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Black Santa enters the plastic age

By Laura Abernethy

Published 17/12/2015

Charity mission: Dean John Mann with his new card reader begins the annual Belfast Black Santa sit-out
Charity mission: Dean John Mann with his new card reader begins the annual Belfast Black Santa sit-out

Belfast's Black Santa is moving with the times in a new twist to a near 40-year Christmas tradition. The Dean of Belfast Cathedral, the Very Reverend John Mann, started the annual sit-out yesterday. For the first time he can take donations via credit and debit cards to make it easier for people to give.

Dean Mann explained: "People don't carry as much cash so I have a mobile card reader. We also have one inside the cathedral. It wasn't the idea that we would get more money that way, but we just wanted to provide another way for people to give."

The Black Santa tradition of sitting outside St Anne's Cathedral in the run-up to Christmas has raised millions for charities.

Since 1976 Black Santa has taken to the steps outside St Anne's with a small wooden barrel to ask for donations in the week before Christmas. The tradition began with an impromptu sit-out by Dean Sammy Crooks. In the 1980s Dean Jack Shearer was dubbed the Black Santa because of his warm woollen black clothing and balaclava, and the name stuck.

Dean Mann said: "The tradition is to give and to support our charities but it also is a meeting place, an interface between a charity collection and people passing by.

"There's engagement and I'd hate this just to become something that you did online. It's got to be something where the tradition is maintained. It's important that we maintain something that for nearly 40 years has been a part of a Belfast Christmas."

This is Dean Mann's fifth sit-out, and will continue until Christmas Eve.

How to donate

Visit Black Santa on the steps of St Anne's Cathedral and place cash in his barrel or pay by card.

 By cheque made payable to 'Cathedral Sit Out' to the Dean at Belfast Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2HB. 

You can Gift Aid your donation to enhance the contribution to the fund. l Donations can also be made by bank transfer to: Bank of Ireland, Sort Code 90-21-27, Account Number 60907288. Email sitout@belfastcathedral.org to let them know about any donations.

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