Biography

This site is dedicated to the memory of my father, Philip James Williamson. Phil was born in Co Tyrone in the 1920s and during the 2nd World War went to sea as a radio officer in the Merchant Navy. After leaving the Merchant Navy he went to work for what was to become the Civil Aviation Authority as a Telecommunications Engineer.
He met his wife Peggy whilst on a course at Bletchley Park. They moved back to Belfast and had two children Michael and Martin. During all this time Phil spent a lot of time sketching and painting. He had a great love of the sea and ships and these were the subjects of many of his paintings.
Phil retired in 1986 and spent the early part of his retirement working with the Ocean Youth Club in Belfast. Eventually he and Peggy moved to New Romney in Kent. He continued to paint in his studio in the back garden. In 2010 he fell ill with Cryptogenic Fibrosis and died in Pilgrims Hospice in Ashford in 2011

Early Days

Phil was born in Moy, near Dungannon in County Tyrone in 1926. He ws one of 8 children. As a small child he was brought up on the farm at Culkeeran. He went to school in Benburb and sang in the local feis. Later the family moved to Belfast when his father David went to work in Stormont as Vetrinary Officer. He attended Methody where he spent most of his time hiding his bags in the park and heading down to the docks to see the ships. In 1943 he went to sea as a Radio Officer with the Merchant Navy after training at the Radio College in Belfast

Married Life

After leaving the Merchant Navy he went to work on 'Government Communications' which was essentially monitoring radio frequencies for interesting information. He meet Peggy when he was on a course at Bletchley Park in 1955 where she was studying as a Civil Aviation Communications Officer. He was posted to Belfast but hated the job and went back to sea returning to get married in June 1956 at St Giles in Ickenham. When they returned from honeymoon in Cornwall he was called immediately back to sea. In the spring of 1957 he decided to come ashore and had an interview for a job as a Telecommunications Officer at Heathrow.

Back to Norn Iron

Shortly afterwards he was offered a posting at Nutts Corner back in Northern Ireland. He took this and they both moved to the Cliftonville Road. In April 1959 they moved to a new house in Glengormley and in November they had a son Michael. He was followed in June 1962 by Martin. Just before Martin was born he got the ideal family car, an Austin Healey Sprite. It worked well with Martin in Peggys arms and Michael perched on the gearbox. Eventually the kids grew too big and the beloved Sprite was replaced by an Austin 1100, possibly the worst car he ever owned. During this time he bought a small catamaran which was kept at Whiteabbey and wheeled out through the mudflats. During the 1970s he singlehandedly built an 18'6'' sailing cruiser, a Caprice, in the backyard, starting with a floppy fibreglass hull. It was eventually only just extracted by crane and moored in Carrickfergus..

Retirement

He retired from the Civil Aviation Authority in 1986 and immediately started working for the Ocean Youth Club in Northern Ireland where he helped to maintain the boats as well as taking youngsters sailing. He seemed even more busy in retirement than he had been at work and took voyages up the West Coast of Scotland and further afield to Scandanavia, France, Spain and Portugal. He also crewed in numerous races and was in demand as a navigator. He met the cartoonist Keith Waite and spent some happy times in Pin Mill where they enjoyed their common interests of drawing and sailing.

North America

Phil and Peggy often went to Canada and the US on holiday. They were particulary fond of New Orleans, Seattle, the North Eastern coast up by Boston, New England and Connecticut. In Canada they spent a lot of time Vancouver where his brother George lives, taking trips along the coast and up into the Rockies. George is another artist and is involved in the restoration of steam engines. You can see his work at Engine Art. This was all rich material for Phil who produced sketchbooks full of material and a number of excellent watercolours.

Kent

In 2002 Peggy and Phil left Belfast, their home for 40 years, and moved to New Romney in Kent close to Martin and his family. The house was a small two bedroom house built in the 1800s for the Sea Wall supervisors. Dungeness had always been a magnet for artists and Phil continued drawing and painting joining an art class in Rye which he thoroughly enjoyed. Although he had problems with cataracts he remained active into his eighties regularly taking trips on his bicycle. In 2010 he started to have breathing difficulties and was diagnosed with cryptogenic fibrosis. His condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away in Pilgrims Hospice, Ashford on the 31st May 2011