By Stephen McKinley
In Belfast, they have an unusual Santa, but one whom everyone recognizes.
Colloquially known as the Black Santa, he is the dean of Belfast, the Very Rev. Dr. Houston McKelvey, who sits outside St Anne’s Cathedral in all weather for a full week beginning Dec. 19.
He will raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity, “because it touches a chord in the natural generous nature of our people,” McKelvey told the Belfast Telegraph.
The tradition of the Black Santa was started by Dean Sammy Crooks 25 years ago.
“I would confess to two personal misgivings about the sitout — I am a cold-rifed creature and I hate hanging about for any length of time in one place. So maybe this is an Advent penance,” McKelvey said joking.
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The Telegraph concluded that the sight of a priest drenched in sleet or covered in snow was the nearest sight Belfast people would get of a priest in purgatory.
Yet another Irish centenarian has offered advice on longevity. Aileen Ryan of Ballyfinboy House, Ballinderry, Co. Tipperary, told the Nenagh Guardian that a hearty appetite, such as hers, will fend off all sickness over the years.
More than 60 guests attended her 100th birthday party last Saturday. Her daughter Mary says her mother always lived for the present and was never one for looking back.
Mrs. Ryan was born in Yorkshire, England. She moved to Ballinderry in 1964, with her Limerick-born husband.
One party is never enough — on Thursday, she hopes to have another.
CORK’S BARMAN ASTRONAUT
How did a “Skibbereen” barman end up on the space shuttle last week? Easy, when you have an Irish brother-in-law.
Pennsylvania-born Dan Tani joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996. Around the same time, he went on a golfing trip to Old Head Golf Club in Kinsale, where he met and fell in love with Jane Egan, now his wife. And Jane’s brother, Dave Egan, owns the Tzar bar in Skibbereen.
And so, on a recent trip to Cork, Dan lent a hand behind the bar, pulling some pints as he waited for news of when the next Endeavor space shuttle mission would launch.
At the Tzar pub in Skibbereen a special viewing link-up was set up with live coverage of the event downloaded from the internet onto a large screen with the expertise of Michael Thornhill of Thornhill’s Electrical.
And by Wednesday evening, Dan and his three fellow austronauts had been given the go-ahead and were blasting off into orbit around the earth.
Further evidence of Irish generosity from Wicklow, according to the Wicklow People newspaper.
Touched by the tragedy in New York, the Wicklow fire station and the local Lions Club have been holding fund-raising quiz nights in the Bridge Tavern and bucket collections around the locality.
SIPHONING OFF CASH
An Ulster Bank employee in Waterford has pled guilty to stealing _22,000 over the course of two years.
Kay Cunningham was tasked with the pretty onerous task of tallying up each day’s movements of money, a job that allowed her to take occasional amounts for herself.
She was given a two-year suspended sentence, according to the Munster Express.
TRAGIC LOSS IN AFRICA
An Enniskillen student was tragically killed in a road accident in Namibia last week, according to the Impartial Reporter newspaper.
Siobhan Shannon, 22, was in Africa with Raleigh International,a youth development charity that gives young people between the ages of 17 and 25 the chance to live and work on expeditions abroad.
“Siobhan was taking a year out before doing her masters in mechanical engineering,” her family said this week. “She loved being at home with her family but also loved to travel. She was a capable, independent, caring person. She had phoned home on Wednesday before she started her next project and was enjoying her time in Namibia. We are devastated by her loss.”
It was a lucky escape last week for Cindy Gummer, reports the Northside People newspaper in Dublin.
A car plunged through the window of her store, Enchanted Galleries, on Preston Road.
“It was a freaky accident,” said Gummer, owner of the collectibles and framing shop. “When tempered glass is hit like that, it just explodes.”
She was upstairs at the time.
It’s not what you would expect in Clare.
Frankie’s Chip Shop on O’Curry Street in Kilrush was robbed by four men with balaclavas and guns.
Proprietor Frankie McGrath was tied up and beaten during the armed raid. Gardai in Kilrush are continuing with their investigations into the recent robbery, and have arrested two people. But they later released them without charge.
FEUD LEADS TO STABBING
A long-running feud between two New Ross, Co. Wexford, families erupted into full-scale violence last weekend, ending with a man being stabbed in the chest and leg.
Afterward, Gardai charged James Webb with assault against the injured man, Richard Lanigan, reported the New Ross Echo.
Webb claimed that he had received numerous threats on his mother’s cell phone, including the news that there were “boys coming from Belfast” to burn out the Webb’s house.
“They gave us an hour to get to Listerlin,” James Webb said. “There were lots of kids in our house, so we got in the car and drove to Walsh’s house. When we got there, there were girls at the front of the house taunting us. Then about 15 people came running out and started attacking us with nail-studded sticks.”
Judge Olive Buttimer remanded Webb on continuing bail and adjourned the case for psychiatric and probation reports and a victim impact assessment.
Webb cooperated fully with the police and then moved to Cassagh, Co. Wexford, in an attempt to show that he was distancing himself from the feud.