LIVES IN THE OIL INDUSTRY - Oral History of the UK North Sea Oil and Gas Industry
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'Tis Thirty Years Since: Project Celebration Lecture Series 2006

’Tis Thirty Years Since

Personal Reflections on the History of the

North Sea Oil and Gas Industry

In November 1975, at Dyce, Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated the flow of North Sea oil to Scotland. Thirty years on, in late 2005, the first phase of the University of Aberdeen Lives in the Oil Industry oral-documentation project was completed. This series of thirtieth-anniversary-year lectures has been organised to celebrate a major achievement in oral history.

Most of the lectures are on Thursdays at 5.15pm with the exception of Alex Salmond MP whose lecture will be on Friday 10 November at 5.15pm. The lectures are all in New Kings NK10.



Thursday 5 October: JOHN BROOKS, ‘Licence to Drill: The Role of the Regulator ’

Thursday 12 October: RONNIE MCDONALD, ‘Not Required Back: Trade Unions in the North Sea’

Thursday 19 October: MYLES OGLETHORPE, ‘Capturing the Energy: An Archive for the Oil Industry ’

Thursday 26 October: JONATHAN WILLS, 'The Shetland Business: The Battle of the North'

Thursday 9 November: TAM DALYELL, 'The Labour Party and North Sea Oil ’

Friday 10 November: ALEX SALMOND MP, 'Scotland and North Sea Oil'

Thursday 16 November: OWEN LOGAN, 'Going International: Photographing Oil Lives in Scotland and Latin America'

Thursday 23 November: HUGO MANSON, 'Reflections on the Lives in the Oil Industry' Oral History Project'

Thursday 30 November: SUE JANE TAYLOR, 'An Artist's Engagement with the Piper Alpha Disaster'

(Some titles provisional)

John Brooks was for many years a key figure in the Department of Trade and Industry who played a major part in the granting of licenses to production companies seeking to exploit the North Sea; Ronnie McDonald is a former oil industry construction worker and later the key figure in the formation of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee (OILC); Miles Oglethorpe is Manager, Architecture and Industry Programmes, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and a key figure in the ‘Capturing the Energy’ initiative to establish the central UK offshore oil and gas archive at the University of Aberdeen; Jonathan Wills is a former academic, Shetland councillor and journalist who took an active part and interest in local Shetland politics during the early years of the oil and gas industry there; Tam Dalyell was formerly a Member of Parliament and latterly the Father of the House of Commons; Alex Salmond MP is Leader of the Scottish National Party. He is a former oil economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland; Owen Logan, a well-published Scottish photographer, is Creative Arts Research Fellow in the History Department of the University of Aberdeen; Hugo Manson is an oral historian who has been working on the Lives in the Oil Industry oral history project since 2000; Sue Jane Taylor, artist and sculptor of the Piper Alpha memorial who spent a week on Piper Alpha exactly a year before it exploded and whose involvement with the platform and its people deeply affected her interpretation of the events of 6 July 1988;


Lecturers in the Spring Series were:

PETER O'DELL, ‘Forty Years of North Sea Oil and Gas Controversies’

HUGO MANSON, ‘The Lives in the Oil Industry Oral History Project’

OWEN LOGAN, ‘Oil Lives Images in the Scottish Parliament’

GAVIN McCRONE, 'North Sea Oil: A Personal View'

CAROL BOYD, 'Experiences of the Uk Continental Shelf that Cannot Be Shared in The Royal Northern and University Club’

Peter Odell, Professor Emeritus of International Energy Studies at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, was adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Energy from 1977 to 1979 and, amongst other honours, was awarded the 1994 Royal Scottish Geographical Society Centennial Medal for his studies on the development of North Sea Oil and Gas; Hugo Manson, of international repute as one of the founders of oral history in New Zealand, is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, having come to Scotland in 2000 with the support of the British Library Sound Archive to conduct the life-story interviews that now comprise the Lives in the Oil Industry archive; Owen Logan – the photographer whose work deriving from the Lives in the Oil Industry project is on permanent display at the Holyrood parliament – is AHRC Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Aberdeen History Department, where he is working on connections between the visual and the oral in photographic method as part of an ongoing project on ‘oil and globalisation’; Gavin McCrone, General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, has had a distinguished career in academia (the Universities of Oxford, Glasgow and Edinburgh) and as a civil servant who was Chief Economic Adviser to the Secretary of State for Scotland and had a close involvement in the development of North Sea oil in the 1970s, when he wrote a recently much-publicised report on the impact of oil on the Scottish economy; Carol Boyd, a solicitor who now produces market intelligence on, and analysis of, current North Sea activity and opportunities for UKCS consultants, Hannon Westwood, has had in-house commercial responsibility with major operating companies for many significant transactions.


