Recently retired bus driver Stanley Keys took on a new driving role this Christmas as he chauffeured Santa Claus to the annual Christmas Lights switch on in Lisnarick on Friday night (December 7.)

On the night, Santa arrived in style aboard a trailer adorned with Christmas lights and decorations pulled by Stanley’s vintage Massey Ferguson 35 tractor.

Although the weather wasn’t great for the festive occasion, it failed to dampen the Christmas spirit of the people of Lisnarick. Stanley commented: “It was a bad night, there was a lot of rain but there were still about 100 people there.”

Stanley, who had been driving people around the countryside of Fermanagh and further afield for 65 years before his retirement in August, said that this was his first time driving old Saint Nick. Even with the heavy rain, Stanley still enjoyed the experience.

“I’ll do it again next year if I’m living,” added a laughing Stanley.

Talking of his driving history, Stanley said: “I started out in the ambulance service in Irvinestown when I was 16. There I done 10 years. Then I went to the Erne Hospital to drive and I was 40 years there.”

Having transported many different people over the years, Stanley noted that he particularly enjoyed his time driving disabled children, taking them on various “holidays and outings." He said: “We’d go down to Portrush with them for a week or two, and to Bangor and all over.”

Following his time as a bus driver for the Erne Hospital, Stanley drove a bus for Benny McMurray of Letterbreen. He said: “I was in Galway and Cork and around there and that was with Benny McMurray. I was 16 years with him and everything always ran smooth.”

“I once took a hen party to Galway and I was there for three days with them,” he added.

Now retired, Stanley says he’s “taking it easy.” He also enjoys taking his tractor out the “odd day,” and is a member of the North West Fermanagh Vintage Club in Irvinestown.

He also commented that he’s looking forward to the annual tractor run over Christmas. He said: “I’ll be out on Boxing Day in the tractor, I’ll take it and do a run. We’ll go up by Killadeas and back around Irvinestown again and then back home. There’ll be about 30 tractors there.”

A well-known figure in the community, Stanley will be surely missed by all the local clubs and groups which he transported, but after 65 years behind the wheel, his retirement is well-deserved.