Samuel Bennett CrooksThe original “Black Santa”, he was present at the dedication of both Transepts. The South Transept and the Chapel of Unity were both consecrated on 20th June 1967 and the North Transept on 28th June 1981. The “Charity” window in the Ambulatory was dedicated in his memory on 23rd September 1988. He died in 1986.
The report of Dean Crook's funeral in the Belfast Telegraph stated:
City pays its fond and final tribute to the people’s dean
THE ULSTER community paid a final, fond tribute today to its caring clergyman, the former Dean of Belfast the Very Rev. Samuel Crooks. People of different denominations and from all walks of life attended his funeral service at his beloved St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
Mourners packed the cathedral "Dean Sammy" had worked so hard to restore and complete. They were led by his wife Isabel, son Sam and daughter Anne. They included representatives of church and state, the business community, local government, education, and many other aspects of life in the province. But the congregation also included ordinary members of the public, for Dean Crooks was the people's Dean. Many, had benefitted from his: decade of vigils on Donegall Street in the cold and wet to raise £165,000 for the needy.
Dean Crooks, who was 66, died last Thursday in a car accident near Carryduff. He was on his way to a meeting at the cathedral when the accident happened around 10.30 am on the Saintfield Road.
His friend and colleague, the retired Bishop of Connor, the Dr. Arthur Butler, spoke of the community's shock and sadness in his funeral address. Dr. Butler said: "Thursday last was a dark and gloomy day and from early morning rain poured down. To add to the gloom, yet more outbursts of hatred and intolerance were announced on radio and in the newspapers.
“At lunchtime, the news began to filter through that Dean Crooks had been killed in a car accident. None of us who heard it could believe it. Our Dean, our Sammy dead - it couldn’t be. Ah, no! not him, it must be a mistake.
“But it was true and all of us were shocked, horrified and saddened. The dark day had suddenly become darker for we know that a light had gone out - a burning and shining light."
Dr. Butler spoke with fondness of the Dean's years' service to St. Ann's and his immense contribution to the community. He said: "For generations to come, when his name crops up, it will always be: 'There was a man'. For the Dean was larger than life, a legend in his own lifetime." Dr. Butler said the cathedral was a fitting memorial to the Dean, who took up his first post in the church as curate at St. Anne's in 1943 and retired last November after 15 years as Dean.
But he added that the cathedral was more than bricks and mortar to Ulster's best known fundraiser. He said: "It was to be a place which all could share in, a platform for every point of view that would help people to understand better the full meaning of the Christian faith and its relevance to our daily lives.
"All were welcomed. From the Salvation Army to Hans Kung; Cardinals and Moderators and Presidents; laymen and women whose contribution could help to break down our unhappy divisions."
Mourners heard how the Dean had captured the imagination, compassion and charity of countless people by his Christmas vigils - "a light shining in the darkness". An OBE and Honorary Doctorate were tokens of the regard in which he was held by the whole community.
Dr. Butler also spoke of the Dean as an individual and a i churchman.He said:"He had so many gifts and qualities but s outstanding was his energy and determination. Once he had made up his mind on a certain course of action, . nothing or no one would be allowed to stand in his way.
"He wasn't always the easiest of men to work with. He could be abrupt and impatient. He did not always suffer fools-gladly and was not beyond enjoying a good row from time to time.
“Those who did work with him and got used to his ways soon came to realise that they were in the presence of a man of exceptional warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. "By nature he was gregarious, a convivial man but with all that, he loved to be in his own home and was very much a family man. He loved to be with the Army and served with distinction himself as a Territorial chaplain."
Mourners also heard two very personal points about the Dean. All through his ministry he refused to go out on a Saturday night and would try to be in bed at eight pm so that he could be at his best to lead the worship on Sunday.
Secondly, the Dean was a cricket fanatic. He often stayed up in the early hours of the morning to listen on the radio to a Test match in Australia or the West Indies. His last words to his wife Isabel, on leaving home on Thursday were: "Keep a note of the Test score for me."
