By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The fifth party in a unique tradition of exclusive get-togethers involving staff from one of Dublin’s oldest companies takes place on Wednesday — the ninth day of the ninth month, nineteen ninety-nine.
Two retired staff from the Varian Brush company will travel to the Gresham Hotel just as they have on the 5/5/55, 6/6/66, 7/7/77 and the 8/8/88.
Ann McInerney, from Cavan, and May Fagen, from Herefordshire in Britain, both in their 70s, are the only members of the "Varian Girls" group surviving from the first party 44 years ago.
The Gresham has been the traditional meeting place and the last dinner on 8/8/88 involved eight former staff traveling from as far away as New Zealand.
Company director Peter Varian explained that the tradition began when Betty Carroll, secretary to his father, Ian, in the 1940s, was typing the date for a letter.
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"She noticed it was the 4/4/44 and that sparked off the idea for the dinners. Somebody in the office said, ‘I wonder where we will all be on the 5/5/55, and they agreed to get together."
The dinners were restricted to members of the office staff in the 200-year-old company, which employed more than 360 in the 1940s.
"Over the years the company supplied champagne, flowers and various extras for the parties, but this year we have booked the hotel and will pay for everything.
"I think the tradition will see out the millennium, but I’m not so sure about the next millennium, I have to say. It’s still not bad going," Varian said.
McInerney, who is 75, is also doubtful that anyone will be left to celebrate on 1/11/11.
"A lot of the original 14 who went to the first dinner seem to have gone all of a sudden," she said. "The group has been steadily getting smaller. . . . I am not sure I will be up to the Gresham when the next date comes round."
Joining the party this year will be another Varian retiree Rita Gordon, and two longserving staff members, Barbara Browne and Maureen O’Reilly.
Two of the parties were arranged when the brush factory was in Talbot Street in the city center and this week’s will be the third since it moved to South Circular Road in 1972.