Is there life after death? I only ask because it really would be extra sad if Captain Sir Tom Moore, our late national treasure, is up there somewhere in heaven looking down at what has befallen the charity set up in his name, his family and indeed his own personal legacy. As if symbolically, the local council has ordered the home spa complex built in the grounds of his house, the so-called Captain Tom Foundation Building, to be torn down. The demolition job on the reputation of his daughter and son-in-law, Hannah and Colin Ingram-Moore is already well underway.
Channel Five’s Captain Tom: Where Did the Money Go? doesn’t tell us anything new but it does, with a rare and admirable clarity, say what did happen to all the money Captain Tom and his charities raised.
If you recall, the Captain Tom phenomenon was one of the few uplifting aspects of the early phase of the coronavirus lockdown – a time vividly brought back with archive footage and reminiscences from the likes of Nick Ferrari and Kevin Maguire, that was unsettling if not terrifying. There were no gatherings (apart from the ones in Number 10), and no birthday parties – and thus no special 100th shindig for a retired soldier and concrete salesman living in Marston Moreteyne, just outside Bedford. Tom Moore decided to do something different. Captain Tom’s charity walk around his garden was aimed at raising £100 from his family for the NHS – £1 for every lap. Then his grandson, Benjy, had the smart idea of a crowdfunding page, the local papers and radio got interested and before we knew it, he was a global megastar.
The old boy raised about £40m for charities, became the oldest person to have a number one hit record (with Michael Ball), was made an honorary colonel, and the Queen came out of semi-retirement to make him a knight. So cherished was he that, after he finally stopped walking, so to speak, in 2021, Sir David Attenborough paid tribute to him. With the endorsement of the Queen, Sir Tom could fairly be said to have been “the national treasures’ national treasure”.
Then, as we all know, it all went a bit Pete Tong. Lawyers and accountants are deployed to give as good account as I’ve seen of where the money went. The producers also try to be fair and objective to the Ingram-Moores, but, given the perceptions, it’s a difficult task. This has been all the more so since Hannah, David and the children decided to subject themselves to an excruciatingly bad interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV earlier this year, clips from which are liberally splattered around the proceedings.
But the facts are presented clearly. Reassuringly, for example, all of the money that Captain Sir Tom raised for the NHS on his walks went to the United NHS Charities, because the boss of it says so, and points to the equipment, mental health facilities and other projects it continues to support. That was the crowdfunded cash, and nothing to do with the Captain Tom Foundation that later ran into such trouble (and which has now ceased to take donations). The foundation was the one set up afterwards to raise more money as a lasting legacy, where the charities commission detected a potential conflict of interest with the Ingram-Moores’s private business, Club Nook. By contrast, and not often stated, the misnamed Captain Tom Foundation House that was supposed to be a museum and somehow evolved into a mini spa complex with a bar, broke planning rules but was funded entirely from the Ingram-Moore’s own funds. Hannah was paid £85,000, pro rata, to be interim chief executive of the charity of which her husband was a co-trustee; a tidy sum, but it did disperse money to Mind, the Royal British Legion and other legit causes.
On the other hand… the proceeds from the sale of Captain Tom’s autobiography, Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day, which people assumed would be going to the Foundation and charity, in fact ended up with Club Nook instead – about half a million pounds in profits. There was also money flowing in from such unlikely licensed products as Captain Tom Gin. That, you might argue, paid for the spa, and certainly was available for the exclusive use of family and not the Foundation. Hannah also received £18,000 for a personal appearance connected with the Foundation, of which only £2,000 was sent on to the Foundation. And so on. Not that we’ll ever know, but perhaps, like any dad, he wanted his family to have some financial security – though why they weren’t open about that isn’t explained.
The Captain Tom story is a compelling one, for all the well-known good and bad reasons. One day it will make for an excellent film, perhaps Michael Caine’s final, final role as hero – an inspirational tale that should not be forgotten or tarnished. For now though, it has to be said that for the family and those of us who loved what Tom was doing, tomorrow didn’t turn out to be a good day after all.