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A big thank you to everyone who has made a donation

Black Santa's diary: The Very Rev John Mann

Arriving at the Cathedral at ten to eight yesterday morning, the row of roosting seagulls silhouetted against the brightening sky along the ridge of the roof took off with raucous cries.

The noise was like a Portrush car park on a burger-van-busy bank holiday when someone had spilled their chips.

It heralded a great day for the Black Santa collection, however, as the sun shone we hardly needed the extra layers. I think it may be different today with rain on the way!

Still, back to yesterday, and at ten to nine, Donegall Street was already starting to get busy with workers arriving and even a few early shoppers.

A man stopped and wished us a happy Christmas, shook hands all-round - there were three of us there at the time - and dropped a flimsy plastic bag with three envelopes in it into the barrel. Off he went and in time the bag was emptied.

There was £3,400 in the three envelopes! What a donation to start the day. Thank you so much for such a generous gift.

Another lovely thing happened on Saturday morning.

Someone dropped in a 10 pound note with a rubber band around it with something clearly inside - maybe a gift aid form, I thought. On opening it I found 10 £50 notes.

Another giver, who was so self-effacing they would rather be seen putting in £10 than £510.

There have been lots of children past as well, and once the schools finish I know that the older ones will come too.

Today Grosvenor Grammar School has its Christmas Carol service. The choir was rehearsing yesterday and it was lovely to hear the music floating out when the doors were open.

Visitors sat and listened, young families came to look at the crib, the sun continued to shine and, as I tapped this out on the computer at lunchtime, the count team slipped me a note saying the total to that moment was £52,452 (with a bag or two uncounted) - more than a quarter of the way to a target of £200,000.

Thank you all so much!

  • The Very Rev John Mann is Dean of Belfast

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