Tributes paid to Glasgow's puppet master John Blundall

TRIBUTES have been paid to one of Britain's foremost puppet masters, who died of a heart attack.

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  • Some of the many puppets in John Blundall's The World Through Wooden Eyes exhibition at the Mitchell Library
    Some of the many puppets in John Blundall's The World Through Wooden Eyes exhibition at the Mitchell Library
  • Some of the many puppets in John Blundall's The World Through Wooden Eyes exhibition at the Mitchell Library

John Blundall, 77, who worked on Thunderbirds and created the 1980s TV character Pob, was described as "a fascinating fellow" by leading actor Simon Callow.

Friends said he will be missed in both his personal life and by the hundreds of lives he touched in his career.

Simon Callow said: "John was a fascinating fellow, a real antiquarian, full of submerged histories and surprising thoughts."

Eduard Bersudsky and Tatyana Jakovskaya, who run the Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in the Trongate, worked with John. Tatyana said: "We met him while exhibiting Sharmanka at MacLellan Galleries in 1994 and immediately felt the human warmth of this 'walking encyclopedia'.

"John was an amazingly knowledgeable person with deep understanding of different cultures and astonishing range of skills - and at the same time he remained that inquisitive kid who just got tired and annoyed with boring adults around.

"John is still smiling on all of us - and he will be hugely missed."

John, who was born in Birmingham, had a varied career, studying to be an electrical engineer before joining the RAF and then training with the Moscow State Circus.

After discovering a talent for puppetry, he travelled to Japan and Russia to study traditional Bunraku theatre and learn the art of creating marionettes.

His work took him around the world, from teaching in Alice Springs, Australia, to Thailand, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

In the 1950s he worked as a floor manager at Granada Television, where he met Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

With them, John created puppets for 1960s cult shows Thunderbirds, Stingray and Fireball XL5, his most famous being Parker from the Thunderbirds.

One of his puppets was the inspiration for 1980s children's TV show Pob.

A decade ago, after building up the largest collection of marionettes in the country, John set up The World Through Wooden Eyes exhibition at the Mitchell Library.

Designs span more than 2000 years and include theatre sets and props as well as traditional puppets.

The exhibition houses John's collection of more than 6000 books, research material, puppets, prints and engravings.

John, who lived in the West End, called it an "Ideas Store" where anyone could come and learn about the puppet theatre.

Karen Cunningham, head of Glasgow Life, said: "It was with great sadness that we heard of the death of the great puppet master, John Blundall.

"Ten years ago, John set up The World Through Wooden Eyes. During his time at the Mitchell he showcased some of his impressive collection, including his collection of Punch and Judy artefacts.

"John's best known creation, Parker in Thunderbirds, could often be seen sitting on his work table.

"He will be sorely missed by Mitchell staff and visitors alike."

In spite of health and mobility problems he opened his collection up to the public six days a week, every week.

The exhibition, run with John's apprentice, Stephen Foster, attracted hundreds of visitors.

Stephen said: "Over the 18 years I have known and worked with John he has been an enormous influence on my life and work.

"I cannot even begin to say how much I have learnt from him over the years."

In recent years John's health had declined due to diabetes and he was recently told he would need kidney dialysis.

John suffered a heart attack while visiting hospital for dialysis and could not be revived.

Arts and Entertainment

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