A Tribute To The Rt Hon. the Lord McNally 

Written: 25 July 2017, by Tom Irvin (St. Joe's 1959 - 1966)

Tom McNally (born 20 February 1943) attended The College of St. Joseph in Blackpool (1955-1962) 

Lord McNally's Career Highlights include:



 Minister of State (Ministry of Justice) 2010 - 2013
 Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 2010 - 2013
 Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 2004 - 2013
 After 1983, transitioned party affiliation from Labour to Liberal Democrat. Pursued a private sector career, before becoming a Life Peer in 1995 and a Member of the Privy Council in 2005.
 Elected to the House of Commons 1979 - 1983
 Political Secretary to Rt Hon. James Callaghan 1974 - 1979
 Labour Party International Secretary 1969 - 1974

High praise from High places:

Upon tendering his resignation, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, October 2013, some fine words of praise were proffered in his honour.

Responding to the news, Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “Tom McNally has led the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords with principle, integrity and authority – the same qualities he brings to his role as a minister in the Ministry of Justice. He has been a source of wit and wisdom for me for many years and I am sure he will be for years to come."

“Under Tom’s leadership, the Liberal Democrat Lords have played a crucial role in improving the laws of the land, both in Government and Opposition. After nine years as Leader, and three before that as Deputy Leader, I understand why he feels the time is right."

Even after his 2013 resignation from this, and other, high profile positions, Lord Tom McNally continued his tradition of public service in several other national offices. He stood down as Chairman of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, in March, 2017. At the time of writing, he remains a Trustee of the National Liberal Club.


You can take the lad out of St. Joe's, but you can't take St. Joe's out of the Lord:

Photo 1961

Right = Tom McNally, Secretary of the Prefects
Left = Head Boy, Adrian Dunn (RIP)

Lord McNally has not forgotten his roots. Every few years, he has hosted St. Joe's Old Boys' Association gatherings, at the House of Lords. All attendees were made to feel welcome and all were pleased to have been included. 80 attended in September 2013, when Lord McNally was awarded an official, St. Joe's, Prefects' School Cap, as a 'thank you' - presented by a former fellow Prefect, Martin Lord (St. Joe's 1951-1962).

It was observed that Lord McNally walked at a brisk pace, around the House of Lords. He had been known for his constantly urgent pace, as a student. This had not changed. He had been a distance runner, too. There had been a day, in school, when teacher, Freddie Freeborough, had welcomed Tom back to class, with rousing applause, after having seen him compete, with distinction, in a one mile race, at Stanley Park, over the weekend. The race had not been a St. Joe's event. It had been a very competitive, regional, inter-school athletic championship. It became apparent to all that, student, Tom McNally, was gifted as a runner at that 1-mile distance as well as, at the more familiar, cross-country distance.

Student Tom McNally enjoyed many extracurricular activities. He is photographed, below, at the National Schools Pilgrimage to Lourdes, in 1958. He is standing directly under the statue, 4th from the front and 4th from our left.

 Photo - National Schools Pilgrimage to Lourdes, in 1958.

 Click on the picture to enlarge

Also, if there were a theatrical skit, or a casual sporting event, his personality was such, that he could be involved in either. I have been unable to find photos of the school's Christmas Concerts, from that era, but I asked Lord McNally whether he remembered the 'Seven Little Girls' skit, performed at St. Joe's 1960 Christmas Concert, with the participants singing the chorus "Kissing and a hugging with Fred"? Lord McNally responded, with fond memories, as follows: "I was, indeed, in the Corps de Frederique. There were, I think, seven of us in the 'chorus line', with Tony Ledwith as a miming front man (because he looked like American pop star, Eddie Fisher). The 'Seven Little Girls' skit made a big impact because, until then, the Christmas Concert had been a rather sober affair."

He is right about the big impact. My own, 93-year old, Mother still talks about the 'Seven Little Girls' skit, and she giggles, every time she remembers it. Congratulations to St. Joe's Corps de Frederique!

The following photo appears to illustrate both theatrical and sporting tendencies, combined. The photo tells its own story. 11 young men are kitted out for field hockey. The uniforms are somewhat irregular and we know that field hockey was not an officially sanctioned sport, at St. Joe's. So, what was going on? The photo's caption indicates that the opposing team was called 'Convent'. On that weekend at Stanley Park, we are probably witnessing at least 11 cases of highly motivated young men, rather than a true love of the sport.

