In a last-ditch effort to find someone — anyone — to spend Christmas with him, 85-year-old James Gray turned to the want ads.
The retired butler, who has no immediate family members to turn to, placed an ad in the Irish Post hoping to break a ten-year streak of lonely holidays.
"I think the last time I saw someone on Christmas Day was when I saw my accountant about 10 years ago," he told the Post.
Sadly, the ad resulted in only one response — and even that person eventually backed out.
"I just want to find someone in time," James said. "I think there must be quite a few lonely people around and I am on my own, so it would make sense I think if someone came here for Christmas lunch. I just had smoked salmon and prawns on my own last year and I had to put up with it. This time of year is so hard if you are old and alone because it feels like everybody else around you is enjoying themselves."
What a difference a day makes: Just 24 hours after his story was published in the Post, James received a deluge of responses from potential Christmas companions.
"It is so touching to me, after all these years alone, to see this response from people," he was quoted as saying. "I'm so appreciative of the offers. I should have done this years ago."
Those who are unable to make it out to south London to see James have been sending him hundreds of Christmas cards and gifts — his first in years.
"I did not get a single card for my birthday in August, but I just had to put up with it," he said.
Some of the hundreds of cards that have arrived from around the world for lonely Irish pensioner James Gray pic.twitter.com/aQBKoNBDb1
— The Irish Post (@theirishpost) December 17, 2013
If ever a sign were needed that James Gray has taken over my life... pic.twitter.com/arUq6Jgaai
— Niall (@Niall_IrishPost) December 18, 2013
— Malcolm McNally (@MalcolmMcNally) December 17, 2013