We thank Buck Longhurst for this moving tribute to Skip Gillham. Skip will be greatly missed.
On July 27, 2016 the Great Lakes marine world lost one of its’ most avid historians and staunch promoters, Edwin Barry “Skip” Gillham, aged 75, after a long and valiant battle with cancer
I was first put in touch with Skip by John Bascom in 1970, and we exchanged photos and information by mail. My first face-to-face meeting with Skip was in June 1978. I had some material that Skip was wanting for one of his books and we were introduced at an intersection just west of Fonthill by Al Sykes. We talked “boats” for quite a while and I knew that I had found a kindred spirit in preserving the history of the Great Lakes shipping industry.
Skip was a very private person. Family and church always came before his boats and although we talked on the phone at least once a week or exchanged e-mails regularly, we only met once a year, usually at the Lock 3 Visitor Center. He was always very willing to help with a project either by providing photos or vital information or both. He could always be depended upon for help. He would quickly pass over personal matters but would talk at great length about ships and shipping.
In 2004 we were talking on the phone and I asked him – “why don’t you do a book on Yankcanuck Steamships?” He thought for a few seconds before replying “you worked for them – why don’t you write it?” That was the beginning of a sort of partnership that has resulted in several company histories and given me a sense of accomplishment and a great deal of satisfaction and this is due in a large part to Skip and his willingness to share both his knowledge and his collection with others.
Skip has been recognized by several marine societies as one of the world’s outstanding experts on great lakes shipping and we are much poorer for his passing.
G I “Buck” Longhurst
Skip was a great author of local history, specifically focusing on the Great Lakes and freighters. Sadly, only a small number of Skip’s books are still available, including The Kinsman Lines, Purvis Marine, and Final Voyage II: Ships Scrapped in Hamilton and Niagara
Skip’s passing was also commemorated here in the St Catharines Standard.