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Plaque in honour of first Black Santa is unveiled


Tribute: Dean Samuel Crooks

Tribute: Dean Samuel Crooks

Tribute: Dean Samuel Crooks

Belfast's first Black Santa has been honoured at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at St Anne's Cathedral.

Dean John Mann, who currently fills the role of the city's traditional Black Santa, paid tribute to Dean Samuel Crooks who started the charity collection outside the cathedral in 1976.

When Dean Crooks started the collection, he wore a distinctive dark cloak, and was immediately dubbed Belfast's Black Santa, an affectionate nickname that has been applied to his successors.

"Dean Sammy Crooks believed in the generosity of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland, and they never failed him," he said.

"That generosity of spirit has continued for almost four decades, and I feel privileged today to launch the 38th consecutive sit-out for charities on the steps of St Anne's."

A tribute was also paid by former Church of Ireland Primate Lord Robin Eames who was a close colleague of Dean Crooks.

From today, Dean Mann and his cathedral colleagues will stage a sit-out daily at the cathedral, except Sunday, until Christmas Eve.

The proceeds will be given to a range of local charities and needy causes in the developing world.

A cathedral spokesperson said: "Dean Sammy was a charismatic man. He could be straight-talking and he was intolerant of time-wasting, but he was also warm, jovial, compassionate and welcoming."

Dean Crooks raised huge sums of cash for charity over the years, a tradition carried on by successive deans Jack Shearer, Houston McKelvey, and now John Mann.

Dean Crooks was awarded the OBE in 1981 but soon after his retirement he died in a road accident at the age of 66.

Paying tribute, his son Sam said: "Every year my father was amazed that people gave so much to those less well-off in the worst of the Troubles."

The Blue Plaque for Dean Crooks has been provided by the Ulster History Circle, a group formed in the 1980s to honour people who have contributed significantly to Northern Ireland's history.

Belfast Telegraph

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