Tom had a happy childhood until his parents died.
“I was at boarding school at the time,” he says. “I was 14 when my mother died, and my father died a year later.”
He met his future wife at 16.
“She was a Spanish student and we met at a dance in Dunmore East,” he says. “We fell in love, and I became very independent. I taught English in Spain during the summers. Back then getting to Bilbao was a 2-day adventure.”
A lawyer, Tom worked in a number of firms in Dublin, before moving to the Health Board, taking children into care.
“I then worked in the banking sector; then in litigation for an insurance company working with corporate and client cases. I took early retirement, to concentrate on my notarial practice specialising in Spanish matters.”
Having discovered his father’s extraordinary wartime story through researching the National Archives and accessing his father’s detailed military record, Tom started writing Unspoken for his children and grandchildren. It turned from being a labour of love, when people in the book world encouraged him to seek publication.
“I was faithful to my father’s account, and in the gaps wrote what might have happened. The writing flowed. I’ve got to know my parents far better now, than when they were alive.”
Who is Tom McGrath?
Date of birth: 1952 in Cork City but brought up in Waterford.
Education: Rockville College in Tipperary; University College Dublin, Psychology and Philosophy. “Then I studied to become a solicitor and had my lectures at Trinity College Dublin.”
Family: Wife, Asun; Children Erik and Christina; grandchildren, Luca, 4, Mila, 2, Lily 3, and Jack 1.
The Day Job: “I still do Notary work and I love it.”
In Another Life: “Writing has become a passion.”
Favourite Writers: Amor Towles; Ben MacIntyre; Robert Harris; Antoine Laurain; Anthony Doerr.
Second Book: “I have a few ideas.”
Top Tip: “Have passion and determination and, with luck and some ability, it will happen.”
The Debut: Unspoken. Gill Books: €16.99. Kindle: €12.43.
Tom recounts his father’s wartime experience, his escape across Europe, his recapture, and the shock of his homecoming. He also tells of his own journey of discovery.
The Verdict: An extraordinary story, beautifully and simply told.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 7th January.
© Sue J Leonard. 2023.