SPO veteran and his treasured lighthouse
“I’m proud that I’ve got the lighthouse because it is not something that you can get many chances to own. There is a certain degree of responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the lighthouse is well-maintained. It is painted white with the surrounding black band every few years to make sure that it looks good, more than the statutory requirement of painting it every five years.”
Copyright Ilona Willemsen | Dreamstime.com
The Cloch Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland. Built in 1797, the lighthouse was designed to warn ships off The Gantocks, a dangerous reef of rocks in the region. In the old days, the lighthouse was often seen as a welcome sight for travellers and seafarers travelling by sea to Scotland. Today, it has become a well-loved heritage site among locals and tourists. Interestingly, the proud owner of the iconic lighthouse is none other than SPO’s veteran, former Commercial Director, Duncan Telfer (Duncan) who retired from the company in March 2019 after nearly four decades of dedicated service.
It was by a stroke of luck that Duncan acquired the lighthouse at a young age of 26 years old. In 1985, while he was pursuing his Master’s certificate at the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, he and his friends decided to take a road trip to Largs, a seaside town south of Gourock.
“As I was driving home, we passed the lighthouse and I commented to my friends that it would be a great place to live,” he said. Later that week, Duncan received a phone call from the Clyde Port Authority, who said that they understood that he was interested in buying the lighthouse. At first, Duncan was apprehensive and dismissed the call. “It turned out that one of the girls in the car had told her mother who worked in the Greenock Health Centre that I liked the lighthouse, and her mother then mentioned it to her colleague at work; and that colleague’s husband happened to be working at the Clyde Port Authority. So eventually, the port authority heard that I wanted to buy the lighthouse. Actually, I was just making a passing comment that I really liked the lighthouse,” Duncan recalled.
To his surprise, the port authority said that they would be keen to sell the keepers’ house to Duncan if given a reasonable offer. Duncan was intrigued by this chanced opportunity and gave an offer price of 32,000 pounds, which the port authority accepted. He promptly paid the deposit of 6,000 pounds with his savings and took a loan from Swire to pay for the lighthouse.
“In 1996, the government privatised the lighthouse sector. There was a management buy-out and the port authority wanted to liquidate their non-viable assets including the land where the lighthouse was standing. I offered 5,000 pounds for the remaining area and they agreed. It was a bit of a bargain – I suppose it was one of those opportunities that came up and I was at the right place, at the right time,” Duncan said.
Duncan Telfer, SPO's veteran who is the proud owner of the Cloch Lighthouse.
When asked what it feels like to own a rare maritime gem in Scotland, he said, “I’m proud that I’ve got the lighthouse because it is not something that you can get many chances to own. There is a certain degree of responsibility that comes with it to ensure that the lighthouse is well-maintained. It is painted white with the surrounding black band every few years to make sure that it looks good, more than the statutory requirement of painting it every five years.”