The long since concluded two week Christmas sit out on behalf of the Ballymoney Black Santa Appeal, has resulted in a total of over £12,000 raised for six charities.
Over a two week period in the run up to Christmas, both Liam Beckett and Alistair Coyles sat out at the Diamond, raising approximately £12,700 which included £1,000 from a Country Music night to launch the appeal back in November 28th.
The cheque presentation on Tuesday evening (January 11th) in The Old School House building, saw representatives for each of the six charities in attendance, receiving a share of £12,000. The remaining amount will go back in the pot towards the 2020 appeal. Joning Liam and Alastair presenting the cheques was Mayor Sean Batson.
Speaking about the appeal and money raised, Mayor Batson thanked both Liam and Alastair:
“on behalf of myself and council, can i thank alastair and liam. the now traditional appeal supports great charities. Long may it continue.”
The six charities this year were CAN, Drop Inn Ministries, Samaritans, The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul and new for this year the N.I. Childrens Hospice, each receive £2,000.
It wasn’t just the cheques being handed over however, but the Black Santa role. After 13 years Liam Beckett used this Christmas sit out to transition local country singer Alastair Coyles into the role, who will begin his tenure Christmas 2020, taking up the familiar position at Ballymoney’s Diamond.
But Alastair will have relative comfort going forward compared to the last 13 years which saw Liam sit out in all weathers, with little shelter from the elements, as the introduction of a custom built wooden hut thanks to Ballymoney’s Men Shed made for a comfortable base over the cold Christmas period.
Liam spoke about his final year as Black Santa.
“I think i’ve had what is it 13 years now so there always comes a time when you need new and young blood and fresh ideas. I’ve had a good spell and thought long and hard about it, about two or three years now.
“I COULDN’T THINK ABOUT SOMEONE WHO WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH SIDES OF THE COMMUNITY, WHO WOULD HAVE A GOOD FOLLOWING OR POPULAR IN THE TOWN. They needed to be TRUSTWORTHY and have the respect of the community.”
He’s went on to comment on his replacement and why Alastair was the idea choice, saying:
“Eventually i thought about Alastair, and i mentioned to him. He said ‘Aye i would like to talk to you about it’ and we had a chat.
“So as a result this was what we called the transition year, where i was there to make sure he got through and the people got to know Alastair.
“He was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT and got the appeal off to a good start with a country show and a great attender at the sit out. No better man, he’s the man from here on in!.”
Alastair Coyle is no stranger to the appeal, as he has in previous years stood in when Liam was unavailable. The singer has also wasted no time in making his mark, organising a fundraising country music concert to launch the appeal last year.
Speaking at the presentations, Alastair Coyles said:
“big boots to fill. Liam is the best crack, i’ve been there the whole sit out this year with him and we have had an absolute ball.
“The public and the generosity of the donations of food and money, is BRILLIANT.”
In recent years the local branch of the Rotary Club have become heavily involved with the appeals. Handling the administration, banking and PR, leaving Liam to concentrate on raising the money.
One of these was Richard Our who has been instrumental in the organisation of the appeal. Unfortunately this was Richards last year as he returns to England to live. Liam paid tribute to Richard saying:
“It’s the volunteers who work all year round for the charities, their the real heros, and that includes those who work in the background of the black Santa appeal like the rotary club who are fantastic.
“In particular Richard Oor who has worked hard for a number of years in the organising of the appeal, his dedication is second to none.
“Saddly this was Richards last year as he returns to England to live, he’ll be sorely missed by us all”
So as Alastair takes up his new role officially, what’s his plans for this years Christmas appeal.
“Well for the first time we had the Black Santa launch, a country night at the legion, and we would be hoping to do the same again this year.
“During the sit out i plan on also having some live music from the Diamon, a busking type session which will hopefully bring in a lot of money as well”.
The Black Santa appeal will return later in the year with its annual charity sit out, two week prior to Christmas.