Much-loved actor who ‘lived for being Santa’ dies on Christmas Day

A much-loved local actor and grandfather who “lived for being Santa” at annual events in Northumberland has died on Christmas Day.

Rhod Maclennan, 68, from Morpeth, was well known in the community for his appearances as Father Christmas during the festive period at venues such as Whitehouse Farm and Bamburgh Castle.

He was so suited to the role that he “convinced adults, as well as children, that Santa exists,” according to his wife, Sue Maclennan.

Mr Maclennan was diagnosed with cancer in June but continued to spread Christmas cheer throughout the holiday period, taking part in Zoom calls with children from Santa’s Grotto in the weeks before his death.

He died “quietly and peacefully” on December 25 at home with his wife, granddaughter Jade Crawford, 22, and his four dogs by his side.

Ms Maclennan, 67, said that her husband’s death had “ensured that nobody would ever forget him”.

“It’s a role he was born for, so the fact that he chose to depart on Christmas Day is not lost on me,” she said.

“There’s a joy in it because he’s ensured that he will never be forgotten.

“He was a big joker and an entertainer all his life – he loved telling stories and he loved the adoration of children.

“The fact that he chose Christmas Day has ensured that nobody will ever forget, and they’ll always think of him on the day.

“There was no more appropriate day for him to take his leave.

“Walt Disney couldn’t have scripted it better.”

Bamburgh Castle Christmas grotto
Bamburgh Castle Christmas grotto

Mr Maclennan had been offered the role of Santa Claus at Bamburgh Castle for the first time this year and was “determined not to let anyone down” despite his illness.

“He was so excited,” said Ms Maclennan.

“Come hell or high water he was going to be there, he was not going to let them down.”

“He lived for being Santa, it was his time to shine.

“He did it for three weekends before it became apparent it was taking its toll on his health.”

As well as his annual Christmas duties, Mr Maclennan also had small parts in locally filmed dramas such as Vera, Inspector George Gently and the ITV series Beowulf, in which he featured in every episode.

Following her husband’s death Ms Maclennan said she had been “overwhelmed” with messages of condolences from people from around the world.

“The amount of lives that that man has touched with humour and warmth and affection is quite overwhelming and it’s helping us come to terms with his loss,” she said.

“You can’t be sad when you think of him, he was just amazing.

“He was a warm-hearted man, he loved everyone and no one had a bad word for him.

“He’ll leave a very large Rhod-sized hole in a lot of people’s lives.”