Major's party host is a man of many parts: Tim Kelsey and Chris Blackhurst examine the dizzying life and chequered career of Gordon McNally
Monday 14 March 1994
He was born in Newcastle in 1945. His father was a motor mechanic and his mother a tailor. He went to a local school and claims to have 'deliberately failed' his 11- plus by not answering any of the questions - preferring instead to design a plan for a motorcycle engine on the back of the exam paper. This 'guaranteed I would be out of school at 15, which is what happened'.
He went to work as an engineering apprentice for Joyce Loble, a firm making moon-mapping equipment and optical electrical instruments. Along the way, he also played in a band with two local lads, Eric Burdon and Chas Chandler. They went on to form The Animals, he went on to hold parties for the Prime Minister.
At 17 he left Joyce Loble and in his own words, 'started my own secret scientific research company'. Despite his age and lack of qualifications, he claims his clients included ICI, Vickers 'and many other multinational corporations'.
In the 1960s, he was approached by representatives of businessmen in London who asked if he could make spare parts for fruit machines they were importing from the United States. He claims to have found out only later that his clients were the Kray twins.
In 1963, he says 'as a result of British Government Information Service activity, I was invited by the Soviet Union to visit Russia', to be presented as an example of how youth can succeed in 'capitalist Britain'.
On his return he went into Formula Three racing, designing and making his own racing car. That led him to designing and producing components for Brabham, McLaren and Lotus.
Another spin-off was inventing the machinery for manufacturing the steel alloy wheel. 'A considerable amount of finance was raised by licensing the casting process and this invention produced finance for other projects.'
In 1971, he says, he developed the puncture-proof tyre. He went on to develop a Formula One V12 engine with Lord Hesketh.
He then turned his talents to the gambling industry, coming up with an automatic roulette machine for casinos. The machine does not require a croupier - it talks to you, takes your money, spins the wheel and ball and pays out the winning bets. According to Mr McNally, the machines are taking the industry by storm. They are being made at factories in America by McNally Industries Inc. However, they have yet to be produced in this country.
He has also invented a computerised car park where drivers leave their car and a series of ramps and lifts park it for them.
Somewhere in this dizzying life, Mr McNally met Mr Major. Along with his Australian wife, Henrietta, he set about raising funds for the Prime Minister.
Friends describe her as an active fund-raiser for the Westminster Conservative Association who is also involved with Help the Aged.
Mr McNally's press representative, Barry Simmons, told the Independent that his client's house had been chosen for the party because 'if he is attending a function to raise funds for the Tory party, the Prime Minister is not allowed to hold it in No 10.
'Mr McNally's house was chosen because he is a Conservative and the address was central. It was a party for people who attended the Prime Minister's ball in Huntingdon - it was a 'thank you' for taking part.'
He also confirmed that Mr Major had met Mr McNally on at least 'half a dozen occasions'. He did not say if Mr Major had been made aware of Mr McNally's bankruptcy or of his attempts to raise money from Mansfield or the DTI.
A close friend said that Mr McNally had 'entertained the Majors on several occasions - certainly they are friends. I don't know why, but it was not business- related'.
Mr McNally said last week that he had got to know Mr Major when the Prime Minister worked for Standard Chartered Bank. He said he had had no business relationship with the Prime Minister. 'I am sworn to secrecy,' he added. 'Yes, we are involved with many people, but I can't answer your questions (regarding the Majors).'
The grandly furnished flat at 92 Mount Street, Mayfair, is filled with photographs of the McNallys with the Majors. The mantelpiece is adorned with invitations to Tory party events.
Mr McNally said he had been named in private evidence to the Scott inquiry on arms to Iraq, but declined to explain in what context. He added that former business associates had accused him of having an involvement in illegal arms trafficking, but maintained that these allegations were 'a crazy dream'.
Guest list for local activists' party
THE FUND-RAISING party in late 1992 for Huntingdon Tories, hosted by Gordon and Henrietta McNally, saw local party activists rubbing shoulders with company chairmen and influential Conservatives.
A copy of the guest list has been obtained by the Independent. Those present included: Baroness Blatch, education minister; 11 Huntingdon Conservatives and their partners; Donald Stewart, the Tory agent for the Westminster constituency; Barry Simmons, a public affairs adviser who has worked closely with the Prime Minister and the Tories in Huntingdon; Cedric Brown, chairman of British Gas, and Peter Sanguinetti, the company's public relations chief; Sir Geoffrey Leigh of Allied London Properties, and senior executives from BAA, Cathay Pacific Airways and Iveco Ford.
Mr and Mrs Major mingled with guests for two hours before returning to Downing Street. One of those present, Sara Gifford from Huntingdon, described it as 'a fund-raising event, to do with Huntingdon people'. She said a similar gathering had taken place towards the end of last year at 10 Downing Street.
Another guest, C Bridge, a Huntingdon councillor, said: 'It was a cocktail party for our sponsors.' He did not know who had organised the event and or why it was held so far away from Huntingdon. Mr Bridge said he had never met Mr McNally until that evening.
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