Tom Read: 1937-2015

Tom Read was born on 21st December 1937, the eldest son of art-critic Sir Herbert Read and Margaret, née Ludwig, an accomplished professional musician, he was also a godson of the sculptor, Eric Gill. His elder half-brother was BBC producer, the late John Read. Tom was raised in North Yorkshire with his two younger brothers, the novelist, historian and biographer, Piers Paul and art-historian and PMSA Deputy Chairman, Benedict Read, and his sister, Sophie, who married the architect Nicholas Hare, having worked as Secretary to the Richard Rogers and Norman Foster architectural partnership Team 4.

A Roman Catholic, he was educated by Benedictine monks at Ampleforth College, before attending the University of Leeds. He began his career as a reporter on The Daily Mirror, becoming Education Correspondent in the mid-1960s. Tom then joined the BBC working first on Radio 4 Current Affairs at Broadcasting House, from there he transferred to the World Service at Bush House, where he became Head of Central Talks and Features. His final role at the BBC was as Director of Monitoring at Caversham Park. After he retired from the BBC, Tom was keen to use his experience in charity work.

Tom came to PMSA at a crucial point in the Association’s development. We had just succeeded in winning a large Heritage Lottery grant to make a survey of sculpture and monuments in the public domain throughout Britain and create a national database. The administration of this was stretching our capabilities and we were in desperate need of someone with advanced project management skills to assist with the red tape. Tom Read survived an intense interview process by a number of PMSA Trustees, which took place in the deliberate absence of the then Chairman, his brother Benedict! Tom was duly appointed Project Manager for this National Recording Project (NRP) and given specific responsibility for liaison with the Regional Archive Centres, dealing primarily with the grant finances and distribution of monies to these Centres. He was also a member of the editorial board involved in the publication of the Public Sculpture of Britain series of books based on areas of the National Recording Project as they were completed.

In my role as Hon. Treasurer, I greatly appreciated the support I received from Tom, who provided all the financial details which I needed to complete my reports and to prepare the PMSA’s annual accounts. Tom’s role also involved liaising with the auditor and the information he prepared was always so meticulous, nothing ever needed further clarification. Even latterly when his health was beginning to fail, he maintained these high standards. Tom provided tremendous service to the PMSA over a long period.

Tom remained interested in education all his life and was a governor of More House, a Catholic foundation independent girls’ school in Chelsea. He died on 22nd September 2015 and is survived by his wife Celia and their three sons.

PMSA Deputy Chairman, Ian Leith adds: ‘Tom was most certainly a major stalwart – without him we would never have been able to manage the HLF funding. Only someone with his experience could ever have overseen the appalling documentation which would have easily blocked the implementation of the Regional Archive Centres and the comprehension of our own Trustees.

Quite apart from that facility, he was charming to work with: very urbane & unflappable.’

Aurora Corio