Dame Mary's tribute to pal David who made everyone feel special
A grieving Dame Mary Peters has paid tribute to her late friend and confidante, David Anderson, former Household Manager at Hillsborough Castle, describing him as a man with the common touch, adored by Royalty.
Mr Anderson died on Wednesday, aged 58, after an illness during which Dame Mary travelled to visit him several times in London, where he had moved to live after his last post in Northern Ireland as manager of the exclusive Montalto House in Ballynahinch, Co Down.
He is best known, however, for his 25 years' service at Hillsborough Castle, the official residence in Northern Ireland of Her Majesty, The Queen.
As The Queen's Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, and a regular visitor to Hillsborough during Royal visits and functions associated with her sporting background, Dame Mary told how their professional relationship blossomed into a close friendship over many years.
The 1972 pentathlon gold medal winner at the Munich Olympics had known her friend was gravely ill but was still shocked and saddened to learn of his passing on the final night of her summer holiday on Wednesday.
"I had limited telephone contact while away and returned to 34 messages on my home phone from mutual friends who'd heard the sad news and wanted to talk about David.
"Many people have been paying tribute to his extraordinary contribution to the hospitality industry here and his exceptional service at Hillsborough in particular. They tell the story of a remarkable man, a consummate professional, but he was also an incredibly engaging personality.
"He was always elegantly dressed, told wonderful stories and was a great companion.
"The Royal Family adored him on their visits to Hillsborough but, for all the high powered circles in which he so effortlessly moved, he never forgot his Newtownards upbringing. He had the happy knack of making everyone he met feel special.
"Whenever I had visitors from anywhere in the world, David would say to bring them to Hillsborough and said I will give them my special tour. He made them all, individually, feel important."
He was equally engaging with Royalty, as Dame Mary remembers from a Hillsborough reception for young athletes aided by her Mary Peters Trust charity.
"Princess Anne, as our patron, had flown in as a special guest and as David led her downstairs, she seemed surprised and asked him what all the people were doing, standing outside.
"David replied that it was such a lovely day, he thought he'd hold the reception outdoors, to which Princess Anne replied: 'Bad idea, David. Wrong shoes.'
"To which David responded: 'My shoes are perfectly fine, Ma'am'."
Dame Mary recalled how much the former Movilla High School student missed home during his time in London.
"On one of my recent visits, he asked me to bring wheaten bread, Tayto crisps and a cherry cake from Knott's bakery in Newtownards."