Obituary: Tom Young MBE
Master Glassblower Tom Young MBE passed away on 22 May 2023.
Tom was not only a master glassblower; he also had an outstanding knowledge of glassblowing. He was generous with his time and talent, never hesitating to help many glassblowers as they embarked on their careers.
Tom had been making glass for 70 years – from the age of 14 to 84. It truly was his life’s passion.
Tom was born in Glasgow in the late 1930s. He left school with few qualifications, but his brother suggested he apply to R & J Wood, based in the city centre, who were looking for apprentice glassblowers. They made medical and laboratory glassware for hospitals, universities and government research laboratories. Tom began his apprenticeship under Joe McCulloch and, when Joe decided to start up on his own, Tom followed as his assistant.
Scottish glassblowers were mainly employed in the chemicals industry, as 1950s Britain was recovering from the Second World War. As an apprentice Tom made multiples and this repetitive work led to his decision to move to Loughborough University’s chemistry glassblowing department.
In 1967 Tom became one of the first members of staff at the newly built Stirling University, where he led the Glassblowing Department. He was often asked to make decorative pieces for friends, family and charity auctions. This brought out his creative side and he started making decorative animals and perfume bottles. A popular product was a glass pig with a half penny inside, called ‘A Lucks Penny’.
Tom was awarded Master Glassblower status in 1977 by The British Society of Scientific Glassblowers (BSSG).
In 1979 Tom left the university to start his own lampworking business, Village Glass. He found a disused bakery in Bridge of Allan, which was perfect for glassblowing. With assistance from Scottish Development, his studio became a tourist attraction. Alongside, he continued to make lab equipment and supplied many of the distilleries and local university and research centres with glassware.
Tom was a founder member of The Scottish Glass Society and The BSSG Scottish Section. He was keen to keep the craft of lampworking alive and trained many apprentices, some of whom have gone on to become renowned glassblowers themselves.
The glassblowing studio and workshop moved to high street premises in 1999. Among his achievements, Tom designed the millennium spirit bowl, used for spirit safes in distilleries worldwide, a glass slipper for the Royal Ballet, plus various projects for Johnnie Walker, including thousands of glass pens for a promotional campaign.
In 1998 Tom’s Daughter Karen joined the business. When he reached 65 years old, Tom decided to retire and the retail business was sold as a going concern. Tom converted his summerhouse in the garden into a small studio and continued to make what he wanted without the pressure of running the business.
In 2012 Tom was inspired by a film named ‘The Angels’ Share’. This is the term for the small amount of evaporation that occurs when whisky is maturing in the cask. He decided to represent this phenomenon by creating a handblown glass angel, filling it with whisky and sealing it forever. Karen came back and helped Tom launch Angels’ Share Glass to market the angels from premises in Bridge of Allan. He trained new glassblowers for the venture, which remains a recognised Scottish glass manufacturer today.
Tom was awarded an MBE in 2017 for his services to the glassblowing industry and his talent and legacy will live on in the people he has taught.
His archive is being digitalised and his designs and processes recorded, to inspire and train the glassblowers of the future.
Image: Tom Young creating the lampworked glass he loved.