The 130-ton schooner Pantomime was built for Colonel W.T. Markham by Michael Ratsey in 1865. A big two-master sporting a distinctive ‘running bowsprit’, she achieved notable success in her first season at Cowes (1866) where she won a celebrated duel with Egeria for the Squadron Queen’s Cup in what contemporaries described as “a splendid hard-weather race”. For the handicap race around the island during the same regatta however, the handicapping procedures proved so unpopular that only nine of the nineteen entries consented to start. The weather was squally, with a strong north-west wind, but the honours eventually went to Pantomime and Egeria, when they finished barely a minute apart to cement their growing reputation as the two fastest schooners afloat.
During the following season, (1867), the previous year’s rivalry once again came to the fore when Pantomime lost the Nore to Dover schooner match by the narrowest of margins and Egeria was declared the winner. At the subsequent Squadron Regatta, the two rivals were once again matched amongst the starters for the Earl of Wilton’s Cup race around the Island and although Egeria romped home to win it, on this occasion Pantomime had to be content with third prize, second place having gone to Lufra, a yawl owned by the 2nd Earl of Strafford. Despite these undoubted successes, the last of which was to win the Vice-Commodore’s Cup at the Royal Mersey Regatta in 1869, Markham sold Pantomime at the end of that season and replaced her with a smaller 98-ton schooner named Harlequin. Thereafter, Pantomime went on to further success under her subsequent owners but that is another story.
Lieut. Colonel William Thomas Markham was born in 1830 and served as an officer in the Rifle Brigade in the Crimea, participating in the battle of the Alma. Later attached briefly to the Coldstream Guards, he married Anne Emily Sophia, also known as Daisy, the daughter of Sir Francis Grant, President of the Royal Academy (1866-78), and the couple set up home in Solent Lodge, a waterside house designed by Markham himself. Once the Colonel had been elected to the Royal Yacht Squadron in May 1862, the “delightful entertainments” provided by the Markhams at Solent Lodge soon proved one of the highlights of Cowes Week for a number of seasons and the hosts achieved a certain celebrity in yachting circles. Colonel Markham ceased competitive racing and sold his last yacht, a 104-ton cutter named Vol-au-Vent, in 1881, and died in 1886 at the age of 56.