Domhnall O Broin

About Domhnall O Broin

Domhnall Pádraig Ó Broin was born in Waterford, Eire, on 11 March 1934 and died in Costa Rica on 9 October 2005 at the age of 71. During his life, he made a significant contribution to Scottish glass, glass design and glass technology.

In 1950, Domhnall started an apprenticeship at Waterford Crystal, three years after the company was re-established. He was apprenticed to Czech engraver Miroslav Havel and was the first Irish engraver to be employed. From 1952 to 1954, he studied glass chemistry and design at Orrefors in Sweden. Domnhall became a master engraver and was an important designer of Waterford cut designs. On completing his apprenticeship at Waterford, he was awarded an Andrew Grant scholarship and continued to study glass technology and design at Sheffield and Edinburgh universities, and also glass design under Helen Monro Turner at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

While at ECA, he met Robin Sinclair who wanted to found a glassworks in Caithness, Scotland. Domhnall was a significant factor in establishing Caithness Glass in Wick. He specified equipment and found the skilled workers from Austria, Germany and Italy to train local workers. He also provided some of the start-up capital. Caithness Glass opened in 1961 and by 1962 employed 40 people, when Domhnall recruited Paul Ysart as training officer and factory supervisor. Domnhall was the only designer in the company and by 1965 he was also the managing director before deciding to emigrate to the USA in 1966.

In 1965, Caithness had 36 glassblowers in its 76 strong workforce and produced a rage of 300 pieces with the clean modern lines. Domnhall was clearly influenced by Scandinavian design but used Scottish-inspired colourings. Domnhall was clear :“We have to be at least as good as Orrefors.”

Frank Andrews 2010