Crafty councillor carves unique donkey to complete nativity scene from Israel

A PEACEFUL nativity scene brought all the way to Saddleworth from Israel has been completed thanks to a crafty councillor from Austerlands.

In 2011 Reverend Jackie Calow, a member of the Saddleworth Team Ministry, visited Israel as part of a pilgrimage and brought back figures of Joseph and Mary carved in olive wood.

CARVED: The donkey

She uses them as part of a Posada event – a Spanish word meaning “inn” or “shelter” – each year as she works in schools to dramatise the couple’s search for lodgings in Bethlehem.

However, the scene was incomplete as there was no donkey to accompany Joseph and Mary, whose carving is different to usual nativity figures as she is clearly pregnant.

So, Rev Calow enlisted the help of Rob Knotts, a Saddleworth Parish Councillor and member of her congregation at Holy Trinity Church, to carve the animal from olive wood.

Rob explained: “Rosanne and Geoff Fielding found and provided two big chunks of olive wood. It took me about five days, working on and off, to carve the donkey.

“I do a fair amount of wood carving but this time I did it differently and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I said Rev Calow could only have it if I was happy with it!”

COMPLETE: Joseph, Mary and the donkey

Rob aimed to repeat the style of the figures, which have shape but no detail, but are brought to life through the splendid colours and grain in the olive wood.

And Rev Calow revealed she is delighted with the result after struggling to find what she wanted despite searching over the years.

“There are so many shops selling carvings but I just could not find a donkey to match the figures,” she explained.

“I use them a lot in schools and the children have an image in their minds of Joseph, Mary and the donkey looking for a place to stay – but my scene always had a part of that missing.

“Rob has done a fantastic job and what greats skills he has. It’s so nice to see the nativity set complete now.”

Rob, who started his hobby 40 years ago, added: “At this time of year my house is like Father Christmas’s workshop with all the figures and carvings I do for family and friends.”


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