well and do best."

Meanwhile, Dennis O'Brien, concierge at the Shelbourne Hotel, is due to start at 7am.

"It's an early start. It's a strange type of day," he said. "You leave your home in the morning and there's no one around, no taxis."

It's a busy day nonetheless, with duties ranging from advising on restaurant choices to helping out with Christmas presents.

"You have the extra batteries in, just in case Santa forgets," he said. "Then the man himself comes to visit the boys and girls in the hotel. It's a hive of activity and amazement when they know Santa will be in the lobby. It's magical to see that."

Irish Independent

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