AYR’S very own Santa Claus has told how he brought festive cheer to a hospital after he fell ill on Christmas Eve.

Billy Herd, 77, dresses up as old Saint Nick to the delight of hundreds of children each year.

But in Christmas 2017 he entertained staff at Ayr’s Accident and Emergency when he was battling pneumonia and became unwell.

Billy reflected on his bizarre night Christmas Eve experience; he told the Advertiser: “We were doing the Grotto at Ayr Central for Malcolm Sargent House. I got home that night and all of a sudden, I felt not well and that was just before Christmas.

“My niece Mary called an ambulance and the paramedic’s said ‘are you Santa Claus?’”

“I went and put the outfit on as he wanted to see Santa paying a visit to Accident and Emergency on Christmas Eve.

“When we got there he said ‘everybody stop what they are doing, we’ve got a special guest tonight.’”

In a further festive twist, Billy was astonished when he was introduced to his doctor with a name that couldn’t be made up, as his doctor was named Gabriel – the famous character from the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

He added: “They put me into a cubicle and the nurse said - you’ll not believe what I’m going to tell you but wait till the consultant comes in.

“He said my name is Dr Gabriel – no it’s true enough.

“You couldn’t write it, Santa is in for treatment on Christmas Eve and ended up with Dr Gabriel.”

Billy was sent home that night with antibiotics but was rushed back into hospital again just two weeks later when he had a litre of fluid drained out of his lungs.

Now he’s back to full health and greeting kids again, as well as supporting local causes. And for Billy it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

He added: “This has been my second year doing it at Kids Play. I also go to Spotted Zebras and South Craigs Park. I love doing it, it’s really quite emotional sometimes but its worth it to see their faces light up, it’s all about the kids.”