• Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

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My Christmas message to you: ‘don’t ever give up”

University of Sunderland Chaplain Rev Chris Howson here delivers his Christmas message as he recalls a special Wearside Christmas carol

“Little Donkey is a popular Christmas carol, written by English songwriter Eric Boswell which describes the journey by Mary the mother of Jesus to Bethlehem.

The song became a big hit in 1959 and has been recorded by Gracie Fields, The Beverley Sisters, Vera Lynn, Aled Jones and many others, and it is a traditional part of the festive season.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that the writer, Eric Boswell, was born in Millfield, Sunderland, son of a local tailor and a seamstress.

He studied piano from age seven and eventually became the organist of Bishopwearmouth Church – now Sunderland Minster.

After a degree in Electrical Engineering from Sunderland Technical College – now the University of Sunderland – Eric joined Marconi as a scientist working with radar before becoming a Physics lecturer.

He returned to lecture in Sunderland in the 1970’s. Eric spent his leisure time writing piano music, and Little Donkey became the song he is most associated with:


Little donkey, little donkey

On a dusty road

Got to keep on moving onwards

With your precious load

Ring out those bells tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Follow that star tonight

Bethlehem, Bethlehem

Been a long time, little donkey

Through the winter’s night

Don’t give up now little donkey

Bethlehem’s in sight

It is a song of determination, and the ability to keep on going even when the going is tough.

This Christmas time, let this Makem carol comfort you and encourage you.

With Brexit, climate breakdown, exam and work stress, it is easy to be discouraged and begin to think we can’t resolve the problems we are faced with.

This song says; ‘don’t give up’, keep putting one foot in front of the other. The journey may be long, but with patience, hard work and determination, we will get there in the end.”

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