Thomas Wilson - Composer

Thomas Wilson 1927-2001

Thomas Brendan Wilson was born in the USA in 1927 of British parents. Shortly thereafter the family returned to the UK, and settled in the Glasgow area. Apart from three years spent in France, Wilson was based in Scotland throughout a distinguished and productive life.

Thomas Wilson was educated at St. Mary’s College, Aberdeen. After serving in the RAF from 1945-48, he read Music at the University of Glasgow, and in 1957 accepted a teaching post there. In 1971 he was appointed Reader, and in 1977 was given a personal Chair.

Wilson consistently played an active part in the musical life of the UK, holding executive and advisory positions in organisations such as the Arts Council, The New Music Group of Scotland, The Society for the Promotion of New Music, The Composers’ Guild of Great Britain (Chairman 1986-89), and The Scottish Society of Composers (of which he was a founder member).

Thomas Wilson’s works have been played all over the world and embrace all forms – orchestral, choral-orchestral, chamber-orchestral, opera, ballet, brass band, vocal music of different kinds, and works for a wide variety of chamber ensembles and solo instruments. He received commissions from a number of prestigious sources, including the Henry Wood Proms, Scottish Opera, Glasgow 1990, Scottish Ballet, the Edinburgh Festival, the Cheltenham Festival, the City of London Festival, Musica Nova and the BBC.

In 1990 Thomas Wilson was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The following year he was created a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by Glasgow University. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Biography cover

Thomas Wilson – Introit: Towards the Light
by Margaret Wilson and David Griffith.

Tom not only wanted to be a composer, he said that he had to be one. There was an inner compulsion – he felt as if he had no choice in the matter. Composition was something that gave him great satisfacation. He said that when it went right there was no feeling like it in the world. Tom believed that
it was the composer’s duty to continually stretch his horizons since the process of composition did not stop with putting notes on paper. For him music was an act of communication, and no work was truly realised until it had reached an audience through performance.

The story of Wilson’s life as a composer and a man is told by his wife Margaret, who was with him day by day throughout his career. She shared the early years of privation as Wilson strove to develop his unique voice and was also able to share in his later success that included important commissions and prestigious awards. She knew Thomas Wilson as no other person could, and the story she tells concerns a marriage as well as a musical career.




Published on 4 August 2011. Copies cost £15.00 and are available in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon.


Born in the United States and raised in Scotland, Thomas Wilson rose from modest beginnings to a position of international recognition as one of the leading composers to come from Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century. From his earliest years music was central to his life.