Irish pensioner places advert to find someone else to spend Christmas with

By on December 12, 2013
james gray-n

James Gray has spent the last 10 Christmases alone

AN Irish pensioner facing into his 10th Christmas alone has taken to placing newspaper adverts in a bid to find someone else to spend December 25 with.

James Gray, 85, cannot even remember the last time he saw someone else on Christmas Day after a decade of lonely festive celebrations at his London flat.

Earlier this month the retired butler – who once served Ronald Reagan – placed an advert with The Irish Post looking to establish a pensioners group to celebrate Christmas Day with.

And although he had high hopes that his festive plan would work, he was left disappointed when only one person responded to his advert.

Mr Gray’s hopes suffered a further setback when the respondent later told him she would be spending Christmas Day with someone else.

Update: Pensioner ‘overwhelmed’ as offers flood in

Now the 85-year-old, who has no immediate family to call on, is  worried that he will have to suffer Christmas alone again this year.

“I just want to find someone in time,” he said.

“I am used to the loneliness, but I do not want it to be the same this year.

“I think there must be quite a few lonely people around and I am on my own, so it would make sense I think if someone came here for Christmas lunch.

Photo update: Look at that smile – Mr Gray receive first Christmas cards in years 

“I just had smoked salmon and prawns on my own last year and I had to put up with it.

“I think the last time I saw someone on Christmas Day was when I saw my accountant about 10 years ago.

“This time of year is so hard if you are old and alone because it feels like everybody else around you is enjoying themselves,” he told The Irish Post.

Mr Gray is just one of almost half a million over-65s who face spending Christmas alone, according to the British charity Age UK.


Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s director, said the number of older people suffering from loneliness was likely to be increased by cuts to social service budgets.

“As we head towards Christmas this is a chilling outlook for too many older people,” she added.

“What’s even more concerning is that the majority of older people facing Christmas alone are aged 80 or over, making them the most vulnerable and at risk at this time of year.”

One-in-10 Irish people in Britain today are in this high-risk over-80 age group, compared with one-in-20 people in the general population.

COMMENT: Story that has inspired thousands – but how many more elderly people are forgotten at Christmas?

The warning comes as one community leader dubbed isolation one of the “most important” challenges facing the ageing Irish community in Britain.

Tom McLoughlin, manager of the Leeds Irish Centre, called for the creation of Irish-only care homes to tackle the problem from a culturally-sensitive perspective.

He said he sees the effect of loneliness every week at his Tuesday lunch club.

He also warned that isolation during the holiday season will be a problem for Irish men in particular.

“A lot of them came over here to work on the buildings but now find themselves on their own because they have no immediate family and did not marry,” Mr McLoughlin said.

“The problem is that they are very proud people and will not go cap-in-hand to others.”

The Irish Post is collecting Christmas cards for Mr Gray. If his story has touched you and you would like to have a card passed onto him, please send it to: The Irish Post, Suite A, 1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP.

Update: Pensioner ‘overwhelmed’ as offers flood in and he gets his first Christmas cards in years

Niall O Sullivan

About Niall O Sullivan

Niall O’Sullivan is a reporter at The Irish Post. You can follow him on @Niall_IrishPost on Twitter


  1. noel howard

    December 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I hope you get someone to share your Christmas with you James, I worked in London (Smiths Industries, Cricklewood) in late ’60 and I know it can be a lonely place, fair play to you for placing a newspaper ad., you have a positive attitude anyway – hang in there !!

    Slán agus beannacht agus Nollag shona dhuit !

    Noel Howard

  2. Ellena Paterson

    December 12, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Hi there, I’d be more than happy to be the special person to share Christmas with you!!

  3. jenny

    December 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Hello James!

    I’m in Co. Laois but I’d love to phone you for a yarn on Christmas Day! Perhaps you’d like a Pen Pal to write/e-mail to? If you can ever get over to Laois there’s a fine dinner and company here waiting on you! My address is

    Jenny x

  4. Claire

    December 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

    You could at least let us know how to contact this man. What good is the article if we are unable to contact him.

