The Bolton octogenarian bringing smiles to the faces of those who need it most

A kind-hearted octogenarian has raised thousands of pounds for charity with his unusual but impressive special talent – making, decorating and furnishing dolls houses.

Ex-joiner Stephen McNally constructed his first in 2006 and has since made ‘at least a dozen’, which are often raffled off to raise money for causes such as Derian House, The Christie and Manchester Children’s Hospital. Over the years, the 87-year-old reckons have raised around £5,000.

Stephen, who was born and bred in Bolton and has lived in Westhoughton for the past 23 years, described it as a labor of love. I have told the Manchester Evening News : “I have four daughters but I never actually really made them when they were growing up.

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“I was a joiner at 15 but I pretty soon got bored of it and I’ve changed jobs all my life to be honest. But I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever done.

“‘I’ve been as selfish as anyone else during my life but there comes a point… a few years ago I thought ‘we’re not born for ourselves alone’. I’ve got children, great grandchildren, grandchildren and Fortunately they’re all healthy but it’s nice to care for other people.”

Inside one of Stephen McNally’s doll houses

An emotional Stephen recalled visiting the chapel at Derian House Children’s Hospice ‘a few dolls houses ago’ and admitted that he broke down. He recalled the emotional moment that he visited a young child who won one of her dolls houses from her in a raffle.

He added: “Visiting the chapel was heartbreaking but I’m glad I did it.

“I made one eleven for Ronald McDonald House and one of the top guys picked me up in a massive Range Rover to take me to Manchester Children’s Hospital. I thought he was lost, I was like ‘is this for me?’

“It took me to a friend of mine in Prestwich, picked up two carers from the Manchester Children’s Hospital and then went to Stalybridge to see family who won the dolls house in the raffle. The little toddler there had so many operations and she’s still having them now at four-years-old.

“I went in there and asked if I could feed her and they let me. That was one of the most emotional days I’ve had in my life.”

Despite his advancing years, Stephen is extremely young-at-heart and even wanted to do a skydive a few years ago, until his doctor warned him off it.

“That was so funny,” he laughed.

The doll houses have amazing attention to detail
The doll houses have amazing attention to detail

“I was actually in the army when I was younger and wanted to join the parachute regiment but I had to sign on but when I was 84, my grandson asked if I wanted to do a parachute jump. I went to Blackpool Aerodrome, did all the tests and there was nothing wrong so they gave me a consent form to take to my doctor.

“After a couple of days she rang me and said she wouldn’t be able to sleep if anything happened to me. I was gutted but I could understand.”

But despite his distinguished life, there is no doubt for Stephen what his proudest achievement is.

“I’m glad I’ve been able to contribute a good few quid for these unfortunate youngsters but having said that it has been a labor of love.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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