Dukes Wood Oil Museum

(Kevin Topham writes:) As the only UK oilfield offshore and onshore museum is showing heavy signs of wear and tear, a campaign is in progress to renew this building. The small group of ex-oilfield personnel who manage the museum are working hard to raise the necessary funding for this project, and any donations would be gratefully received.

Cheques should be made out to Dukes Wood Oilfield Museum and sent to Kevin Topham, Curator, 'Fairfield', Mansfield Road, Edingley, Newark, Notts NG22 8BG UK.


Brent Charlie Exhibition

Photographs from an exhibition that was held at the Marischal Gallery, Aberdeen, can be seen here. The exhibition was initiated and curated by Pat Ballantyne.


Renewables presentations

Project Director, Terry Brotherstone, and Manager, Hugo Manson, presented a paper to a recent WREC (World Renewables Energy Conference) in Aberdeen in which they spoke about the Lives in the Oil Industry oral history project, and urged the renewables industry to start up a similar documentation.

Rather than wait 30 years and then start remembering back to now, they argued, the industry should start creating its oral record now.

The presentation was given on 26 May at the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre, host to the conference.

Hugo Manson also attended, in April 2006, the 'Community Energy: Leading from the Edge' conference in Tarbert, North Harris, Outer Hebrides organised by the Highlands & Islands Community Energy Company. He recorded a number of conference participants with a view to a possible future fuller oral documentation of the development of the renewables industry in Scotland.


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Noted Photographer Joins Project

Significant recognition of the Project has come in the form of a 3 year Arts and Humanities Research Board grant to internationally renown photographer, Owen Logan. Logan is working with Project personnel and using our recorded material on an innovative photographic project.

The first results of this work are on exhibition in the new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. This is a unique collaboration between the sound documentation of one of the most substantial oral history projects of its kind and a visual interpretation through the camera of one of Scotland’s most respected photographers.


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Project Manager Goes Offshore

First hand experience of the North Sea and the voices of working crews added extra realism to the archived collection of tapes held at the University of Aberdeen and the British Library.

Project Manager/Interviewer Hugo Manson spent several days and nights on board the Shell Brent Charlie platform situated to the north east of Shetland.

While there, Manson recorded interviews with several of the staff and made a personal documentation of life aboard one of the North Sea’s giant structures.

Brent Charlie is the largest of the four Brent platforms and was commissioned in 1983. The platform stands on four legs above a substructure of 36 storage cells of 500,000 bbl capacity.

Oil from the Brent field is pumped from Brent Charlie to Cormorant Alpha for export to Sullom Voe in Shetland. Gas from the field is exported to St Fergus.

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Faroe Trip For Senior School Students

The experience of living in an oil capital of young people from an Aberdeen secondary school, the Machar Academy, was shared with counterparts in Faroe during the course of the Lives in the Oil Industry project.

Projet Manager/Interviewer Hugo Manson and Kerry McLintock, a teacher from the St Machar Academy, accompanied senior students on an expedition focussing both on the oil experience and oral history.

On the first day away, the students were given basic training in oral history interviewing. This was followed by two recording sessions with Faroe students in which they shared experiences of growing up in Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe, and Torshaven, the centre of a possible future Faroe oil industry.

The trip, organised by Cultural Co-ordinators, Lorna Dey in Aberdeen and Christian Ihlen in Torshaven, added to the increasing number of links between Aberdeen and Faroe – and resulted in an archive of interviews as a permanent record.

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Department of History · University of Aberdeen · Aberdeen AB24 3FX