    • Fiona

      December 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

      well said…..thought myself it was a bit strange! then again, there are sooo many weird people out there, suppose they have 2 b careful!

    • anon

      December 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      address is on there. irish post will collect mail and send it to him:

      Mr James Gray’ c/o The Irish Post, Suite A, 1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP, UK

    • Sarah Maclean

      December 19, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      You can send him a card at the address posted at the bottom of the article.

  5. Jacqueline Keady

    December 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I agree with Claire. James, if you could make your way to Galway, we’d be delighted to have you stay for Christmas. Nollaig Shona x

    • Bridget Keady

      December 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      That’s lovely Jac xxx

  6. Barry McGee

    December 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Glad to see there’s many kind souls, particularly Ellena Paterson who has offered this gent dinner for Christmas. Hope the Irish Post makes sure these people can contact each other. An update to this story would be nice.

  7. Fiona

    December 13, 2013 at 11:46 am

    God love him. Unfortunately i’m going home for Christmas to my family, and i live abroad too….if he can make his way to ireland dublin/drogheda, i’d be only too happy to have lunch/dinner. that’s all mind you, i’m young enuf to be his great granddaughter!!!

  8. Laura

    December 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Will definitely be sending James a Christmas card, so he knows that people do care even if we are too far away to spend Christmas with him. I really hope he finds someone to spend Christmas with.

    I was in tears reading the article. I had already called into a few neighbours to check they aren’t on their own for Christmas even if there are 2 people in the house. They know they call in anytime on Christmas or over Christmas and they would be more than welcome.

    Anyone reading this article and was moved should turn that emotion into something good and check and see if any neighbours or friends or colleagues might be alone and invite even for a drink or a coffee to your house. Lets spread a whole load of joy not only to James but to others too.

    Laura, Dublin.

  9. Amy

    December 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Could you link to the advert? I’d like to know where in London he is so that I could try to pop over!

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  11. Dee

    December 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    James, if you fancy a trip across the water we would love to have you at ours for Christmas in Dublin! Email me if you would like to join us!! Dee x

  12. Kate

    December 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    It’s nice to see a response. I do hope that James is aware that people are thinking of him. A link to the original ad or some update would be very much appreciated. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since I read it last night. Caution should be had though, his address should not be made public, very very unsafe. I wonder if the newspaper could act as the liaison?

  13. Gary Dunne

    December 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    We’d love to help at The London Irish Centre.

    I’m sure we can find some Christmas company for James.

    Are you willing to put us in touch with him?

  14. Ray O'Leary

    December 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm


    I’m an Irishman in St Louis facing the same prospect. I’d love to give you a call on Christmas Day for a chat. My number is +1.314.556.3742, or if you send me your number via email…

    Best Regards,

    • Nancy K.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:49 am

      Hello, Mr. O’Leary, I was just trying to look you up on and found a Raymond A. O’Leary on Eliz. Ave–would that be you? I thought I would send you a Christmas card instead of Mr. Gray, since he seems to already have gotten a huge response of cards and letters. If you would like to respond, I will be happy to send you a Christmas greeting. Sincerely, Nancy K., Tennessee

  15. Bridget Keady

    December 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I really hope someone in London invites you to join them and that you have a wonderful Xmas day. If I lived in London I would welcome you into my home.

    God bless

  16. Megan

    December 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm


    Is there a way we can send a message on? Me and my family would love to have him over for Christmas in Reading. Lots of food, drink and games so it’s very Christmassy! I’m sure he’s been inundated with offers now but I would love it if this invite could be extended. I’m sure we can work out a way that he could get to us if he was interested! Lots of lights and we are quite a big family but very friendly.


  17. Gina Costigan

    December 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Same as Jenny put it, I’m due to be in Dublin for Christmas but would also love a phone call for Christmas so would love to be put in touch with James Gray. If the Irish post either wants to forward my details to James or put me in touch with him. +353 1 280 1763. I’ll be send a Christmas card to the address given also. Many thanks for the sad but important article.