There was tight security at the cathedral because of the a large number of VlPs present and traffic was diverted away from Donegall Street.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Belfast the Very Rev. Jack Shearer. Representatives of the four main churches were present: Church of Ireland Primate Dr. Robin Eames; Roman Catholic Primate, Cardinal Tomas O'Fiaich; former Presbyterian Moderator, Dr. Tom Simpson and for the Methodist Church, the Rev. Dr. Charles Eyre. The cathedral was packed with people paying their last respects - Belfast Lord Mayor Alderman Sammy Wilson, former Lord Mayors John Carson and Billy Bell, RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon, the Bishop of Down and Connor Dr. Cahal Daly and prominent Church of Ireland layman Lord Dunleath. Mourners also included South Belfast MP the Rev. Martin Smyth, Dr. Joe Hendron for the SDLP, Alliance representatives Mr. John Cushnahan Mr. Addie Morrow, and the Lord Lieutenant for Belfast Sir Robin Kinahan. Prominent members of the judiciary at the 75-minute service included the Lord Chief Justice Lord Lowry and Judge Anthony Hart.
And the public stood in the Donegall Street drizzle to pay their tribute. The cortege brought city centre traffic to a standstill. The public service was followed by a private cremation ceremony.
This report was written by Neil Johnston for the Belfast Telegraph.The pilgrim passes on ...
Thousands mourn man who touched heart of Belfast
Tributes have been pouring in for DEAN SAMMY CROOKS, who died in a road accident yesterday. Neil Johnston looks at the life of this remarkable man, who devoted so much of his time to untiring work for charity.
Year after year, as Ulster tore itself apart, he sat doggedly at peace with the world in the wind and rain.
Outside his beloved Belfast Cathedral hunched in balaclava arid cloak against the elements, Dean Crooks was the epitomy of Christian charity.
The Christmas revellers went past, paused and found their conscience.
They would go back and contribute. Some would call him "Mr. Dean," some "Mr. Crooks" and some just "Sammy."
He was not a man for formalities. To one and all there went a cheery season's greetings and if there was a bit of Belfast "crack," so much the better.
Worried about the effect of the December weather on his health, somebody once brought him a fur coat. "With this thing wrapped round you," he said, "you couldn't be cold."
He was sent a newly-knitted black balaclava. He wore it, too, and it became part of his image.
Year after year, his letter of thanks would appear in the papers, listing the charities which had benefited from his vigil outside St. Anne's.
Those in need ranged from the old, the young, the underprivileged and the sick.
He collected, too, for Roman Catholic organisations like St. Vincent de Paul.
In all, over 15 years as Dean of Belfast, he collected for charity something in the region of £165,000.
They called him the "black Santa" after his vigils outside the cathedral where he began his 42 years in holy orders and to which he devoted so much of his life.
His service in the church began there as a curate in 1943, and after spells in Orangefield, Lurgan and Dromore, he returned to Belfast as Dean of St. Anne's in 1970.
It was a case of "cometh the hour, cometh the man” - he immediately set about the task of making St. Anne's complete.
To that end, he would brook no cautious or staying hand. Sammy Crooks, as one Church of Ireland colleague said - unfailingly went in where angels fear to tread.
Within five years of his return to Donegall Street, the south transept and Chapel of Unity were dedicated and the organ rebuilt.By 1981, the north transept was consecrated and the Royal Irish Rangers chapel dedicated, which, as a former Army chaplain, was particularly important to him.
So, before the road accident which ended his life yesterday, he had seen the completion of the cathedral, but not yet the realisation of his hopes for it becoming what he often described as "a centre of reconciliation" for all the people of Belfast.
That vision is a worthy epitaph for the man they the called the people's Dean."
This was echoed in the the tribute paid to him last night by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev. Dr. Robin Eames. .
"The ministry of Dean Crooks was unique, personal and full of courage," he said.
“His great wish was to see Belfast Cathedral accepted as a cathedral for all the people of the city - a constant example of the Christian church reaching out into the public, civil and commercial life of Belfast.
"For many who had no active connection with the Church he represented something that was truly unique.
“A whole community will be saddened by his passing."
Among the messages of sympathy which flooded into the Church of Ireland Diocesan Office in Belfast yesterday as news of his death became known, came one from a distraught Roman Catholic woman.
She told the staff she intended to have prayers said for him. For that alone, he would have felt that his labours had not been in vain.