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Liam Beckett ‘An Honour’, New Year charity trip to Africa

Liam Beckett, best known in his younger years as a footballer and football manager, played for teams such as Crusaders, Drogheda United and Coleraine before moving into management of home town team Ballymoney United then onto Cliftonville FC before finishing his football management career at Institute FC.

Liam is also well known for his connection to Motor racing, in particular to the Dunlop family where he was the late Robert Dunlops mechanic, friend and confidant. More comfortable now in the football commentary box each weekend on Radio Ulster rather that on the field or race track, Liam thick Ballymoney accident is instantly recognisable. 

“I don’t know why with my accent they ever asked me in the first place, and I thought after the first couple that would be it, but they keep coming back every week.”

But two weeks prior to Christmas each year since 2007, Liam has sat out in a small hut at the Diamond in Ballymoney and collected for several charities which he has close connections to. Now in his 11th year Liam, given the name ‘Ballymoney’s Black Santa’, has continued to raise much appreciated funds for these charities. For several years this money has been divided between The Salvation Army, Samaritans, DropInn Ministries, SVP and CAN (Compass Advocacy Network).

“It was back in 2015 that a good friend of mine in the council, Liz Johnston, asked me to do this for charity.

“Initially I said no, then they came back and asked me again so I agreed the second time.

“They put a great big beard on me and a Cloke and they were going to have a competition of sorts, guess who Black Santa is, and it was to run for 3 or 4 days.

“Within an hour a man came up to me and said ‘hello black Santa’ but the moment I spoke he said ‘is that you Liam’, so my cover was blown.”

Liam Beckett collecting for his 5 chosen charities.

Since 2005 Liam has raised thousands over the years with many of his supporters going out of their way to come and make a donation. These include friends and colleagues from the BBC and sporting world, but one special supporter, Fleming Keery, has walked his way 150 miles from Drumbo to Ballymoney this year.

To mark the occasion Fleming presented Liam with a special plaque which listed all the town names he walked through to get to Liams hut in Ballymoney.

“The five charities are all cross community charities. I want to make sure that all the money we collect in Ballymoney goes direct to the coal face. Right to the people that need it and doesn’t get lost in administration fee’s etc.

“Thats why 100% of what comes in goes back out again.”

This year however his charity work doesn’t stop on Christmas Eve. Liam has been asked to travel to Africa in the New Year to a small village which has just had a new water well sunk. Prior to this villagers had to travel 8 miles to the nearest water source.

Liam has for several years been sending out items such as football tops and footballs to the children there and as a way of showing their appreciation they have invited him to visit the village and officially open the new well which will be dedicated in his honour.

“It all started about 15 years ago before the ‘Black Santa’ sit out. I’d been sending a few items out to a small place in Africa called Burkina Faso for the weans. Small flat footballs and a few football kits and things.

“We then started to send out some money we collected during the s’Black Santa’ stouts through the DropInn Ministries. It was going to a wee village where I knew the weans were walking 8 miles every morning to get water with a couple of gallon jars tied round their next with a big of old rope.

“About 6 mounts I received a phone call to tell me that over the years they were able to get enough money to sink a well in the village and would I like to come out to commission it.”

Liam will make the long trip to Burkina Faso in Africa on the 8th of January and spend 8 days with the villagers. Ever the joker, when asked about commissioning the well Liam said;

“I am not sure how you commission a well, perhaps your throw a bucket at it! or prime the pump, I haven’t a clue to be honest.

“And I m a bad old eater so don’k like foreign foods, so the weans are keeping me going about all this types of food they eat out there, but at least I’ll have water to drink!”

Liam’s sit out in Ballymoney will continue until Christmas Eve and all donations will be warmly welcomed by Ballymoney’s own ‘Black Santa’ himself.

“Can I take the opportunity to thank everyone who supports me every year, your donations really do make a difference.”

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