In The Beginning
Tom Young MBE was born in Glasgow in the late 1930’s.
He recalls growing up in Glasgow’s East End during the war. living with his brother and mother after losing his father when he was only 9 years old. It was not easy, but they managed, and he got a good education and spent many days left to his own devices. He left school with little qualifications but applied for engineering jobs.His brother a pharmacist knew a contact in Glasgow that was looking for apprentice glassblowers.
The company was R & J Wood in Glasgow’s city centre. They made medical and laboratory glassware for hospitals, universities and government research labs. Tom began his apprenticeship under a man called 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 1950’s Britain was recovering from the war.
The glassblowing work Tom undertook as an apprentice was multiples and repetitive it sometimes was very boring and that is when he decided to move to Loughborough to become part of the chemistry glassblowing department at Loughborough University.
Chemistry & University
In 1967 Tom became one of the first members of staff at the newly built Stirling University, this also gave him a chance to move back to Scotland. Tom Young was integral in setting up the state-of-the-art facility for all the new students now studying at this landmark University.
During his time heading up the Glassblowing Department at Stirling University Tom was often asked to make decorative pieces for friend and family and for charity auctions. This brought out the creative side of his glassblowing talent and from making elaborate scientific coils and condensers he started making decorative animals and perfume bottles.
Scientific to Creative
A very popular product was a glass pig with a half penny inside “A Lucks Penny” His creative flair took over and he much more enjoyed making decorative pieces than laboratory work.
No one else in Scottish Glassmaking was doing lamp working. There was Caithness Glass and Edinburgh Crystal, all now gone in all but name.
Tom was awarded a Master Glassblower status in 1977by The British Association of Master Scientific Glassblowers.
In 1979 Tom decided to leave The University and start his own career and business with his own lamp working company, Village Glass. Based in his now hometown of Bridge of Allan he found a disused bakery which was perfect for Glassblowing. With assistance from Scottish Development Tom became quite the tourist attraction. With tourists stopping by the studio to see him do his work. He also kept up his lab supplies and supplied many of the distilleries and local university and research centres with glassware.
There was great demand for Scottish Glassware in the 80’s but then as European markets opened up competition grew fierce and there was copycats design flooding in from Czech Republic and Poland at much cheaper prices.
Tom continued to build his workforce and his reputation as a master glassblower and was founder member of The Scottish Glass Society and The BSSG Scottish Branch (British Society of Scientific Glassblowers) He was keen to keep the craft of lamp working alive and trained many apprentices some who now have gone on to be renowned glassblowers themselves.
Tom moved his glassblowing studio and workshop onto high street premise in 1999. At this time Tom also designed the millennium spirit bowl. Spirit bowls in Spirit Safes in Distilleries were generally produced by a company called Monax. They were blown globes and then cut out by hand saws they were delicate and unpractical for modern Spirt Safes and so Tom set about designing and creating a more durable bowl for fabricators and distillers. The millennium bowl was produced and now is fitted in many Spirit Safe throughout distilleries worldwide.
In 2000 Tom was commissioned by the Royal Ballet to produce a glass slipper believed to be presented to Princess Diana at the Royal Ballets opening of Cinderella.
Tom has also been involved in many research projects with Johnnie Walker – Diageo’s Technical centre in Menstrie, Scotland. Tom also made 10,000 glass writing pens for Johnnie Walker on the launch of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label. These pens were travel retail gifts and the slogan was
“Johnnie Walker Blue Label, something to write home about”
Tom also helped design the Johnnie Walker Golf trophy which is a golf tournament held at Gleneagles every year - the trophy holds a sphere filled and sealed with Johnnie Walker Whisky.
Tom’s Glass pens were also award winning and were certainly his skills and designs were popular in the gifting market, so too were his unique designed perfume bottles and floral artwork in glass.
In 1998 Tom’s Daughter Karen joined the business, driving its success as a visitor attraction and retail shop forward into a new century.
Tom, now 65 years old, decided that retirement was on the cards and the Retail Business was sold as a going concern. Tom then converted his summerhouse in the garden into a small studio and continued to make what he wanted without the pressure of running the business. His entire life was glassblowing everyday and even in retirement he did not stop what he loved.
In 2012 after watching a Film named The Angels’ Share – The film was based in Scotland directed by Ken Loach Screenplay by Paul Laverty and written by Rebecca O’Brien it was recognised in The Scottish Baftas, it was fun and exciting and awakened people’s sense of place with regards to Scotch Whisky.
Tom had always made Angel decorations for Christmas trees. Tom & Karen decided that the Angels’ Share was a legend like the loch ness monster but there was nothing tangible to present it. So, the idea of creating a handblown angel and filling and sealing it forever became the start of a new journey and pulled Tom out of retirement.
Karen started again in developing the business – Tom trained new glassblowers and now they have rebuilt a purpose-built glassblowing studio still in his hometown of Bridge of Allan. In the original building of United Glass & Plastics.
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. Tom Young is a top Scottish Glassblower and now Angels’ Share Glass is a recognised Scottish Glass manufacturer.
Tom now sits as chairman of Angels' Share Glass and chief overseer of designs and consults on techniques. His archive is now being made digital and design and processes recorded as hi legacy continues to inspire and train glassblowers of the future.