A BUS-driving Santa who hung up his beard after suffering a heart attack on his route is back in the driver’s seat – along with several little helpers.
James Wallace, 44, was guiding the number 13 bus – which aptly passes by Sleigh Drive – back to the depot last January when he was struck down with chest pain.
But Santa is back in the hotseat this year, raising money for charity with a second Santa and an elf. And two more Santas have been taking a break from their sleighs to ride two buses with First Bus routes in Musselburgh.
James and his crew – bus-driving Santa Brendan Davanna and elf Toni Buchan – are donning festive costumes, hats and bells to raise money for charities CHAS and Down’s Syndrome Children.
They alternate between driving the no 13 and the Megabus from Edinburgh to Perth and Edinburgh to Dundee.
James, from Blackridge, explained that he was now feeling “100 per cent”.
He said: “I’m fully mended and I’ve got two helpers this year, a Santa and an elf.
“There’s been a lot of mixed, but fun, reactions. One bloke got on board and turned round to ask if I was taking the mickey because he had a huge white beard. The kids hit the floor when they see me, but they’re all polite and give me a wave.
“We’ve raised around £500 so far and we’ve hoping to beat last year’s record of £700.”
Talking of his daughter, Mhairi, who suffers from Down’s, he added: “She’s a bright little thing. We’ve had to take her to see another Santa in a shopping centre because every time we mention Santa Claus she just points at daddy.”
Brendan, from Prestonpans, who was the first Santa to drive the no 13 bus before James took over last year, explained that he too had seen some funny reactions. He said: “I love seeing the passengers, but it’s even funnier to watch the drivers pass you on a morning.
“They have this doom and gloom look but when you pass them in the suit they will smile and wave. It’s brilliant to give them a bit of Christmas cheer, put a smile on their face.
“A couple of people on the bus took it too far when they proposed to me though. I told them I was married and that Mrs Claus wouldn’t be very happy. They’ll go on the naughty list for life if they keep that up.”
The remaining two Musselburgh-based Santas, who are simply dressing up for fun and to spread the cheer, are Tommy Mitchell, 49, and Tony Beecher, 31.
Tommy, from Leith, explained: “We’ve been doing it for four years now, it never loses its fun. We just want to bring a smile to someone’s face. We had a lot of kids on the bus tonight, singing and chanting for Santa. We love it.”