Would she do it? Should she do it? Could she do it?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
The question was directed towards Hollie McRae. I’d been charged with writing a book about her dad and, for me, his daughter was the perfect person to write the foreword.
I asked gramps, Jimmy McRae, what he thought. He wasn’t sure. Nor was gran, Margaret. In the end, it was mom Alison who came up with the best advice.
“Just ask her!”
So I did.
“No problem,” was the response. “One question: what’s a foreword?”
Hollie was 13 years old at the time.
For that reason, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d offered to ghost write it for her, but she was keen to crack on and give it a go.
Alison called to tell me it was done. She said: “Hollie wrote it on her phone, on the way home from school… Read it and let me know what you think.”
Nothing. Absolutely nothing prepared me for what followed.
I’ve been privileged enough to read and write stories about some of the most incredible people in the world. But genuinely, nothing has moved me more than Hollie’s words.
There’s straight from the heart and then there was this.
As you’ll have seen from Hollie’s work with us last year, McRae Jr has grown into an incredible woman – just the sort of person we have wanted to work with throughout DirtFish Women’s Month.
My friend and colleague Josie Rimmer interviewed Hollie about her future earlier this month – we’ll publish that story soon. But for now, sit back and prepare yourself for some of the most powerful, profound words you’ll read for a very long time:
When I was asked to do this, I didn’t have a clue what a foreword was. To tell you the truth, I still don’t know but here goes…
If I’m being completely honest, up until my dad’s death, I didn’t know that he did rally driving as a job. I thought it was just another one of his insane hobbies. And I certainly didn’t know what an impact he had on people and their lives.
I can only really remember two rallies that my dad drove in. One of them was Australia in 2002. I can’t remember being at the rally or on the stages, but I remember going to the zoo and holding (well, I say holding but really it was more like wrestling) a joey with my gran McRae, while in the background my mum was getting abused by a feisty koala.
The other rally that I remember was the Dakar Rally in 2004. Although we weren’t there with him, every day Johnny and I sat with our map of the route of the rally and colored in the road that dad would be taking the next day.
Johnny and I used to love it when dad came home from rallies because he would always bring back a present from us, like the toy NASA monkey or the Kenyan jewelled keepsake box.
Now that I’m older I’ve realized that I was wrong waiting for the presents to come home – I should have been waiting for dad. I guess the saying is true: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’
I feel proud that people want to write and read a book about my dad, but I don’t care about the cameras, the fame or the publicity. It was the person that he was around us that counted. The big, friendly, family man.
A bit of me dies slowly inside every time I think that I won’t see dad or Johnny again for the rest of my time on earth, and sometimes I want to scream when I see a child alone or if I hear someone say that they wish they didn’t have a brother or sister.
Anyone who has ever said something like this, or who feels it, don’t convince yourself that it’s true. I said something like that once (just because Johnny accidentally broke the head off my Bratz doll) and I regret it every day.
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who over the years has helped me and motivated my family and the other families involved.
And just one more thing. After my dad’s and Johnny’s memories service in Lanark, we were leaving the church and a man in the front row of the crowd outside stopped me and said ‘he was a great man.’ If you’re reading this you’ll know who you are, so thank you.
My dad has left a legacy not just for me but for the world of rallying. He told me to never give up and stand up for what I believe in. He also said that you only live once, so do what you want to do and don’t let others rule your life.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss dad and Johnny, but I think that everything happens for a reason and, somehow, everything will work out the way it should.
And in the words of the legendary band Queen: ‘One by one, only the good die young.’