It is with regret and great sadness that we learned of the sudden passing of Glen Tillett last month. Glen succumbed to injuries he sustained after a freak accident at home.
“Glen was so looking forward to enjoying some travelling and relaxation in the coming months as he was beginning to wind down to retirement,” said Glen’s business partner and son-in-law Allan Bruggeman.
“But sadly it was not to be. He would have turned 74 on the 22nd of May. After spending many years of his working career in the foundry industry, his retirement would have been richly deserved, although his life-work ethos was ‘The day I die, is the day I retire’.”
Glen was the first of five children (his younger brother Mike’s twin was to die during childbirth) born to Cyril and Antoinette Tillett in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal. They decided to name their first born Anthony Glen Tillett, having the honour of being named after his mother Antoinette. It was a name that he was taunted with during his childhood, and soon discarded! And because his mother’s nickname was Tony, he opted to use his second name Glen, which is the name we are all familiar with.
On the death of his grandfather, Frederick, Glen’s father used his inheritance money to purchase a farm in Northern Rhodesia (now known as Zambia). As a young boy on the remote farm, Glen developed a deep love for the bushveld and wild animals, where he would spend days in the bush sleeping beneath the stars. In an attempt to turn this colonial ruffian into a gentleman, he was sent to Kingswood College, a boarding school in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.
However, a three-day train trip with fellow Kingswoodians allowed for much adventure and mischief. And it was at Kingswood College that Glen founded the extramural society that the Headmaster named the “Guinea Fowl Gang”, because whenever the headmaster would take his dog for a walk on a Sunday afternoon up Sugarloaf, a small sandstone koppie behind the school, he would witness the college boys scurrying in all directions, keeping low to the ground trying their best to not be identified and thus avoid receiving six of the best for smoking. It would be another 20 years before Glen kicked the habit, only to become a vociferous anti-smoking evangelist.
“It was in Northern Rhodesia on the 25th April 1964 that Glen married the love of his life and his soul mate, our mother Cynthia. Their devotion to each other for 52 glorious years together has been an inspiration to us, their children and has taught us much about unconditional love and selflessness. Their first three children, Marlene, Brian and I were born in Kitwe, Zambia,” said Malcolm Tillett, Glen’s third born, while delivering the Eulogy for his father at Glen’s Memorial Service.
The nationalisation of the mines in Zambia meant the family moved to Salisbury in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) where their fourth child, Natasha was born. Prior to moving to Salisbury Glen had worked with Scaw Metals and Rio Tinto in Zambia.
This proved to be a turbulent period for Glen and his family as it was the time of the Rhodesian Bush War. Glen was called up to serve as a Lieutenant in the Rhodesian Army, having done his national service in the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation with the Royal Rhodesian Regiment.
“This was the time of six weeks in and six weeks out of the military, petrol coupons and rationing. The running of the household and raising of the family fell fully onto my mother’s shoulders. However, there was much joy as my father came home for weekend passes in a camouflaged Land Rover – with doors removed! He would reminisce later with me on the difficult terrain they would have to pass through in the Landies, and how much admiration he had for the vehicle. Later on in life Dad would rebuild Land Rovers as a hobby. Other hobbies of Dad’s included breeding and selling tropical fish,” said Malcolm Tillett.
“Not too long after Zimbabwean independence, the shadow of gloom and retribution began to stretch across the country. The family departed for South Africa and ended up back in KwaZulu Natal.”
After a brief stint selling foundry products for Foseco, Glen joined HA Falchem, also selling foundry products, with whom he stayed with for 18 years.
From hobby to full time business
The need by a pump manufacturer to get castings out quicker and ultimately the final product delivered to the client in a shorter time, led Glen Tillett and his son-in-law Allan Bruggeman, who had married Glen’s eldest child Marlene, to start their own full production foundry – Matt Cast Supplies – back in September 1999. Both Glen and Allan, who is a metallurgist, had been in the foundry industry for a number of years and had been dabbling very successfully in the manufacture of brass sundials. It was mainly a hobby that Glen had been pursuing.
“We were running a small foundry on the weekends to make the sundials. We supply the majority of these to nurseries in the Gauteng area. I had the experience from the manufacturing side and Glen the know how on the supply side so the transition to a bigger, full time foundry was very easy,” said Allan.
“When I say a bigger, full time foundry it is relative.”
Matt Cast Supplies started its operations in a small rented factory in Germiston, Gauteng with a total employee compliment of four people, producing four tons of castings per month. Matt Cast was established to manufacture components almost exclusively for the well-known pump manufacturer APE Pumps, but has since diversified into other industrial sectors.
Glen and Allan remained as business partners, friends and family until Glen’s untimely passing. During this period the company and foundry achieved many milestones and today employs 42 staff. Keeping it in the family, Glen’s youngest daughter Natasha joined the company in 2001 and her husband, Murray Speed, joined in 2004.
Glen was also a loyal member of the South African Institute of Foundrymen, having joined in February 1981.
“My Dad could fix almost anything. From cars, washing machines, video cassette recorders, and televisions through to computers and laptops. Put anything in front of him, and he would soon have it figured out. My Dad rebuilt my brother Brian and my two sisters first cars. Mine was rebuilt from two VW Golf I’s that had been written off.”
“I, along with my siblings, would describe my Dad as remarkable, amazing, and our superhero. His grandchildren remember him for his gentleness, warmth and encouragement. His friends have told me that he was both a gentle man and a gentleman. And whatever your memories are of Anthony Glen Tillett, hold them tight, for they are precious.”
Glen is survived by his wife Cynthia, four children and eight grandchildren. We express our sincere condolences and thank the family for allowing us to use extracts from the eulogy.