On Monday evening 14th July the Group were entertained by Donald Lodge who had been a Butler/Valet for 45 years. He told us that he was born in Liverpool but the family moved to Warrington at the outbreak of war. He was from a family of 7 which increased to 9 due to the war as his Mum took in more children. Donald first went into Catering as he wanted to be a Chef. He applied and was successful in working at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. He learnt his trade from the Chief Chef and everything they cooked was made from scratch, no instant food! As well as being a Chef he also waited on in the Dining Room as he loved to meet people. Once he left the Adelphi he was trained as a Cake Decorator for a number of years in Warrington. In those days a 3 tier wedding cake would cost £5!! From there he went on to work for a family friend in their Private Restaurant and learnt how to make cocktails. He was Head Waiter there for over 10 years. When his sister emigrated to Canada he thought about joining her and saved up and went over to join her. He was successful in gaining his first Butler post for a family in Ontario. The lady of the house wanted an English Butler and he was responsible for cooking and serving English style food. He would go with the family when they spent time away from the family home taking them and then collecting them. The lady of the house owned an island with 4 houses built on it and she would spend her summer months there. Donald well remembers the Archbishop of Canterbury coming for a meal and Donald smartened himself up for the occasion, only to find the Archbishop arrived in shorts and tee-shirt like the locals. He spent many happy years with this family and then when the lady died Donald sorted out her possessions and then looked around for another post.
Donald was successful in obtaining a job with the Ambassador in Ottawa. The Ambassador was 6ft 8 and his Italian wife was only 4ft 11. He was responsible for organising all the parties, lunches, drinks parties etc. He told us that the Ambassador like to wear 3 different suits during the day. Donald told us about a July 4th Independence Day celebration when he had to cater for over 2,000 people attending a Drinks Party, but it all went off well. During his time there he met Sophie Loren as she was a friend of the Ambassador’s wife. As Sophie and her husband arrived early Donald entertained them whilst the Ambassador and his wife got ready. When the Ambassador moved to Asia Donald decided not to go with him but to look around for another post. He consulted “The Lady” and was successful in becoming the Marquis of Tavistock’s Valet/Butler. He was based in Woburn Abbey and the Marquis and his wife lived in just 18 rooms. These had to be kept tidy and he was always cleaning the silver of which there was over 4,000 pieces. Donald said that they would start with the silver in one room and work through the rooms until it was all done and then start all over again. He told us that the Marquis would like to have just 6 drops of bath essence in his bath each night and that his toothbrush had to be laid out a certain way! When Donald developed angina so he thought it was best to leave Woburn Abbey.
Donald decided to cut down on his duties and looked for other less strenuous posts and eventually worked for Koo Stark and his husband in Belgravia. During that time he met Joan Collins and he later organised some parties for her. Donald was also responsible for doing parties for Les Dawson who said that Donald should write down all the stories he had and this is what he did. Donald has written a book about his life as a Butler. He did say that it was just like Downton Abbey – us below stairs!!