Tom Gilfillan was a student at the Glasgow School of Art on and off between 1915 and 1931. He went on to be a designer for Scottish Aviation Ltd, an aircraft manufacturer based in Prestwick, producing murals for Prestwick airport. The MacLaurin Gallery, Ayr, held an exhibition of his work in 2018: ‘Imagined Skies – the Lost Murals of Tom Gilfillan’, celebrating these works that hung in the foyer of the airport in the 1940s.
Gilfillan lived in Troon and Ayr, painting landscapes of the west coast of Scotland, including a large oil painting, ‘Goat Fell, Arran’ in 1932. His works were also to be seen in the Royal Restaurant, West Nile Street, Glasgow, a famous city landmark for over one hundred years. ‘Keystone of the Commonwealth’ (1940) and ‘Prince Charlie meeting the French Generals’ were hung on the walls, together with a Robert Houston painting of Loch Katrine. The Royal was finally demolished in the 1970s.
Gilfillan is best known for his tourism posters promoting travel in the west of Scotland and the Highlands and Islands, including Arran. Whilst some of his works have the appearance of railway posters, they were actually designed for Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services. He designed about half a dozen posters for LMS Railway.
Very little is known about Gilfillan’s personal life.