Britain's oldest Christmas tree lights have been switched on for the 54th consecutive year by loving dad
Britain's oldest – and arguably most sustainable and cost-effective – Christmas tree fairy lights have been turned on for the 54th consecutive year without a single bulb ever being replaced.
The lights were originally bought by Vina Shaddick from everyone's old favourite, Woolworths, back in 1969 for just £3 – and are today still lighting up a tree in her son's home.
Ross Farr-Semmens, 43, a music teacher from Plymouth, inherited the lights after his mum Shaddick died four years ago. With his baby at home, and one more on the way, the festive heirloom is being enjoyed by multiple generations.
Every year Farr-Semmens nervously brings out his plastic tree adorned with the string of colourful illuminations, hasting himself for the tense moment of switching them on. Will they still work?
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And thankfully, this year his family home was brought to life yet again by the lights, much to his delight, as well as his wife Ruth's and their growing family.
"It is always a worry – will they or won't they work?! – but they came on straight away," he smiles.
"We always check the wires, make sure there are no issues with them and the plastic around the wires are intact as safety is our top priority.
"But they look fabulous."
The reason the lights have typically remained pre-positioned on the tree all year round is due to the fear they are too fragile to disassemble.
"I just love the way that I was seeing these lights when I was Ronnie's age – now he's seeing them," says Farr-Semmens.
"It is going from generation to generation and they have been a beautiful constant in our life.
"I just hope they are still shining for years to come – and may they do another decade at least and see where we go from there."
The reason the lights have typically remained pre-positioned on the tree all-year round is due to the fear they are too fragile to disassemble.
But now, for the first time in about 15 years, Farr-Semmens has carefully unwound them and replaced them again without damaging any of the lights.
Traditionally, as the festive season approaches, the black bag over the 1969 tree is carefully removed to reveal the sparkling artefact...
While they've proven resilient so far, lighting up every Christmas for 54 years, the dad-of-one doesn't want to take anything for granted and has spoken to electricians about how to preserve them for as long as possible.
And luckily, if a bulb ever does need replacing, by chance, a kind stranger has now provided a set of spares to match the set.
"It has been over half a century and we've still never needed to change a bulb," says Farr-Semmens.
"Following last year we now have new bulb replacements should we ever need them but we don't know how long the old ones will keep going strong.
"A lady from St Austell saw me in the paper and decided to contact us, which I thought was really lovely."
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And with them being such meaningful decorations, you can't blame the family for promptly getting them out.
"This year it has gone on without any hitches and is still going strong. We've been using them on the tree for the last week already and are actually very much on top of all Christmas decorating this year," says Farr-Semmens.
"My wife is due to have her second baby in eight days' time so it looks like we are going to have two little ones for Christmas as our son Ronnie is now 20 months old."
And while they're looking forward to the near future, Farr-Semmens makes sure the past stays alive through the festive tradition.
"The amount of Christmas memories I have of various family visiting and then mostly with my mum towards the time she sadly passed away," he says.
"Then I met Ruth and then Ronnie came along. These lights have been constant throughout the generations."
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And as well as lighting up their home, they're a great lesson for his son.
"My mum used to take really good care of them. They are delicate and need to be treated with care. I intend to teach Ronnie the same things, learning what he should and shouldn't touch. Let him appreciate things but know he doesn't need to touch the lights," explains Farr-Semmens.
While he admits he is a fan of modern decorations too, these lights are just too hard to replicate.
"I just love the glow you get from these lights – the colours just seem antiquated. The way the light shines from them and is a beauty... modern lights are not hitting the same light and soft glow," he says.
"I would say they are different – modern lights are gorgeous and in this day and age there are thousands of possible different colour combinations, shades and hues, but this particular one you would have to try very hard to actually match it."
Additional reporting SWNS.
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