Black Santa again braves the elements for five good causes

DON'T LIAM ALONE. Pictured doing his annual Christmas 'Sit Out' for local charities, is Ballymoney's own 'Black Santa' Liam Beckett.INBM52-14 040SC.
DON'T LIAM ALONE. Pictured doing his annual Christmas 'Sit Out' for local charities, is Ballymoney's own 'Black Santa' Liam Beckett.INBM52-14 040SC.

He has braved the elements at the Diamond for the past eight years, putting up with temperatures in the minus teens, gale force winds and lashing down rain to raise money for five charities that are close to his heart.

And this Year Ballymoney’s very own Black Santa - Liam Beckett - has again taken up residence in the town centre and will be accepting donations right up until Christmas eve.

Although admitting that he is often “foundered” during his charitable sit-out, he said the generosity of those who bring him cups of tea, messages on the weather and of course those all-important donations are what keep him coming back again and again.

“The council had asked me about eight years ago and I thought I would do it for one year,” he told the Times, “but then when you see the benefit that it brings to so many people it sort of entices you back year-after-year.

“Last year we lifted £5,300, which is divided equally then between the five charities, so they all get a four figure sum at the end of it.

“And it’s gone up every year so we just keep plugging away, and obviously all my friends and colleagues are very supportive.”

The five charities that reap the benefits of Liam’s annual sit-out include the Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, the Drop-in Ministries, the Samaritans - for which Liam is an ambassador - and Compass Advocacy (Can Can) which helps people with learning difficulties in Ballymoney, and for whom Liam is also a patron.

“I would normally do it for about eight to nine days - it depends which time Christmas day falls on,” the freelance media man added.

And this year he said, got off to a particularly good start.

“Before I even got started this time there was over £400 donated when I was up doing the press golf association, which I am involved with,” he said, adding that his friends in sport, motorcycling and media have been a great help.

But no matter how good, they can’t keep the weather away it seems.

“I am absolutely foundered,” he said, “at this minute in time I am like a block of ice.

“I’m not going to get too personal,” he added, “but I have a thermal vest, thermal tights and thermal bloody drawers [on] - I feel like May McFetridge!”

But he said everyone has been great at helping to keep his cockles warmed.

“People are brilliant - they would bring me cups of tea and cups of coffee - I’m out beside the Ground coffee shop here in Ballymoney and they would come out and bring me hot drinks.”

And although unsure of what he has gathered so far this year because the council collect it every night and put it in their safe, Liam said he still thinks it’s up from last year.

“The first lady came to see me this morning was a £20 donation,” he said.

“I am always very humbled by the support of the people - but I am not surprised.

“People are fabulous - I had a fella who follows me on Twitter and he’s a great football fan - he came up yesterday from Donegal, which is a three-hour journey, to donate to me.

“Every penny counts, if it’s five pence, or one [like] lady donated £150.

“I get them coming from all over - Cookstown motorbike people or road-racing people from Larne.

“So far, so good - and I will just keep going.”