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Decent, loyal and loved by many ... well-known figures share memories of David Anderson

Deric Henderson, former Ireland editor of the Press Association and now a public relations consultant:

No doubt David Anderson had many regrets, and surely he left us with one in particular - that he never wrote a book about his life and times at Hillsborough Castle.

He often talked about it - once when we met in the Ulster Reform Club in Belfast - and always during chance conversations on the streets of the city after he moved on from his official duties at the home of the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

He was working at a high-end restaurant in London's Mayfair at the time.

John Reid, Peter Hain, Shaun Woodward or Mo Mowlam - the only Secretary of State I never really warmed to - might have hosted the big nights in the state rooms, or around the dinner table in the living quarters upstairs where quality of discussion tended to escalate into a free-for-all shouting match by the time the port was served.

But David never said a word.

Nobody presented a finer gin and tonic than he did. Family-sized, with lots of lemon and ice, and always in a tall glass. "Any more tonic, Deric? Maybe a dash more?" he'd inquire. Charming, and always the essence of discretion as he went about his business, quietly, and without any fuss or drama. He was so much part of the furniture and regrettably I sometimes got the impression officialdom took him for granted.

Notwithstanding his MVO and MBE awards for his services to the NIO and the Crown, his value might not have been acknowledged in the way it should have been.

Deric Henderson

In many ways he was the public face at Hillsborough, but his remuneration package was short of being grand.

It was a pity he left as house manager after 25 years attending to the needs of all types of individuals, especially the first-timers attending official functions, and who arrived in the foyer looking for directions and where they might hang their coats.

He was in his element on the big nights - and believe me there were some big days and nights - or at the royal garden parties, and can you imagine the stories he could tell? He shared one or two secrets with me over the years, but strictly off the record.

"Do you know who occupied the Queen's bedroom last night?" he'd tease, before whispering the name. You'd never believe it.

And that's why it's such a shame that he never got round to writing the book he always promised himself.

Shaun Woodward, former Secretary of State:

Shaun Woodward

David Anderson was an extraordinary man, a loyal colleague, a true friend, loved by his friends - not least by all my family - and he embodied decency to his very core.

He ran Hillsborough with enormous skill and care. It was, of course, a home for the Secretary of State, a royal palace for the Queen, an office for Government and as such - over many years - David witnessed so much that would lead to peace agreements and political agreements for Northern Ireland. David was there at the heart of it all, making it work.

Everyone enjoyed being with him. He was the embodiment of reliability. We trusted David. From the most senior royals to the young apprentice learning to become a gardener. David could work with everyone and anyone. He was respected and loved.

Peter Hain, former Secretary of State

Peter Hain

David in many ways was Hillsborough Castle.

At a time when Prime Ministers and Secretaries of State relied on it as a family home, a negotiating space, a summit venue or a royal visit, it was David who always made it work with panache, wit and seemingly effortless behind the scenes work.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein

Gerry Adams

I got to meet with David Anderson during many visits to Hillsborough House. He facilitated many private meetings there as well as more formal events. Some of the private meetings were on a one-to-one basis.

David was always hospitable, efficient and supportive.

I got to know him as a thoroughly decent man.

I have good memories of many conversations with David about life, making peace, his role in advising on the development of Farmleigh House, and gardening, particularly about trees.

Martin McGuinness was delighted that David met him in Dublin to wish him well in the presidential election.

I extend my condolences to David's family at this sad time.

Stephen Farry Alliance Party MLA

David was a gentleman and made everyone feel welcome.

Belfast Telegraph


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