In 1882 George Benn, the generous philanthropist, historian and benefactor of Belfast Charitable Society (BCS) died, leaving the sum of £1,000 to the Charitable Society to set up the Benn Charity. This sum of money was to be used principally to provide a dinner or other entertainment for the residents of the Old Peoples Home at Christmas and Easter each year. George was very close with his brother Edward who predeceased him, and he requested that BCS used any interest from the fund was used to maintain his brother’s burial place in Clifton Street Cemetery. George’s final request was that any additional surplus income after the two original requests “shall be applied in providing for the use of aged inmates of the said Poor House a few newspapers such as Illustrated London Times, The Graphic or such illustrated papers to amuse them”.
This year, 2019, marked the 137th Benn Christmas Dinner. Although Clifton Residential is now run by Radius Housing, Belfast Charitable Society continue to host this event each year. The guest of honour, High Sheriff Alderman Tommy Sandford, was a great hit with the residents, and they enjoyed the entertainment from Trinity College, who had the residents singing and dancing to some classic Christmas songs and traditional carols. As is tradition, the Junior Chamber of Commerce provided the Christmas presents, delivered by Santa himself!