Unusual calligraphy display chronicle’s 92-year-old’s work

Calligrapher Tom Fleming, whose work will go on display at Sunderland University
Calligrapher Tom Fleming, whose work will go on display at Sunderland University
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AN unusual display of calligraphy is to go on display at Sunderland University.

The work of 92-year-old calligrapher Tom Fleming will be exhibited at the university’s Design Centre Gallery from today until Friday, March 22.

Calligraphy map

Calligraphy map

Tom started producing calligraphy in the 1930s. The display will include work from his time in the Army during the Second World War and Lynemouth Colliery, Northumberland, where he worked as a mining surveyor from the 1950s to 1979.

His recent work includes calligraphic maps and lettering on shells and stones.

Tom has created work held in the collections of the Queen, King Herald of Norway, and U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

Dr Manny Ling, course leader at the university and an internationally renowned calligrapher, organised the exhibition with Roger Wollen, exhibition curator.

Calligraphy shell

Calligraphy shell

He said: “Tom Fleming has been one of the North East’s leading calligraphers for more than 40 years and has also played a major part in promoting both the practice and understanding of calligraphy through his teaching and through the Northumbrian Scribes, of which he was a founding member, former chairman and president.

“He’s certainly been an inspiration to me. He has such an eclectic body of work that we felt he should have a retrospective exhibition.

“It’s fantastic that the university has been chosen as a venue to showcase Tom’s exhibition due to our international reputation as a centre of excellence in calligraphy research.”

Tom, of Northumberland, who attended schools in Glasgow and Edinburgh, worked as a desk clerk at United Collieries in Armadale, West Lothian, before moving to work in a drawing office.

He embarked on a career as a mining surveyor, combining his work with his love of calligraphy.

He then spent seven years in the Royal Army Medical corps during the Second World War in the Middle East, North Africa, Normandy and Berlin.

Tom’s commanding officer at this time drew on his lettering and calligraphy skills to produce maps – adding names to the simple crosses that marked the resting places of his comrades.

When the war finished, he moved back to Northumberland and studied calligraphy in Newcastle alongside his colliery work until his retirement in 1979.

His work also includes wedding invitations and anniversary congratulations, awards of the freedom of towns to the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy units, town twinning scrolls, testimonials and church histories summed up in a list of their ministers.

Copies of some of the maps and other works and a colour publication about Tom Fleming and his work, will be for sale at the exhibition, which is open to all.

The Design Centre Gallery is open from 9.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull