Belfast's Black Santa gives charities 126,000 good reasons to smile
Comedian Tim McGarry handed over £126,000-plus from the Black Santa sit-out in Belfast to more than 200 charities in St Anne's Cathedral yesterday.
Each Christmas the Black Santa tradition sees the Dean of Belfast and other clergy raise huge sums for charity outside the cathedral.
The money is later distributed at a Good Samaritans Service.
Speaking before yesterday's service, Hole In The Wall Gang comic McGarry said he could remember the first Black Santa sit-out by Dean Samuel Crooks when he was still at school.
"In later years it was a tradition in our family to go down on Christmas Eve to the cathedral and to give a few pounds to the Black Santa," he said.
"Our boys Joseph and Michael always gave some of their pocket money too.
"It is a great privilege to have been asked by Dean Forde to hand out the grants to all these worthwhile and deserving causes and to be a part of the team this year."
The Hole In The Wall Gang has used the cathedral's hall for rehearsals, and McGarry has also produced a documentary on Lord Carson, whose remains were interred in St Anne's.
The cathedral's grants range from £300-£500 each, with a donation of £20,000 to Christian Aid for projects overseas.
Christian Aid has received a grant from the sit-out annually since it first took place 41 years ago.
The Very Rev Stephen Forde, who was installed as Dean of Belfast only last month, said before the service: "This is a special occasion for me as it is my first big public service in the cathedral since my installation.
"We call it the Good Samaritans Service partly because the cathedral still has a Good Samaritan painting, which was originally in the old St Anne's Church here before the cathedral was built."
The grants yesterday went to a wide range of local charities working with children and youth groups, families, the community and medical charities.
Dean Forde added: "They include the Cancer Fund for Children, the Sea Cadets, Braniel Community Church, the Seagoe Youth Group, Adopt Northern Ireland and many others.
"The list includes some familiar names, as well as less well-known charities and also local groups where our grants are particularly helpful in carrying out their work.'
He emphasised that the sit-out will continue during his term of office.