Local West End Character: Phil Benson, Wood Carver
Phil Benson is a very ‘well kent face’ around the West End. He can often be seen strolling purposefully along Great Western Road with his dog Zoltan by his side. When the weather is clement he can also be spotted working ferociously, high in a tree in Kelvingrove Park, where a wood sculpture of a tiger is gradually taking shape.
Phil has lived in the West End since 1970 and took up wood carving quite by accident. During a low period in his life he started working on a large piece of wood he had in his garden and found this occupation very enjoyable and therapeutic. Once he was back on the mend he continued with his new ‘hobby’ and began to look for trees which were ear-marked to be cut down – a practice which Phil strongly objects to.
Before long friends and associates were contacting Phil regarding potential targets for his creative work. One well known piece of work was the blue dolphin situated under Kelvinbridge at Great Western Road. When my niece Lauren visited from Canada she was fascinated by this and it is a great pity that it has not been carefully maintained as it really was a fine piece of work and a great landmak.
Another fascinating piece of Phil’s work can be found in Old Kilpatrick, my home town, at the Railway Station, where a lovely eagle has been carved in a tree that ScotRail had earmarked for demolition. When I am travelling by train to OK I always choose my carriage so that I alight just at the eagle.
Phil has a unique approach in his creative pursuit – when he hears of a possible site for his work he begins by studying the particular tree as the idea for the sculpture comes from its shape. Unfortunatley, his task is not always easy and there can be a lot of frustration involved. His work on the tiger in Kelvingrove Park has been a slow process with many problems encountered: the logistics in moving all of his tools to and fro is a major difficulty. However, this is absolutely necessary as he is plagued by theft and has even had generators stolen.
However, Phil has no intention of quitting – he hopes to finish the tiger before summer and has some new targets in mind including another tree in the park and two others in the West End.
Not a man to take life easy Phil has also made a major commitment to care in the community provided by The Coach House Trust, where he is passing his skills in working with wood onto ten project users. The standard of work is first class with beautifully restored antique furniture and lovingly hewn decorative sculptures. Billy Girvan is one of Phil’s protegees, who is rightfully proud of his talent, and on display was a wonderful table he had carved. This project can only go from strength to strength and Phil’s work truly illustrates their motto ‘Combating Isolation and Intolerance with Innovation’
The Coach House is tucked away behind Cleopatra’s Night Club in Belmont Lane – so next time you are out for a stroll in Kelvinbridge treat yourself have a walk round you will be amazed at was has already been achieved there.
Also think twice before you chop down that tree in your garden as it is quite possible that it could be the material for Phil to conjure up something quite fascinating.
i have known phil since i was a wee lad he’s a top geezer with many a tale. i hope he is doin´well and still holding court at the chip.
—David Q ( davidlawriequeen at hotmail dot com ) from Islas baleares on 19.8.2003; 20:19:03 Uhr
—Brian Crath ( bcrath at hotmale dot com ) from Scotland on 13.1.2003; 16:24:17 Uhr
Not sure if Phil will remember me, but I am Barry Paton’s partner, that other famous West-Ender.I used to see him with his dog in the Chip and we would have a chat… Phil is very talented and always amusing, another great character.
It is good to see what he is doing now, well done !!
—Fiona alderman ( fionaalderman at worldonline dot fr ) from France on 27.8.2002; 8:49:45 Uhr
- Avril Paton: Artist – Pat’s Guide to Local Characters in Glasgow’s West End
- Dr Gerard Carruthers, Director Robert Burns Centre, University of Glasgow
- Celebrity Sightings – Glasgow West End
- Janey Godley, Comedienne – West End Characters
- Harry Kelly, Writer and Expert on Scottish Ceramics
- Local Characters: Basia Palka – Poet
- Gordon R. Urquhart, Historian and Conservationist
- Sheila Reid – Partick’s Playwright
- Local Characters – Anne Whitaker, Astrologer
- Local Characters: Lesley Riddoch: Broadcaster and Journalist
- West End Characters: Colin Beattie: Glasgow West End Entrepreneur
- Willie Miller Urban Designer: Glasgow West End Characters
- Avril Patton Artist – archived comments
- Allan Tall, musician/actor
- The Glasgow Cabbie – Glasgow’s Hidden Gem by Jane Sweeney
- Paul Rutherford, Personal Trainer/Lifestyle Coach – feature by Theresa Talbot
- Graeme Macrae Burnet – Glasgow Writer
- Glasgow Local Characters: Gordon Wallace, Cabinet Maker, Artist and Volunteer with The Salvation Army at Partick Cross
- A description of A.E. Pickard – The last of the great eccentrics
- Ranald MacColl – designer, writer, artist etc