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Preparing for the bad weather in all sorts of ways

Black Santa's diary: The Very Rev John Mann

"Are you putting on facial moisturising cream?" my wife called across the bedroom as I donned the black for another day of collecting.

"What?" "Come here!" Obeying, as is right and proper, I walked round the bed and allowed myself to be treated with an oily substance that Helen described thus: "You need this, but it may make you shiny!"

"What?" says I again rudely, backing away. "Look, it says on the box, "Guaranteed to make you look younger. Effective within four weeks!" Yes, well, maybe. Come and see me in January!

The weather so far has been kind and the beating rain and wind that I recall from a couple of days last year may not come, so perhaps a layer of goose-grease or the modern equivalent that promises such fine results may not be needed.

Traditions live on, though. A lady yesterday, driving from Derry, called to see us saying that she has meant to come for years, but the reminder on television the other night that we are on the way again to another Christmas collection was enough to make her come and see us and make a donation. Thank you so much for the effort and the gift.

A man made a donation of £100, saying he does it in memory of Dean Crooks, as we look up at his plaque and tell stories of the great man. Tourists look on in puzzlement, wondering what this is all about, as a woman crosses herself in passing the cathedral door - is that tradition dying? We are slipped a cake or two, hot chocolate and coffee, and the pounds are mounting up.

People often ask: "How much has Black Santa raised since the start?" Good question. The answer is that we don't know. Records have only been kept in recent years, but we do know that in Dean Crooks' day, he was raising £30,000 to £50,000, while for most years more recently it has been in the £200,000 region, plus the special collections for the Tsunami and Haiti. My guess is about £8m in total.

This year, by lunchtime yesterday, the total stood at £64,190 - thanks to you all!

  • The Very Rev John Mann is Dean of Belfast

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