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The People’s Friend Magazine
D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd.

On A Midnight Clear

A short story by author Laura Tapper

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On A Midnight Clear

Illustration by Gerard Fay.

……“I warned you about locking the church, Reverend.  I’m not one to say, I told you so, but theft is theft and I think this is a matter for the police, now.  After all, that food was donated in good faith, for the poor families of the village……”



The reverend of a small country church prepares for Christmas. She likes to keep the church open always, despite warnings of theft. One day, the treasurer, Ruth notices that some Jaffa cakes have gone missing from the food bank donations. Eleanor realises that there must be a rough sleeper using the church at night – she’s also noticed that the bean bags in the children’s section had been pushed together and there had been water on the floor in the toilets where somebody had been washing.

Instead of closing the church, Eleanor makes sure to stock the children’s section with other things for the rough sleeper, like a blanket. The next day, they notice that one of the nativity models has been repainted and looks as good as new. Ruth, though at first wary, brings in a large donation for the food bank.

Ruth confesses to Eleanor that she held a meeting with the other council members without Eleanor and they had all agreed to hold a silent candlelit walk through the village at midnight for their rough sleeper, leave presents in the church and leave the church alone so that they would be able to get some sleep in peace.

All this instead of Watch Night Service which would mean the rough sleeper would have no privacy through the night. Eleanor is touched. Slowly, each of the nativity models receives a makeover. On Christmas Eve, the plan goes ahead.

Presents are left for the rough sleeper, including a phone with Eleanor’s number in it and a note encouraging the rough sleeper to get in touch with their loved ones, or to join Eleanor for Christmas dinner. On Christmas Day, Eleanor gets a text from ‘Amy’ to say that she had called her mum and they’re going to work things out.


Rev. Eleanor: 40s/50s, reverend/vicar, kind, open-minded, fair, generous, thoughtful.


Eleanor admires the models, freshly painted, in the church nativity scene. The church looks festive.
Season: Christmas.
Mood: Festive, gentle, uplifting.

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