The Corkman, who was supermarket dynamo Ben Dunne Snr’s first-ever employee, mentor and subsequently director as the family empire grew, yesterday got to warm a red velour seat at Cork City Hall — one set to be graced by the queen of England next month.
Recently turned 90 years of age and still working, Mr Barrett was the first man to commit to the Dunnes vision and drive for better value. The company launched at the end of the Second World War, now he sees it in the trenches in current supermarket price wars. And he still loves it.
“There’s better value than ever before for shoppers,” Dan Barrett asserts, using his temporary seat in mayoralty chambers to call for car-parking for St Patrick Street, where Dunnes flagship and first store has been reinstated thanks to his efforts.
His commitment, and long, long career at the top of the Dunnes firm was yesterday honoured by the Cork Business Association, and by Cork’s Lord Mayor when Mr Barrett signed the Visitors’ Book at a special City Hall reception in his honour.
Lord Mayor Cllr Michael O’Connell pointed out that one of the next visitors will be Queen Elizabeth II and quipped “where you’re sitting now, she’ll be sitting”.
The first citizen recalled earlier royal visitors to Cork, including Queen Victoria’s two visits, first in 1849, again in 1900.
Queen Victoria held Britain’s longest sovereign reign, at 63 years and seven months: Dan Barrett has had a 67-year career and is still going strong.
Other dynasties came into the frame yesterday as Mr Barrett described himself as “a genuine rebel, born on Cork’s Magazine Road, educated locally, married to a Cork woman Pat and having raised my own family (Anne, Thomas and David) in Cork, despite much pressure to move to Dublin”.
Mr Barrett has now worked with three generations of the Dunne family, who’ve got 16,000 employees in 155 stores in Ireland, Spain and Britain.
Dan Barrett noted that his father had been in the retail trade, as a buyer for T Lyons & Co. Mr Barrett himself had started in Roches Stores before crossing St Patrick Street to start with “genius” Ben Dunne, he had three sisters working in the Queens Old Castle, and a brother in Mannix and Cullinane. His own son David Barrett works in Dunnes’ Dublin HQ, 27 years into his apprenticeship.