Dunnes Stores family bid farewell to 'first employee'
MARGARET Heffernan and other members of the Dunnes Stores family are bidding a fond final farewell today to the Corkman who helped establish the fledgling grocery empire in 1944 and stayed working with it for the next 70 years.
Dan Barrett (93), served as the right-hand man to the chain's founder, Ben Dunne Snr, and was often referred to as the retailer's first employee.
He passed away peacefully on Thursday at the Bons Secours Hospital in Cork and is being buried today in the city.
As he opened his first store on Patrick Street in Cork in 1944, Co Down-born Ben Dunne asked Mr Barrett to join him in establishing the business. Mr Barrett obliged, leaving his post at Roches Stores.
He would remain a close friend, mentor and father figure to the Dunne family for decades, helping to steer what would become a business with annual sales of more than €2bn.
Industry insiders said he played a key role in helping to develop the retailer's strategy, with a reputation for being decisive. He continued to coach family members on running the business after their father passed away in 1983.
The middle child of a family of nine, Mr Barrett began his working career in 1940, joining Roches Stores as an assistant. He was also a keen rugby player in his youth, captaining the Munster Junior Inter Provincial year in 1950/51 and 1951/52.
In March of this year, Mr Barrett was present in Cork as Dunnes celebrated its 70th anniversary.
He continued to work for the retailer up until recently. His son, David, also works for Dunnes Stores at its headquarters in Dublin.
It is understood that Mr Barrett was visited regularly by members of the Dunne family in the weeks prior to his death.
In 2011, Mr Barrett was honoured by Cork business and civic luminaries. He was invited to sign the visitors' book at City Hall and was lauded by the Cork Business Association.
He is survived by his wife Pat, to whom he had been married for 58 years. They have three children and a number of grandchildren.