Known as the 'crazy sailor' the late Tom McNally was a colourful character who set a new world record in 1993 when he sailed across the Atlantic in a 5ft 4.5 inch boat. Before his passing in June McNally had written a yet to be published autobiography. We caught up with his daughter Lorraine to discuss her father's memoirs and legacy
Tom McNally’s daughter, Lorraine, talks to YBW about her adventurous father, who sadly passed away after a battle with cancer last June. She discusses the impact her dad had on her life and the life of others, their relationship and trying to get ‘the crazy sailor”s autobiography published. Lorraine works for a care team supporting young people and is about to start university studying criminology and psychology.
Your father, Tom McNally was a true legend. The ‘crazy sailor’ as he was affectionately called. Has his sense of adventure rubbed off on you?
Sadly no, I am just a mum and housewife, but my dad’s caring side has most definitely rubbed off on me. My long term partner Vinny had a brain haemorrhage in July 2015. This has left him with some impairments to his brain and he can get confused. (After this happened) My dad was so proactive; he would sit with Vinny doing memory exercises for hours allowing me to get on with the daily tasks of running a house. My dad respected and loved Vinny very much, they were so close; Vinny says he was his best friend.
You reconnected with your father only a few years ago, after being estranged since your teens
My dad had not been part of my life since I was around 15 years old. My mum and dad divorced when we were very young. My dad felt extremely guilty and wished he’d done things differently. We spoke about this many times in great depth. I hold no grudges and made my dad fully aware and he understood. I met my dad in hospital four years ago after a family friend told me he was dying. He’d suffered total organ failure and we were told he wouldn’t survive …. well the doctors didn’t know my dad as I used to say to our friend that dad had had more comebacks than the Rolling Stones! He woke from his coma and after caring for him for a week or so I fell deeply in love with him.
You are currently trying to fulfil your father’s wish to have his memoirs published and you are looking for a publisher. How important was it for your father to have his book published and how important is it for you?
The reason I want his book published is that it was his dying wish. He said he had done nothing to help us when we were growing up and this was my inheritance.
Your father’s story is certainly an interesting one to tell: full of adventures and escapades.
My dad’s story is so amazing! He lived his life the way he wanted – some may say selfishly leaving his family – but there were valid reasons: my dad was never a ‘stand in the right queue’ type of man. He prided himself on leaving school with a school report that spelt his name wrong and saying he was a square cog that would never amount to anything. My dad was a crazy man with an even crazier story that I am sure would be of interest to many people.
What are the highlights of your dad’s memoirs?
The biggest highlight for me personally is just a couple of words he added after living with us for a while. He wrote ‘warning this book has a happy ending’. My dad made it so clear and it was very apparent – his friends told me that he had finally felt like he belonged (after reconnecting with his children). He would say before going to his shed ( the summer house at the end of our garden where he lived for the final two years of his life): “Precious, I am all happy”. My dad finally belonged and I finally had the dad I had craved all my life. I loved him and miss him so so much.
How would you describe his writing style?
I think my dad’s style is a little tongue in cheek, he has a way of captivating the reader. You want to read the next line to find out what happens before you have finished the line you are reading.
Your father did so many things: built boats, broke records, sailed and donated money to cancer charities. What do you think his legacy is?
Never giving up! He tried and tried until he succeeded. My dad did not sail to break records – believe it or not – he did it to challenge himself. In his words “records are made to be broken”. He was very modest and valued the things in life that mattered. He also prided himself in never buying new clothes. He shopped in charity shops through choice: he never paid more than a £1 for things. He was a very generous man and wanted his grandkids and great grandkids to have what he had and more. He never wanted anything for himself. If we bought him new clothes I would have to remove the label and crush it up so it looked second hand! I used to tell him white lies saying I had got them from a charity shop! My dad would never handle money and I mean, he hated anything to do with it he said it was the root of all evil.
Your father had many qualities: sense of adventure, sense of humour, kindness and intelligence to name a few. But as his daughter, what’s the thing that you will always remember him by?
His honesty. He was a very emotional man and was not afraid to cry.
Tom McNally, who set a new world record in 1993 when he sailed across the Atlantic in a 5ft 4.5…
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He was also a charitable man who raised money for charity and had a strong sense of empathy.
Me and a friend took my dad to Poland and we visited Auschwitz – my dad had such empathy and knowledge and respect, it was overwhelming. I would often go into his shed and he would be in floods of tears watching a documentary on his computer (my dad would not waste time on tv and the rubbish that was on it) and he taught me to ‘look up’. He said that people are always in a rush they never take the time to look up and see the beauty around them.
What’s your fondest memory of your father?
My dad was a great artist and we would have ‘our day’ every Thursday. We would sit in the car sharing fish and chips at our local park just admiring the surroundings and taking pictures on my phone. I’d show him all the different apps and how I could change the colour of the images we had taken and he was amazed. That was our time together and I have such lovely memories of the time we spent on such afternoons. Meeting my dad gave me a sense of where I came from and who I was like as me and my mum are so different but on meeting my dad I felt like I knew who I was.
After the interview, Lorraine gets in touch. A friend has pointed out to her that she is in fact adventurous like her dad. Lorraine emails me her friend’s words: “I think you do have a sense of adventure, but in a different way to your dad. Your adventure has been through your work. You worked with vulnerable adults and were not afraid to support them to go to places they had never been before. You worked with children that most people had written off and you gave them hope to follow their dreams. You definitely follow in your dad’s footsteps for that. You have strength and courage that has helped you get through the last few years.“
Caring and courageous, Lorraine sounds like her father’s daughter to us.