Hockey Team v. Convent, 1961

Photo supplied by Vincent Naylor (1954-1962) Prefect and Captain of Rugby

Back Row L to R: Rob Shawcross, John Wilkie, Michael Fenech, Frank Cornwell, Jan Rogers, unknown.
Front Row L to R: Mick Forde (RIP), Tom McNally, John Devlin (RIP), Chris Walmsley (RIP), Peter Ellwood.
When in London, Lord McNally continues to enjoy sport and he supports his favourite team at every opportunity. He was Glad All Over when he cheered Blackpool FC into the Premier League, at Wembley Stadium (see below).

Blackpool Gazette, Saturday, 29 May 2010.
Newspaper clipping provided by Martin Lord (St. Joe's 1951-1962)

What else makes him tick?

Recently, in London, Lord McNally was heard to reminisce: "A thousand pounds is a nice round sum. Ten thousand pounds is rounder." I wonder if we should infer that Lord McNally's oratory skills owe something to the teachings of, our very own, Mr. Albert Priestly? (Congratulations Mr. Priestly. You were a good speech training teacher and, apparently, you were right!)

Former Prefect and Captain of Rugby, Vincent Naylor (1954-1962) wrote "The Science 6th was more popular than the Arts, though the Arts had the better and more vociferous speakers, some of whom went into politics."

Lawrence Whalley (1954-1964) wrote "The Debating Society had a formidable reputation and it was sometimes awesome to see how effectively some students could present a cogent argument. Years later, reading about career choices of the brightest school leavers, it seemed that until about 1970, the best always aimed to study English." Lawrence continued "That was my impression too listening to the best debaters in SJC – Devlin and McNally – others too, they seemed the smartest of the smart."

Chris Pownall (1955-1962) explained, succinctly, what many of us like to think: " Lord Tom is a splendid example of St. Joe's achievements." 

             Tom McNally                        Chris Walmsley (RIP)
Photographed, attending St. Joe's Speech Day, in 1959

Student Tom McNally really came into his own, in the Sixth Form, because, there, he was able to choose his own subjects.  He studied well for his 'A' level subjects and passed them all. He was awarded the School Prizes for both English & History, in 1961. At the same time, Tom McNally was entrusted with several extracurricular leadership positions, including: the Committee of Prefects,  the Historical Society and, of course, the Debating Society.  He both thrived and excelled in the Sixth Form environment and again, at University College London, where he studied Politics and Economics. At UCL, he served as both President of Debates and President of the Students' Union, while obtaining his 1966 B.Sc. in Economics and Social History. He was, later, to become a Fellow of UCL in 2010, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, by the University of Hertfordshire, in 2010.

In 1966, Tom McNally was elected Vice President of the National Union of Students and was appointed Assistant General Secretary of the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society has an amazing pedigree and has been responsible for many intellectual advancements, ranging from the founding of the London School of Economics to, more recently, development of the philosophical underpinnings of, what became, Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's, so called, 'Third Way'.  In 1967, young Tom McNally joined the full time staff of the Labour Party and his political ascent had begun.

Tom earned his B.Sc. degree, then enjoyed a 10 Downing Street, Chief Policy Officer, career supporting Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan. That was prior to his House of Commons career as an elected Member of Parliament, and before his House of Lords career as a Liberal Democrat Life Peer (while, simultaneously, serving the Government as Minister of State). Each of these Public sector careers has been noteworthy. When considered together, they are incredible.

I am certain that the Christian Brothers, in Blackpool, would have been as proud, as their religion could permit, to see one of their students achieve the honour of becoming Baron McNally, of Blackpool in the County of Lancashire. That unambiguous recognition, for the status and public service of one of their most distinguished former students, would have been as palpable, to the Brothers, as a red carpet strewn with petals and spread all the way up the driveway to the school's front door.

We, as a community, applaud and marvel at the industrious way, one of our own, has, for decades, deployed his given talents to serve others.  Thereby, instilling in our hearts, a very real feeling of pride, as we honour 'our' Lord McNally, on this, our website.

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