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Black Santa stages final day of annual sit-out for charities

By Alf McCreary

Published 24/12/2007

Belfast's Black Santa starts the final day of his sit-out at St Anne's Cathedral today with more than £220,000 raised during this year's appeal.

The Dean of Belfast Rev Dr Houston McKelvey told the Belfast Telegraph: " It's been a good year. The weather has been kind and many people have taken time to walk around to the Cathedral and to stay for a chat. The 'craic' has been good and we have raised another large amount for a wide range of charities."

This year the proceeds from the sit-out are being given to several charities and organisations associated with sea-farers and fisheries, including the Mission to Seafarers, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Women in Fisheries and the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

The Dean said: "We have been conscious of the problems faced by our fishing communities and also the challenge of helping seafarers who visit Belfast and other Northern Ireland ports."

The Black Santa appeal has been taking place annually since the mid-70s and has raised huge sums for charity, but Dean McKelvey, who has been playing the role of the Black Santa for seven years, has noticed a difference recently.

"The atmosphere in Belfast is much more relaxed, and since the peace agreement there is a different 'feel' about the place.

"There are lots more overseas visitors and on Saturday last I met people from Seoul in South Korea, Cumbria and France.

"Visitors are definitely coming to Belfast and some of them visit the Black Santa and also have time to walk into the Cathedral and look around it," he said.

The sit-out ends officially at 5pm today, although donations still come in steadily for some time afterwards. The Christmas Eve total will be announced at a Service of Lessons and carols in St Anne's this evening.

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