Belfast Telegraph

Fundraising Black Santa Rev Houston McKelvey to step down

Belfast will have a new Black Santa from next year after the Dean of St Anne's Cathedral yesterday announced his retirement.

Rev Houston McKelvey, 68, will step down in April after 10 years leading congregations at the city's famous landmark.

In that decade he raised millions for charity, donning the dean's traditional black cape to brave wintry weather during a Christmas sit out on the steps of the Church of Ireland cathedral.

Dean McKelvey, originally from Muckamore, Co Antrim, told his congregation of his decision at yesterday's service having already made the Bishop of Connor Alan Abernethy aware of his intention.

A former Territorial Army Chaplain with 29 years service to the Ulster and Scottish Gunners, the cleric was the first chaplain to be awarded the Queen's Volunteer Reserve Medal, presented by the Queen herself.

A keen sailor and writer, the dean was adviser on education policy in Northern Ireland to the Church of Ireland General Synod Board for 20 years before joining St Anne's.

His time at the cathedral saw the erection of the towering Spire of Hope and fresh link-ups with St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral.

His Black Santa appeal in the wake of the Asian tsunami in 2004 raised £1.6 million in a few weeks.

But his tenure has not been without controversy.

Earlier this year members of the cathedral's famous choir vowed never to sing again after the decision to axe the post of musical director.

The dean's 10th Christmas sit out will start on Thursday December 16.

Belfast Telegraph

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