Blackhall, Ross

Fin I wis wee, I winted tae be a vet fin I grew up, because I bedd in the country an animals war aa aroon me. At Skene schule I eesed tae makk on I wis a vet at playtimes. Things change though, an I later qualified as an engineer in Aiberdeen. Ye canna bide in the North East, whether as an estate agent, a taxi driver or a shop keeper withoot kennin the effect o the ile industry in the area. Withoot the ile, pairts o the region wad turn intae ghost toons.

The fishin industry is near non-existent noo. Twa o my uncles are fermers, bit their money's aa tied up in their beasts an machinery. They can rin a hale ferm wi the help o their sons far there wis a time fin they'd hae needed a hanfu o men. My uncle, cousins an brither aa wirk in the ile industry. I decided tae study tae becam an engineer because I've ayewis been mechanically minded an I kent there wis a lot o work in that field owin tae the ile. I graduated in Aiberdeen in 2000, an flew oot that same nicht tae Port Harcourt in Nigeria. That wis a gey culture shock fur a North East loon. Nigeria's the sixth biggest ile producin country in the warld, bit the industry oot there is manned bi a lot o ex-pats, which understandably can lead tae conflict wi the native Nigerians. Can ye jist imagine the North Sea manned wi hardly a Scot in sight?

I wid niver hae seen the likes o this and met the fowk I did if it hidna been fur the ile industry. Instead o cauld and rain we hid heat and well...rain. Insteid o seagulls, we hid vultures. Insteid o midgies we hid mosquitos. At my base I wirked alangside a Venezuelan, a Bolivian, an Indian, a Canadian, an American, an Australian, a New Zealander, a Croatian, a Norwegian, a Ghanayan, an Indonesian, a Morroccan, a Nigerian, plus English, Welsh an Scots.

Sometimes I wirked on a swamp rig. Ae nicht my hard helmet wis stottin wi beasties...beetles....hunners o them. Up on the helideck I watched African kites buzzards wi bricht yalla beaks. On anither rig in the middle o a river I cud see the mud huts o a village on the bank jist ower fae us. The villagers traivelled alang the jungle in canoes. The bairns war nyaakit bit the aulder fowk wore claes, tho they were aa barfit.

The ile industry his gaen me a gweed standard o livin an the chaunce tae see the warld. I've bin sent tae America, Nigeria, France, Amsterdam an Johannesburg bi the ile industry. It's transformed the lives o thoosans o ithers. It's brocht prosperity tae the North East, an efter Piper Alpha, it brocht safer wirkin practices. I really like meetin aa the different nationalities an cultures through my wirk. My best frien in Nigeria wis a New Zealander. I dinna ken a North East faimly that disna hae at least ae relative wirkin in the industry, whether its onshore, affshore, or in the support industries.

It his brocht changes, tho. Fin I wis growin up at Skene, Westhills wis still a village. The population's explodit. There are Dutch, Americans, English, fowk fae aa roon the warld, movin far the wirk is tae bide here, jist as I gaed tae wirk in Nigeria a while, earnin a livin there. Fowk dinna chase the herrin noo, they chase the ile.