|At the dinner to honour David Anderson re Sir Nigel Hamilton, Dame Mary Peters, Lady Sylvia Hermon, David Anderson, Sir William and Lady Hastings. Photo John Harrison. MBE||At the dinner to honour David Anderson (second right) are James Nicholson, Sir William Hall, Jane Wilson and Colonel Garth Corbett organiser.|
THE man who enjoyed a ring side seat to some of the top political events in Northern Ireland history over the past 25 years as house manager of Hillsborough Castle has stepped down to take on a new challenge. David Anderson, who is now General Manager of Montalto House in Ballynahinch, rubbed shoulders with royalty, Prime Ministers, US presidents and high profile visitors as he ensured the smooth running of the Castle for a quarter of a century.
David (50), a father-of-three, welcomed four Prime Ministers, 12 Secretaries of State, and of course has looked after the Queen and other members of the Royal family when they stayed at their official residence in Northern Ireland.
He joined Hillsborough Castle on February 14, 1984 and the first major event was the aftermath of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement by Margaret Thatcher and Garret Fitzgerald on November 15, 1985.
His role was to oversee the domestic arrangements and hospitality arrangements - sometimes well in advance, but other times at very short notice.
For most Royal visits David got up to six weeks notice and would then work with his team to prepare the menus, choose the wine and flowers as well as deal with all the other domestic issues.
He had to be mindful of season and was always keen to promote local agriculture and fisheries when choosing the menu. County Antrim salmon and local beef among often the favourites.
When the Queen visited everything had to be checked with her private office if she was on a day long visit he had to mindful of what she had already eaten so had to liaise with outside organisations.
"The Royal Family were always keen on good fresh country produce rather than nouvelle cuisine," he said. "they always appreciated wholesome food." Among some of his most memorable visits were the Prime Minister of Japan in 1991 and the Dalai Lama. David was also closely involved when the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam expressed a wish that the castle be opened to the public during the summer months.
It has proved to be a huge success with exhibitions including the Downing Street silver collections and the Summer Dress shows courtesy of the Queen. In two weeks there were as many as 5,500 people coming through the doors of the Castle.
"Hillsborough Castle was always a favourite among the Royals," said David. "The connection goes back as far as Lady Rose Granville in 1949 and from then the members of the Royal Family have always had a soft spot for the village."
"Though Hillsborough Castle has hosted many happy occasions there were also sad occasions too." One of David's favourite guests was Princess Diana who visited Hillsborough Castle three times but never stayed. David remembers her as a sweet and charming woman.
"She was just lovely. She was charming and gorgeous and fun to be around. She never stayed overnight but always stayed longer than scheduled, giving people her time. She was generous with her comments as well."
David, who was awarded the MBE in 1997, said he left Hillsborough Castle with a heavy heart but felt the time was right and was looking forward to his new challenge at Montalto.
To mark his departure a dinner was held in his honour at The Royal Ulster Yacht Club in Bangor.