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Mr Harry Tolson

Colleagues will be sorry to learn of the death, on 11 April 2012, of Mr Harry Tolson, former Manager of Central Printing Services.

Born in Ossett, Harry studied at the Camberwell School of Art before returning to Yorkshire in 1948 to train in printing at the Leeds College of Technology.  He worked in a variety of printing roles, notably as a successful composing manager, until joining the University in 1973. At that time, the Print Service provided mainly duplicating services.  Under Harry’s management, and within a remarkably short time, it was developed in order to provide a complete in-house printing service, making full use of the design expertise of its staff and the new technologies that were becoming available.

Harry was an industrious and energetic colleague and a popular manager, able to maintain morale and camaraderie amongst his team even at times of great and rapid change, who very much led by example.  He encouraged enthusiasm and initiative, and was always keen to explore new approaches and possibilities. The success of the service under his management – and the significant improvements in efficiency and economy that he was able to achieve – can be attributed to his considerable business acumen; to the team spirit that he fostered; and, of course, to the formidably high standards that he maintained.  Harry had a genuine love of print and print design; an impressive knowledge of the ‘tricks of the trade’; and an unusually keen eye for detail, all of which were invaluable in developing the image that the University presented internally and externally and enabling him to anticipate the often exacting requirements of his academic customers.  He took great care to ensure that the service they received was reliable and accurate, and was delivered with impeccable courtesy and calm – Harry never, as a former colleague once remarked, made an unnecessary mountain out of a mistake.

In addition to his work within the Printing Service, Harry represented the University for many years on the Yorkshire and Humberside Council for Further Education (through committees and subcommittees associated with print and design) and had extensive links with the printing industry and academic bodies such as the Institute for Bibliography and Textual Criticism.  He was a very keen supporter of classical music, serving as manager of the Yorkshire Concert Orchestra and the Yorkshire Sinfonia; as Director for the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition between 1976 and 1984; and as Executive Director of the Harvey’s Leeds International Pianoforte Competition for 1987.  His retirement from the University in 1992 enabled him to spend more time upon his love of music, as well as extensive walking and caravanning in the Lake District.
Harry will be remembered with great esteem and warm affection by all those who worked with him during the nineteen years that he spent at the University.

The funeral will take place at Skipton Crematorium at 12.20pm on Monday, 23 April, followed by a small reception at Bolton Abbey Village Hall. As a mark of respect, the flag on the Parkinson Building will be flown at half mast on the day of the funeral.


The following tribute has been written by Dame Fanny Waterman, DBE, Chairman and Artistic Director of the Leeds International Piano Festival, with which Harry Tolson had a long-standing involvement

In retrospect, the passing of Harry Tolson has magnified the debt that the Leeds International Piano Competition owes to him.

Two weeks before he died, he attended a concert at Leeds Town Hall to hear Dmitri Alexeev, the Russian First prizewinner of the 1975 Leeds Competition.

As Head of the University of Leeds Printing Services, he became involved with the Leeds International Piano Competition for twenty years.

He printed all Competition publications: leaflets, brochures (in 7 languages) and the Competition Souvenir Programmes from 1978 to 1990. His professionalism, attention to detail and insistence on the accuracy of reported speech and the spoken word contributed to the stature and success of our Competition that is now regarded by the international music community as the greatest piano competition in the world. As a true professional, he met every deadline and faced every new challenge. His commitment of many hours each day inspired our “family” team to also show the same dedication.

I have carried these handsome Brochures (my calling card) to all corners of the world where they have impressed great juries, competitors and most importantly of all our past Sponsors: Harveys of Bristol, Lloyds Bank, Bunkamura (Japan) and the Halifax Building Society.

His voluntary work as Publications and Executive Director of the Competition as well as Honorary Administrator of the Leeds National Competition for Musicians (1980) was perhaps his greatest triumph.

This is his legacy.