THE LONELY Irish pensioner who took out a newspaper advert to find someone to spend Christmas Day with WON’T be alone today.
The story of 85-year-old James Gray has touched the hearts of people all across the world.
Thousands were left heartbroken after hearing of his plight through The Irish Post and how he had spend the festive season in solitude for the last decade.
But the Cork native’s wishes have been answered by London-Irish couple Marian and John Cunningham, who volunteered to join him for Christmas dinner.
“To me this is like a miracle come true,” said James, a retired butler living in south London.
“I never imagined people would be so touched by my story.”
Galway-native Marian added” “I volunteered to spend Christmas Day with James because I thought it was so brave of him to put up his hands and say he is lonely.
“It really pulled at my heart-strings when he said he said he thought he was the only person in this situation, because he really is not.”
James was facing his 10th Christmas alone when he turned to The Irish Post in desperation earlier this month.
By taking out a newspaper advert he hoped to find a Christmas companion. But he received just one reply – and his spirits were crushed when those plans fell through.
Hoping that it might reverse his fortunes, James then agreed to go public with his call for company by having his photo taken so The Irish Post could report his heart-breaking story.
“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 said at the time.
Since James’ picture was published on the front page of The Irish Post, his story took on a life of its own, with several major media outlets in Britain and Ireland reporting his courageous decision to speak out about loneliness.
Offers to join him for dinner then flooded in from across Britain and as far away as the US and Chile.
More than 1,700 of cards and gifts have also been sent to James. They have come from every continent on the planet, as the Irishman’s story touched people in Japan, Australia, Uruguay, Hawaii, south Africa and 20 European countries.
“I have received over 1,000 cards and I won’t be eating Christmas dinner alone,” said an overwhelmed James.
“All I was looking for with my advert was half-a-dozen pensioners to have Christmas dinner with me, so I would not be lonely once again this year.
“For someone like me, who has not had company in years, this is all very hard to take in. I am so amazed people have taken the time to do this.”
Last year James ate smoked salmon and prawns alone in his Sutton flat with only his television for company.
This year, thanks to The Irish Post’s campaign, he will tuck into turkey with all the trimmings with his new friends Marian and John.
“I was so touched by James’ story when i first read it,” said John, a retired surveyor with roots in Co. Kilkenny and Co. Down.
“Every Christmas you always read charity appeals about lonely people. But you never understand how bad it is until you read something like James’ story.”