Betty’s amazement at worldwide response to her generous Christmas gesture for people in Ottery

Betty Williams with Lamb and Flag landlord, Ron Miles, and Ottery mayor, Glyn Dobson. Ref sho 4475-5

Betty Williams with Lamb and Flag landlord, Ron Miles, and Ottery mayor, Glyn Dobson. Ref sho 4475-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A widow, whose generous gesture to people facing Christmas alone last year touched hearts around the world, has spoken of her delight that preparations are under way for another festive feast.

Betty Williams and John Fisher pull a cracker together. Ref sho 4466-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Betty Williams and John Fisher pull a cracker together. Ref sho 4466-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

West Hill resident Betty Williams, 86, was the ‘anonymous benefactor’ who last year paid for 40 people in the parish to join others for a traditional dinner.

The Herald broke the story - and at the time Betty had no idea her kind proposal would go on to attract worldwide media attention, resulting in a flood of donations totalling enough cash to stage several future events.

The widow has received letters and postcards from as far afield as Italy, Canada and Australia commending her act of kindness, but said she was still amazed to hear there is enough money left from donations to host an even bigger meal this year.

Betty, who is a retired teacher and published poet, explained she lives alone and knows Christmas can be a lonely time, so she wanted to spread some festive cheer among others.


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She said: “I went into the pub last year and there were men from The Times and The Telegraph. I was amazed.

“I’m pleased and surprised it’s become an annual thing and people in the town can look forward to it. One woman last year told me she was ever so glad to come out, because her daughter had set sail for New Zealand to live and it gave her something else to think about.

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“I had a postcard which came from a small boy in Italy who was learning English. He had read about the meal in his local paper and his postcard thanked me for doing it.”

The Lamb and Flag, in Batts Lane, will once again host the Christmas meal to be held on Wednesday, December 23.

Landlord Ron Miles said: “It’s going to be bigger than last year – we can cater for up to 70 people this time. The event could grow and grow.

“We will put on a full Christmas dinner with dessert and are hoping to get carol singers down and also Steve the vicar singing his heart out.

“It’s about giving something festive to people who would be alone at Christmas.”

Betty first approached mayor Glyn Dobson with her idea and the town council has co-ordinated funds for the event.

Councillor Dobson said: “I’m delighted that we have enough money to do this again for people and delighted to be able to put it to good use for people in Ottery.”

Free tickets for the meal are available on a first come, first served basis from Ottery Tourist Information Centre.

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