Metropole rolls out red carpet to remember first head porter

Metropole rolls out red carpet to remember first head porter
John Coleman, Metropole Hotel Concierge, welcomes Shelia McCarthy onto the red carpet at the Metropole Hotel. Also included are family members, Dymphna O'Connor (niece), Lucy Connolly (niece), and Niall McCarthy (nephew). Pictures: Jim Coughlan

One of Ireland’s great hotels rolled out the red carpet for a very special guest today to celebrate their remarkable connection which dates back more than a century.

Sheila McCarthy, 98, was given the VIP treatment by the Metropole Hotel in Cork where her father, Cornelius, worked as its first head porter from 1902 to 1942, and her brother, John also worked.

Cornelius was described by the hotel’s first owners, the Musgrave family, as one of their most trusted workers and it was one of Ms McCarthy’s long-held ambitions to see her father’s photograph displayed in the historic hotel.

And today, the hotel’s current concierge and guest relations manager, John Coleman, showed her a framed photo of her father in his uniform, on duty in the lobby, taken in the early 1900s, which will be hung just inside the hotel’s front door. It will be displayed alongside two glowing references for John, signed in 1938 and 1942, by the hotel’s former general manager, William Musgrave.

Picture of Cornelius McCarthy, hanging in reception at the Metropole.
Picture of Cornelius McCarthy, hanging in reception at the Metropole.

Ms McCarthy, who grew up on Gardiner's Hill, said her father lived for his job in a hotel famous for being a "dry hotel" - it didn't acquire a liquor licence until 1956.

"He loved it. He loved looking after people, and in those days, he would have done the lot - taking bookings, meeting and greeting, taking care of the guests while they were here. He had an office where he would change into his uniform in the morning and before coming home, and would always have a needle and thread handy in case a button came loose on his crisp white shirt.

There was ‘The Float’ and horse that would collect guests from the train station. You would have women dressed in all their finery walking from the train station and The Float bringing their luggage. I remember coming to the Metropole after school, getting a chance to earn a few bob myself. They were lovely times. But looking after guests with great care today is still the same as it was in my father’s time.

Mr Coleman said he became aware of the story after meeting one of Ms McCarthy’s nieces as he led a tour of the hotel during Heritage Week: “And I thought it was such a lovely story. Lots of places would love to have the history we have. It’s important that we remember the past and honour it."

John Coleman, Metropole Hotel Concierge, welcomes Shelia McCarthy (centre), along with Lucy Connolly (niece), Dymphna O'Connor (niece), Niall McCarthy (nephew), and Roger Russell, General Manager of the Metropole Hotel
John Coleman, Metropole Hotel Concierge, welcomes Shelia McCarthy (centre), along with Lucy Connolly (niece), Dymphna O'Connor (niece), Niall McCarthy (nephew), and Roger Russell, General Manager of the Metropole Hotel

Ms McCarthy was joined for lunch at the hotel's The Met restaurant by her nieces, Dympna and Lucy, and her nephew, Niall.

The Metropole Hotel opened in 1897. It has hosted stars including Walt Disney, Gregory Peck and jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. King Edward VII is reputed to have had tea on its rooftop when he visited Cork in 1903 for the Great Exhibition. It's been the spiritual home of the Cork Jazz Festival since 1978.

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