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21 June 2021

The celebrated life of Roy Thomson


Leather chemist and ex-Chief Executive of the LCC Roy Thomson sadly passed away on Monday 14th June 2021.

During his career as a leather chemist and conservator Roy made a deep and far-reaching impact on our understanding of leather as a material.

Roy entered the world of leather chemistry during his academic training at Leeds University, completing a degree in the Chemistry of Leather Manufacture in 1960.

Following this, he worked as a leather chemist and in 1968 was appointed to the position of Works Director at the Wellington Tannery Division of Strong & Fisher Ltd – at that time the largest sheepskin tannery in the UK.

In 1993, Roy became chief executive of the Leather Conservation Centre. He bought with him a great wealth of knowledge and scientific understanding to leather conservation, and was able to advance the field considerably, building upon the foundations put in place by John Waterer (1892-1977).

Roy had an inquiring mind and was able to push towards interrogating new concepts, such as whether the use of alum in leather was always used as a tannage, or if it had also been employed as a mordent. He had a deep understanding of the complexities of leather chemistry and was able to explain these clearly and directly to a range of audiences. He was a kind and patient man who was always happy to help where he could, and more than willing to share his knowledge and advice.

Together with Marion Kite, Roy edited the book “The Conservation of Leather and Related Materials”, published by Butterworth-Heinemann, which remains to this day the key text on matters relating to leather conservation.

Following his retirement from the LCC in 2004, Roy remained an active figure in the field, and since 1997 was treasurer of the Archaeological Leather Group (ALG) until his retirement from this role in 2021.

Roy was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, The Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists, and of the International Institute for Conservation, and was an Accredited Conservator Restorer. In 2021, he was made Honorary President of the ALG.

The Leather Conservation Centre
Grosvenor Chambers
Grosvenor Centre
Union Street

01604 719766