Butler to the stars will never leave Claridge’s

Anne Sheridan and Ai

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan and Ai

AFTER 36 years of loyal service, Michael Lynch would never contemplate working for another hotel. But then again this Limerickman isn’t working for any ordinary hotel.

AFTER 36 years of loyal service, Michael Lynch would never contemplate working for another hotel. But then again this Limerickman isn’t working for any ordinary hotel.

The native of Rathcannon, outside the village of Athlacca, works for Claridge’s, one of London’s most exclusive and expensive hotels, where he began his working life at the age of 16.

His apprenticeship in the Rockwell Hotel and Catering School in County Tipperary brought him to the doors of Claridge’s in 1976, and this, he says, is where he’ll end his career.

For the first time in its long history, this famously discreet institution opened its doors to documentary cameras for the three-part BBC series Inside Claridge’s, which aired before Christmas.

Michael, who has catered to the every whim of royalty and celebrity guests over nearly four decades, has become something of a celebrity himself since it aired, after it attracted a record number of viewers, with more than 3m people tuning in per episode.

“The reaction has been wonderful,” he said. “There has even been a few times where I have been stopped in the street,” he said, with genuine surprise.

To him, “Claridge’s is a place where dreams come true. It is more than a job for me. It is a lovely place to work. The staff are wonderful, and I intend to spend the rest of my working life at Claridge’s,” he told the Limerick Leader.

While he revealed during the programme that the singer Mariah Carey and fashion designer Donatella Versace have been some of his favourite guests, he remained tight-lipped when asked to reveal the names of other famous faces he has cared for. “I’m afraid my lips are sealed.” Nonetheless, he said he “loved” Donatella, who was “very sweet”, and described Mariah Carey as “a very nice lady”.

Set in London’s Mayfair, the series showed the huge operation it takes to run a five-star hotel of such calibre, where a night’s stay can cost in the region of £6,900.

Established in 1854, it now has a staff of 400 and caters for up to 83,000 guests a year, with a turnover of £58m.

And Michael was one of a number of key figures interviewed over the course of a year’s filming.

While he can’t reveal the outrageous whims of the stars he has catered to, he gave this newspaper a further insight into his working life.

“The early shift [from 5.30am to 3.30pm] is my favourite, as you see London wake up, and everyone is ready to take on a new day. Myself and the other butlers will prepare for the arrivals and departures of the guests, looking into their likes and dislikes, offering packing and unpacking of their suitcases.”

If a guest needs anything, he said they are on standby to be of service. “There is a call button which will ring on our phones, if ever a guest needs anything so we have to be pro-active.” There are even call buttons to assist guests in getting out of the bath.

Asked if he would ever contemplate a different working life, Michael said: “Never. It’s been wonderful so far, and I hope to finish my journey as a butler at Claridge’s”.

Guests, like staff, have remained loyal to the hotel throughout their lives, and Michael said he relishes building a relationship with the families down the years, welcoming them back and seeing their children grow.

He returns home several times a year to visit his three sisters and five brothers, while his parents, Packie and his late mother Kathleen, who hailed from Banogue, would often visit him in London. While Kathleen used to enjoy tea and refreshments in the hotel’s opulent surroundings, Packie said it wasn’t for him, though he can none-the-less appreciate the wide appeal of the luxurious hotel. “My late wife used to go in all right – it wouldn’t be my scene. It is a different world,” he said.

“There are some people, and they would look for him [Michael] when they call, he is there so long.”

The hotel’s general manager, Thomas Kochs, said they have been delighted by the viewers’ response to the documentary: “We have definitely seen a positive increase on visitors to our website, and indeed reservations, particularly afternoon tea.”

Tea is served for a more modest €60, per head.