  18. Mary Barrett

    December 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Mr Gray
    I do hope you find someone to share xmas day with you at your flat. However if you don’t manage to you are more than welcome to come and spend the day with us in Oxfordshire.

  19. Claire

    December 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I just saw that you’ve updated the article with an address. That’s great! I just sent him a card too. I don’t have a place of my own but James is very welcome to come to Ireland to Cork next year for Christmas when I will have a place of my own. I’ll pick him up at the airport and he can spend a few days with us. I’ve sent him my address if he wants to get in touch. I hope some kind heart out there looks after him this year! It would be great Amy if you could pop over to him like you said.

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  22. Alan

    December 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    This is a sad but all too often typical of the elderly population. I would like to invite James to spend Christmas with myself and my partner Bernadette in a gorgeous village in County Wicklow called Donard, he would be more than welcome!

  23. Alan

    December 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    This is sad but all too often typical of the elderly population. I would like to invite James to spend Christmas with myself and my partner Bernadette in a gorgeous village in County Wicklow called Donard, he would be more than welcome!

  24. Caroline

    December 13, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I know the feeling James and Im not even a pensioner. Would willingly spend Christmas with u. Not a good time to be alone :(

  25. Lenka

    December 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    How can I contact him? I cannot find the ad with contact details.

    • admin

      December 14, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Hi, if you contact the Irish Post we can pass on your message to James

  26. Kay

    December 13, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    If James is still at a loose end on Christmas Day, I would love for him to join my partner and me. My children are spending Christmas in Ireland with their Dad, so our house will be rather quiet and it would be lovely to share the Christmas spirit with another. I have had Christmases alone, I know how sad it can be.

  27. Patrick Doody

    December 13, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    This gentleman’s situation is not unique it is a sad reflection of our society today and all it’s trappings of extreme materialism to such an extent that we are blinded as to how some of our older generation cope. God bless you sir and all you kind folk that have been touched by your plight and may the bright beacon of human kindness shine into all your lives.

    • Nancy K.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:32 am

      That is a lovely response, Patrick. I know everyone who reads it will appreciate it as well.

  28. Philomena Conroy

    December 14, 2013 at 12:35 am

    If you have a phone I would love to call from Boston on Christmas Day for a bit of a chat and banter..
    Nollaig Shona xx

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  30. Ashley Hansen

    December 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    My mom is feeling tge same way this christmas, to bad she lives in Minnesota. She is the kindest, sweetest , and best cook you could ever meet. She to is struggling this year, this is tge first year since her beloved mother has passed. My mom has been divorced ffor awhile now and holidays are always hard for her to :-( Wish you were closer

  31. mac

    December 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    dear james,

    i may be slightly late coming in on this, but i would love to have you over this christmas, i have noone else staying and am by birth an irishman myself, being a butler i am sure you have more than a few stories to share, it will be a modest christmas by most standards but i am happy to collect you christmas day and deliver you back boxing day. unfortunately i do not have the luxuiry of having my children this year and it would be great to have someone to share christmas with – contact me direct by email

    all the best, hopefully speak soon.. mac :)

  32. Sharon

    December 15, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Hello James . I would love you to come and spend Christmas with me and my family . I live close to sutton so could collect you for the day and take you home later in the evening . If you are interested please leave your email address on here and I will get in touch with you . Take care

  33. Jackie

    December 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I too, have spent Christmas alone and dreaded this time of year. Now we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and always invite those who don’t have family or friends to spend time with – I’m glad that there are those in the southern hemisphere welcoming James into their celebrations.
    I hope that this Christmas is a memorable one for James, in more ways than one.

  34. Jackie

    December 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Northern hemisphere!!!

