‘He had a beautiful mind’: Glasgow philanthropist’s daughter to publish book on father’s dementia

A woman has paid tribute to her father’s “beautiful mind” in a book detailing her family’s struggle with dementia.

Sarah Smith said her father, William Mann, lived a life devoted to other people – and she wanted to honour him while raising awareness of the illness.

William, a well-known Glasgow businessman and philanthropist, passed away in December 2019, at the age of 85, after three years suffering from dementia.

An accountant who also operated in the property sector, he received a CBE in 2017 for his charitable work.

Remembered as Glasgow’s Western Baths’ saviour, he also supported the arts and sports sectors, campaigning to abolish tax rates on sports facilities.

Now Sarah is publishing a book in his memory, which she hopes will comfort others dealing with a loved one’s disease, while highlighting the important part residential care played in her experience caring for her father.

She said: “The message that I want to get across is that you can still love somebody with dementia, and I hope it might act as a guide for other people caring for a family member.

“It’s not just about Dad, it’s really to raise awareness of dementia, and how good residential care can be.

“I think there’s quite a stigma attached to it.”

Faced with the void left by her father, the 52-year-old decided to turn to writing during lockdown.

Sarah added: “I decided to put pen to paper not actually thinking it would be a published book.

“But by the end of it I thought, ‘I promised my dad as he was dying that I would do everything I could to raise awareness of this hopeless disease’.”

In the book, Because I Know Who He Is, Sarah tells of the sadness of seeing her father slowly losing his mental faculties and forgetting her.

But she also offers hope to the readers who might be going through the same thing.

She said: “I have not sugar coated illness in any way, shape, or form.


“I didn’t feel I could do that – what’s the point in telling the story if you can’t tell the truth?

“But I wanted to show that if you can get inside the head of somebody that’s suffering from dementia, you can certainly cope with it better.

“It was very difficult for me to see somebody who was so intelligent, such a beautiful mind, deteriorate like that.

“People called him ‘the numbers man’, because his financial mathematical acumen was so great that everybody wanted him to come in and help out with their businesses and charities.

“And then one day, he couldn’t even count.

“It’s very sad.”

However, Sarah’s book also leaves space for light-hearted stories, in an effort to convey the message that “you can still have happy and loving times in what is a horrendous period of your life.”

She said: “With dementia, Dad thought he was living in a private member’s club abroad.

“And we just went along with that, you know, he thought I was living there with him.”

Wishing to spend as much time with him as possible, Sarah cared for her father herself for two years, before deciding a care home would be better placed to look after him.


Although he no longer recognised her by that point, Sarah never missed her daily visit at Erskine Glasgow Care Home.

She added: “People used to tell me ‘Why do you go and see him every day if he doesn’t know who you are?’

“And that was always my answer: because I still knew who he was.

“What I really want people to understand is that even though somebody might be going through dementia, they’re still that same person inside.”

As a result of her dad’s stay at Erskine, Sarah is now volunteering there a few days a week, while running her father’s WM Mann Foundation, providing support to national and local charities.

She said: “I really believe in what they do.

“One of the chapters in the book is called The Duty of Care. I was very upset one day, and I went to see the care home staff, to try and process what was happening.

“And they said to me, ‘We don’t just have a duty of care to your dad, we have it to you as well’.

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“I had no experience of dementia, the care that they gave not just to dad and every single other resident I saw, but to their families as well, it was just amazing.

“There’s a bit of crisis in the care sector at the moment.

“They’re grossly under-appreciated, in my opinion but they’re fantastic.

“And that’s why I volunteer, because I believe passionately in what they do.”

She added: “It’s very important to me as both my parents believe that you get to a point in life, when you should have enough.

“And if you’re lucky to be in that position, you should give back to the community.

“And that’s what my father did, he lived a life that was devoted to others.”

Because I Know Who He Is will launch on Amazon on November 25, and is now available to pre-order on the Olympia Publishers website.

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