When the Royal Black Institution set out to fundraise for an overseas charity, it never dreamed it would be helping someone so close to home.
The institution has now finished its latest fundraising drive, with £85,000 collected for two charities – one of them being Aviation Mission Fellowship (MAF), which flew wounded Cookstown missionary Maud Kells for medical treatment after she was shot earlier this year.
The other charity was the Bible Society in Northern Ireland, with the two organisations chosen because they could combine their expertise and use aircraft to deliver specially-translated Bibles to remote parts of southern Sudan.
The cash was handed over late last month at the institution’s Lurgan headquarters to be split between the charities.
Present at the handover was Maud herself.
In an uncanny twist, Royal Black Sovereign Grand Master Millar Farr is a member of the same church as her (Molesworth Presbyterian in Cookstown), and he described the fact they had ended up supporting a charity which aided in her rescue as “providential”.
Asked if he ever could have imagined such a thing may happen, he said: “No. It’s just one of those coincidences.”
A devout Christian, Maud had been based at a medical centre in the village of Mulita in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and had sometimes used MAF planes (which also carry food and medical supplies) for transport.
She was shot by bandits in the tiny remote settlement on January 4.
“But for MAF flying her out for medical treatment, she might not have survived,” said Mr Farr.
The fundraising activities for the Bible Society and MAF are part of an ongoing scheme.
On every even year since 2002 the institution has chosen designated charities to funnel funds towards.
These have in the past included a hospital in Kiwoko, Uganda, which consequently has units named after dead Royal Black members Lord Molyneaux and Sir Norman Stronge.
That year was the best they had seen so far, with more that £100,000 raised.
When it comes to this year’s charity takings, Mr Farr said: “Bearing in mind the economic climate coming through in the past number of years, we are more than pleased.”
This latest tally of cash brings the total they have raised through these bi-annual drives to just under £600,000.