  35. Thauanny

    December 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Hello. I’m brazilian but I live in London with my familly and I would like to say that my familly want so much that Mr Gray spend the Christmas time with us.
    I’m waiting excited for some answer!! Thank you

  36. Glynis

    December 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Hi James I have just moved to Liverpool and dont know anyone I have one daughter but unfortunately she is working away at Christmas I have no other family and all i can imagine is sitting watching tv over xmas Not a pleasant thought really as i like being with people I used to go to Galway West Ireland for Xmas but unfortunately my friend moved to Australia to be near her family Love to hear from you Best wishes Glynis x

  37. peter pedersen

    December 15, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Hallo James. Her er en jule hilsen fra Denmark. Jeg vil ønske dig en dejlig jul. Hilden Peter Pedersen

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  40. Jessica

    December 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Hi I live in Luton you would be more than welcome to spend Christmas with us xxx

  41. Karen Villalón

    December 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Hi James,
    We live in Chile, the other side of the world, and we prepare the best christmas’ dinner, and also it’s my mom’s birthday. We’ll love to share our Christmas with you and show u our country.

    Would u want to spend Christmas with us?

    Best regards,

    Villalón Olmos Family

    • Jackie

      December 21, 2013 at 12:13 am

      James well done for reaching out. You’re an inspiration to others on their own.

      Wishing you the best Christmas !!

      God Bless

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  51. Gayle

    December 20, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Hello from Phoenix, Arizona. Since I live across the big pond, I can only send a Christmas card and best wishes to you, Mr. Gray. Sounds like you won’t be spending one more lonely Christmas Day again!

  52. wanja

    December 20, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I would like you to come to nairobi kenya and my family will be happy to have you this xmas is a blessing to the family and friends

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  54. Jacki

    December 21, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Greetings from Queensland, Australia, Mr. Gray! Hope you have a lovely Christmas with your “new friends”. It would be really lovely if more people looked out for any “single” neighbours, young or old, and invited them over for a meal, or at least a drink, so that they are not left to feel that they are spending Christmas alone. Christmas is a very sad lonely time for many people, especially the homeless. Please share, and spread some cheer at Christmas time! :) x

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  57. Blessie

    December 29, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Its unthinkable to be so lonely and alone not just at christmas but even on any other day..yet the world is bursting with people!Get in touch..there are kind hearts out here waiting to pour out love and care to the lonely.

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  59. Sherry Norman

    April 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    I lived two years in hospital, non-stop. All but 22 days of it, which I was allowed to spend at home while they harvested stem cells from my eldest brother in order to do my blood marrow transplant, then back into another one-room existence in a hospital again for another forever time.

    The day I came out of Mayo and went into one of the Mayo apartments to spend the last 45 days of incarceration, is the day Mom’s colon ruptured.

    Once again the tables got turned between her and I, and I was tending to her again while still a long way from recovery myself. From then until June 26 of last year I again had the total care of her 24/7. I do not regret it. I’d do it again. Happily. I’d damn well prefer to do it for her, rather than this loss and loneliness. I lost my best friend. Huge.

    It’s been many long years of one thing after another. But I am beginning to see a light out there. I am now allowed to spend time in the sun.

    I have just seen your story, Mr. Gray. I hope the rest of your days are filled with sun. And friends. Many, MANY friends.

    With care,


  60. Marion Gabriel

    September 2, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    What happened to what I just wrote have filled in my name and email address so what is the problem?

  61. Shoshannah Faber

    November 9, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Hi! We live in the USA, if u would like to travel we would love to have you for our Christmas traditions :)

  62. Helen

    November 10, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Dear James,
    I will be spending christmas alone this year. In a totally new country and with no family either here.
    So if you have no other plans this year, I would like to spend christmas with you.


  63. Dana

    December 11, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I would be thrilled to spend Christmas with you, but I live in the USA. Feel free to chat via email however, if you aren’t too busy. Have a Merry Christmas!

  64. Rochelle Hunt

    December 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    come and have Christmas with myself and my two children, I’m in Surrey, I’m also on my own! Do it, I’ll even pick you up, I understand the loneliness, I’m no geek!, lol, however things turn out unexpected sometimes, if I can help you out and you with me in this lonely time then let’s do it!!!! Happy Xmas .

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