ZOOLOO’S Book Tour | T'ree Tins of Turpentine by Tim O’ Sullivan

This morning I join Zooloo's Book Tours again to have a look at T'ree Tins of Turpentine by Tim O ' Sullivan.

“Go on, say “T’ree tins of turpentine!”, you bogtrotter!” was one of many jeers towards Irish families in Leicester in the 1950s, and is the inspiration behind the title of Tim O’Sullivan’s debut book.

In 2008, after realising how much people enjoyed his stories at family gatherings, weddings and funerals, Tim picked up a dictaphone and began verbally recording his memories. Originally a passion project destined to be read by the wider O’Sullivan family, Tim was inspired by his son, Ryan, to publish his memoir.
Tim’s anecdotal accounts give harrowing and humorous insights into life as a marginalised child in the 1950s. Born to a dirt-poor Irish mother, Tim weaves rich tales of living in extreme poverty on the unforgiving Mowmacre Hill council estate. This book will strike a chord with baby boomers and entertain any reader looking for first-hand nostalgic recollections of post-war, poverty-stricken Britain.
From narrowly avoiding sexual abuse at a children’s home, becoming a teenage father and enduring two prison sentences, Tim’s life is a rich jigsaw of highs, lows and laughs. He recounts his mother’s struggles at single parenting while avoiding destitution and the shock return of his biological father after being estranged for 17 years. Tim’s brotherly bonds are brought to life with stories of John - the brother Tim didn’t know he had for the first few years of his life and the tragic addiction-fuelled unravelling of his sister, Mary.
Tim’s determination to rewrite his childhood narrative resulted in a rock-solid marriage to his wife, Pam, unshakeable devotion to his children, and numerous business ventures that accrued great wealth.
T’ree Tins of Turpentine encourages you as a reader to think about your own stories and how they will be passed down to your future generations. Tim’s work is an inspirational reminder that no matter how hard you experience childhood suffering, with faith, love, hard work and a lot of laughter, it is possible to overcome adversity.

With the advent of self publishing it is possible to hear countless stories that you have never heard previously. It gives the everyday person a chance to tell a story. Gone are the days where it is some mega rich famous glitterati, bemoaning the tragedy that they have had to endure and now that they are rich and famous they can tell their story (usually with the aid of some ghost writer who magically transforms their words into a bestseller). 

However, there is the other end of the memoir spectrum that tells the story of the unknowns and they managed to fend off the bricks that life throws at you in order to make you stumble and fall. 

Born into a poor, single parent family, Tim O’ Sullivan tells the story of his life. Growing up almost feral and poor, we learn what life was like for the dispossessed of the time.  

Now this could easily have been a misery memoir about tough times and poverty, but Tim O’ Sullivan manages to convey a sense of warmth and family throughout the story. As we follow him from being a wild child, to a disruly teen and finally into a man of responsibility, Tim O’ Sullivan’s book draws from his own experiences. 

It’s an interesting book, and there are no doubts that Tim O’ Sullivan has made mistakes throughout his life. But what is interesting is that he takes full responsibility and discloses the information about himself in a candid manner. It never falls into the trap of becoming a pity party and his approach is simply that this is my life, this is what I did and this rawness makes him kind of endearing. I mean it would be so easy for him to fall into the trap of looking for excuses, but he doesn’t and this is a draw of the book. 

As a whole, when it comes to memoirs, I can take them or leave them to be honest, and it has to be written in a way that draws the reader in, and I think with the honesty and likeability of Tim O’ Sullivan’s voice as he is telling the story it manages to hook the reader into his life. Not only that, there is a sense of hope to his story. With the hurdles that he has had to overcome, he seems to have shown an extraordinary amount of resilience that has worked in his favour. 

At times, T’ree Tins of Turpentine can be a little rough, especially when talking about his sister’s substance and alcohol use. There are other moments in the book that are equally as tough, but T’ree Tins of Turpentine is a fascinating account of a life lived and Tim’ O Sullivan gives a heartwarming account of his days from childhood to adulthood

Author Bio 

Tim O’Sullivan is a lifelong Leicester resident who was born to Irish immigrant parents. Living in Mowmacre Hill, Tim, and his family, experienced prejudice from a young age. Once his father left, things became even more difficult as his mother found herself managing the household and raising three children on the single wage of a cleaner. 

While their mother worked hard to provide for her family, Tim and his siblings had a wild childhood in which he experienced his first taste of criminal behaviour - stealing from toy shops. His childhood also saw Tim narrowly escape being sexually abused at a residential summer holiday camp.

Tim became a father at the age of 16 and went through numerous jobs before he became involved in a plot to rob a jewellery shop. That led to his first stay in prison, during which the mother of his child left him for his friend. 

Tim later met and married his wife, Pam. By this time, he had found work with a refrigeration engineer. The second of his two stays in prison saw him lose his job, and it was after this that he decided to set up his own business, going on to establish a successful refrigeration and air-conditioning company.

Tim went on to have two more children, Ryan, and Kelly, with Pam and reconciled with his eldest son, Lee. He later built a property portfolio and is now the owner of The Addies Pub in Leicester.

Tim picked up a dictaphone and recorded his memories for over a decade. He was encouraged to turn the recordings into a book to be enjoyed for generations. His memoir encourages us all to think about the stories we pass on to our own families that shape who we are today

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