End of an era as Don departs
Don Rice, long-time Leinster House catering manager, retired last Friday after 35 years in the job.
He left after what he thought was going to be a low-key lunch in the private dining room with a number of old friends, but his staff had other ideas. They surprised him with a lavish Downton Abbey-themed meal – course after sumptuous course.
“Everybody made something that they were good at and brought it in. At the start of the lunch we all marched in and stood around the table, ready to begin service,” said one staff member. “His friends were in on the act and he was taken completely by surprise.”
Down the years, dapper Don fed and watered nine taoisigh, 18 party leaders and 10 governments. He ran the Leinster House catering operation like clockwork.
“We all stood around the table and served the meal the way they do in Downton Abbey. We know he loves the programme and, being a gentleman to the last, we felt Don deserved to be treated like a gentleman on his last day.”
Letters were read out from former members of the catering staff who got their start from Don. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Reine Staunton from the bills office read a poem she composed for the occasion.
His staff, many in tears, wished him well and Don, in typically understated fashion, left Leinster House by the back door by teatime.
The end of an era, they said.