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An early donation for Black Santa as he starts his annual sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

An early donation for Black Santa as he starts his annual sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

An early donation for Black Santa as he starts his annual sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

An early donation for Black Santa as he starts his annual sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

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An early donation for Black Santa as he starts his annual sit-out at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast yesterday

The sight of 'Black Santa' on the streets of Belfast at Christmas is a familiar one - but this year we will be seeing the good Samaritan for even longer.

Braving the sub-zero temperatures, the Very Rev John Mann, Dean of St Anne's Cathedral, yesterday began his annual Black Santa sit-out for charities.

However, this year he will be at the steps of St Anne's Cathedral for 10 days instead of the usual eight to coincide with the unveiling of an Ulster History Circle blue plaque in honour of the city's first Black Santa.

That accolade was bestowed on Samuel Bennet Crooks, who was the founder of the Dean's 'sit-out for charities' at the cathedral steps in 1976.

With a small barrel in which donations could be placed, and dressed in a black Anglican clerical cloak, Dean Crooks sat out each day before Christmas. Thus began the tradition of Belfast's Deans sitting out for charities.

The Press described Dean Crooks as Belfast's Black Santa, and the description struck a lasting chord with the public.

Black Santa is this year hoping to raise £200,000 for charities. A total of 85% of the money will go to local good causes and 15% will be donated to overseas charities, including those tackling Ebola.

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Last year £196,000 was raised.

Black Santa's daily diary can be read in the Belfast Telegraph every day from Monday


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