Lives Lost to Covid-19: Terence Doorley’s life was family and Wynn’s hotel
‘Mr D’ worked his way up from porter to general manger of the Dublin institution
Terence Doorley from Dublin, 1926-2020
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1926 - 2020
Terence Doorley was the doyen of one of Dublin’s most historic hotels.
Having joined Wynn’s on Abbey Street in the 1950s as a porter, he worked his way up to general manager and was known simply as “Mr D” among his staff and many of the city’s characters.
He was the eyes and ears of the bustling establishment, to which he dedicated more than six decades of his working life. Terence surely had a book in him about the escapades he presided over day in, day out.
But, despite prompting by veteran journalist and customer Vincent Browne to commit his memoirs to print, he took seriously the importance of discretion in his role.
His family – wife Bridie and children Patrick, Cathy and Vera – were, however, treated to stories in the privacy of their home in Artane, from where, always immaculately turned out, he would take the 42A bus most days to his work.
A man collected slops for pig farmers from the back door of the hotel for years.
“One Sunday, one of the waiters came out and said ‘Mr D, you need to come into the restaurant quickly’,” Vera recalls her father telling them.
The slop collector, dressed in a three-piece suit, was seated at one of the dining room’s linen-covered tables and, having just enjoyed a three-course lunch, was toking on a cigar and sipping a postprandial whiskey.
“Dad said ‘So, what’s the problem?’ and the waiter said the man had no money to pay for it.”
Asked what he was up to, the man told Mr D: “Well, I’m 30 years coming to this hotel and I’ve never been offered so much as a cup of coffee, so I decided to treat myself.”
Pressed by the waiter on what to do, Terence said, “Nothing, he deserves it, he’s entitled to it. Let him go.”
“Dad got it. The man just wanted to be treated like one of the guests for a change,” says Vera.
Terence was born on Connolly Avenue in Inchicore on June 12th, 1926. He was one of seven children – four boys and three girls – and left school aged 14 to work as a van delivery boy. But he soon took up a job as a waiter at a Belfast hotel.
The outbreak of the second World War prompted a return to Dublin and by the 1950s he was working at Wynn’s, where he met his future wife, Bridie, then a waitress recently arrived in the capital from Daingean in Co Offaly.
The pair bought their first and only house on Brookwood Grove in Artane. “It was a lovely home to grow up in,” says Vera.
They made great friends in the neighbourhood and would regularly visit Terence’s brother Gerard in Malahide for a meal or a drink.
Reading, politics and film were lifelong passions. “He had a great interest in anything going on in the world – the newspaper would be read cover to cover every day, even into his late 80s and early 90s.”
When the children were young Terence had a half day off work every Thursday. Bridie would bring them into town to meet him and they would go to one of the city’s many cinemas – the Metropole, the Savoy, the Carlton, the Corinthian.
“There was a restaurant over from Wynn’s called Sherry’s, and that was a really big treat if he brought us there after the cinema, where we sat on red leather seats at the counter.”
There was also a day off work every second Sunday. Terence and Bridie would take the family to O’Connell Street, where they could pick a treat from Kinahan’s fruit and chocolate shop before taking a bus trip out of the city for the day, maybe to Carton House or Powerscourt.
Holidays were simple, usually at Bridie’s family farm in Daingean. But later, when the children were raised, the couple would travel to San Francisco and Rome.
A week every year in Killaloe, Co Clare, joined by their grandchildren, also became a fixture. “All Dad wanted was his own home, his family and their nice holiday whenever they could,” says Vera.
Another hotel customer, Tayto owner Joe “Spud” Murphy, tried to poach Terence during the 1970s as a manager for his new crisp factory in Coolock.
A family summit was called around the kitchen table, but Terence eventually decided it was too much of a gamble to give up the tips he made at Wynn’s.
There he remained until the age of 65, but about two months into his retirement Bridie was pleading for “somebody to give that man a job”.
“He just had to be busy, had to be doing something,” says Vera.
“Luckily Wynn’s came calling and asked him to go back three days a week. It was a lifeline for both of them.”
Terence worked at Wynn’s until he was 79, when he left to look after Bridie, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Even when she had to go into a home, he went to sit with her every day for four years.
Bridie passed away in October 2015. “When she was gone I think he couldn’t cope to a certain extent,” says Vera. “They were devoted to each other. His family and Wynn’s – that was Dad’s life.”