Malcolm Simpson

by Susan Gabriel Bunn


A Storybook Father of Four Girls In London

Erin and Dad on the Garden Bench, reading rhythm game
Erin and Dad on the Garden Bench, reading rhythm game

“He made my life,” is no small thing for fourteen year old Eleni Simpson to say about a single father raising four adolescent and teenage daughters under one roof. It’s no small thing for any child or teenager to say about any parent in today’s fragmented social climate. The comment immediately renders hero. Not celebrity but real life, down home, true grit, daily present hero.

“We've been 5 of the 3 musketeers for nearly 4 years now,” says Dad Malcolm Simpson. His current role incorporates full time parent, professional musician, part time railway instructor/driver, volunteer school governor of arts and special education, topped by primary school storyteller. He meets his full-on parental responsibilities for raising his daughters with humility, focus, devotion, wisdom and humor.

“They're all strong willed and independent, so it's never dull.” Warmly referring to his flock as the T-birds, Simpson says, “I am proud of 'em all.” T-Birds is short for Thunderbirds. This was a name that stuck following a memorable ruckus where the girls were jumping around upstairs causing the walls to shake up a bit.

Thunderbirds in Paris<br> LtoR Carys, Rhea & Eleni, Erin in front
Thunderbirds in Paris
LtoR Carys, Rhea & Eleni, Erin in front

“The Thunderbirds and I live in an ordinary English house in the new city of Milton Keynes, around 40 minutes northwest of Central London; nothing special from the outside. Inside it's a "normal" family home except Mum lives a few hundred yards away. Their Mum Betty is a busy District Nurse working in a socially difficult community. She is still very much there for "girl" issues and helps whenever she can. We’re quite good friends now with occasional family days out, odd meals and share school report days etc. We have fantastic support from close friends and family who make it all possible, nor are they judgmental.”

Support is a big factor reflected throughout the Simpson household. Rather than harsh tones, this is a dad who subtly encourages. While he didn’t push to ignite a similar musical passion to his own, all four girls are into it as it turns out in a big way.

Eleni, who kicks a soccer ball of note, and, jazzes up a piano, violin and fashion statement as well is joined by her oldest sister, sixteen year old Rhea with a keen journalistic intrigue as yearbook editor, also a musician on violin, piano and rock bass. “My dad is really enthusiastic. about me starting new hobbies.” she says. “A lot of my friends say I’m lucky, as he’s supportive and some even think he’s funny,” she muses affectionately, “crazy people.”

Twelve year old Carys is also in the muse on viola, piano, drums, now percussion and keeping fit. Sports and muse reflect again in the youngest, ten year old Erin who plays rugby, cello, piano and expresses a grand personality. What she finds cool about her dad? “He shows me how to drive trains and does good food!”

Ironing never stops the music
Ironing never stops the music

“He’s a rock-star!” is Eleni’s idea of her dad’s coolness rank, an opinion shared to some degree by her school mates especially because he is active in her education. As for the un-cool rank, only that, “He tucks his top in his jeans,” a factor in humorous dispute.

“I was born a true Cockney and grew up in a loving family in London’s East end, close to the Tower of London, a very working class area and what went with it. At eleven years old I won a scholarship to City of London School. This is a real badge of honor for all of us. However, my family couldn’t afford to send me to university despite my making the grades,” Simpson recalls. “ Off then into the world to be a rock’n roll star, didn’t quite happen. And then in 1974, I moved to Milton Keynes to get a ‘proper house’ and start my parallel career on the railway.”

Carys lays down the groove in the studio
Carys lays down the groove in the studio

Simpson’s hours at the railway make room for making sure the girls are up and off to school each day, arrive home in the evening, get to all their activities, prepare meals, go on fun family outings, trips, and also for the gigs his musical opportunities offer. His volunteer work to help organize the arts and special ed programs takes him into the school frequently. As if that’s not enough to do, since his eldest was in primary school he’s been the storyteller to the 7 to 10 year olds every year to this day. Apparently he has another gift for children to benefit from that the community finds irresistible.

“The system in use for learning to read involves picture story books without words; I get the children to tell their own tales. I've always spoken ‘to’ children (and adults) rather than at them. As we progressed I'd get them to expand simple graphic novels. Inevitably the request came for me to tell a story and they keep asking. All children have a story to tell if you listen. I did intend to finish when Erin leaves the school next year, but I'll miss my weekly hour of storytelling. My Aunt Sylvia is 83 and still doing it in London.”

Rhea, practicing on Ol' Joanna (the Piano)
Rhea, practicing on Ol' Joanna (the Piano)

Inside this continuing gesture of giving to children, there appears to be an energy that never burns out emanating from Simpson. Of his own heroes it comes to one. “A hero to me is one who gives their all without fear of favor,” Simpson affirms. “To some it’s the Nelson Mandela's of this world, and they are to me too, but my real hero is my late Dad. “ He goes on, “He never made any money in his life but did voluntary work for years with the homeless in London and a fair bit of youth work too; he said he was lucky to be able to give, but most of all he believed in me.”

While eldest daughter Rhea impressively admires the likes of George Orwell as hero, she hails her dad in the muse of parenthood. “ There are certain things only a Dad can help you with,” she says. “He encourages me, especially in music, this has influenced friends and other interests.”

To Rhea, “A hero is someone who you look up to in awe for what they have achieved and will influence you in life. She stresses the relevance of respecting parents. “ You may not agree with them all the time, but it will help to build up a positive relationship which usually pays out in the end, and if parents have lived a lot of their lives, they’re usually wise from experience.”

Eleni and Erin chime in together pointing to the hero as role model and active helper in someone’s life. Each with their own sports hero or great achiever in mind, all of them agree their parents are among those they admire the most. Simpson is clear about raising his daughters not to hold on, but to ultimately set them free to live their own dreams. To give them the best of everything money cannot buy; love, direction, guidance, presence and a strong sense of their essential being. “My advice to dads is to give them your time and love. You've total control while they're an infant, loosen that grip to a partnership until into teenage when they become their own person ready for life's challenge. Ride out the bad moments and finally let them make their own small mistakes with no recriminations.”

Malcolm Simpson did not get the first wish of his early life dream to become ‘rock- star’ of a world viewed achievement, though at home, it’s his T-birds’ view of him each day as Dad.

His hope for them in his father’s words, “My Dad kept telling me ‘Wherever you are in life, whatever the place, whoever with, the best is yet to come.’ That’s what I tell the T-birds.”

This storybook Dad appears to hold within him a bigger dream that expands into his extraordinary full and present parenting of four beautiful girls, a dream that inspires children in his community to touch that place where all dreams come true. For he tells them a story that leads them to a story of their own dream time so they might know for certain, “The best is yet to come.”

Page created on 1/18/2013 12:51:01 AM

Last edited 4/6/2024 7:10:50 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.