An Explorer’s Tale

ebook published Jan 2016
12 Chapters 4 Maps 247 Pages


The 1970’s are frequently portrayed against the backdrop of the declining coal industry – a time of strikes, power cuts and ballooning inflation. But it was also the time when multi-billion barrel oilfields were being discovered in the North Sea. ‘Oil!’ Is the personal story of twenty years of professional exploration in Canada, the North Sea and Indonesia.

'OIL An Explorer’s Tale’ is about a career. It offers a unique account of the North Sea and the political backdrop against which a state company was formed, operated as Britain’s national oil company and was then privatised. It also describes the excitement of the first big oil finds in UK waters, of the discovery of the Ninian field, of onshore and offshore rigs, of tool-pushers, of roughnecks, roustabouts and of Billy Pughs. At a higher but no less rumbustious level, it describes interaction at professional and executive level with some of the well-known players of the time (Lord Kearton, Ian Clarke, Sir Alastair Morton, Sir Philip Shelbourne). It is a working life at the receiving end of political influences (Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher). It was a time when the general public saw only rocketing inflation, civil unrest and IRA bombs. But it was also a time when, out of view in the North Sea, ‘the major project of the 1970’s and 1980’s’ was quietly transforming the economic fortunes of the United Kingdom

‘OIL! An Explorer’s Tale’ is also about the joys and sadness of family life over two exciting decades that began in Western Canada, moved to London, experienced a demanding job, a large house, a small boat and nine years in Scotland, embraced China, the United States and the Soviet Union, lived the expatriate life in Indonesia and ended (as far as this book is concerned) in Beijing and the South of France. It is dedicated to my wife Elaine, to daughters Sally and Nina and, in absentia, to Marcella. And to all those who helped her, and us, along the way.

Chapter Headings for OIL! An Explorer’s Tale

1967-1970 the Texaco Canada Years – ‘the gamble’


  • CHAPTER ONE: Chess Pieces

1971-1976 the Burmah London Years – ‘black gold & hubris’

  • CHAPTER TWO: Low Hanging Fruit

  • CHAPTER THREE: The Chinthes Fail

1977-1982 the BNOC Glasgow Years – ‘Hello Comrades’

  • CHAPTER FOUR: North Britain


1982-1986 the Britoil Glasgow Years – ‘We’re both Awk – Mr and Mrs’

  • CHAPTER SIX: Sole Risk & Siberia

  • CHAPTER SEVEN: A Call in the Night


1987-1988 the Britoil Indonesia Years – ‘the Spice Islands’/p>

  • CHAPTER NINE: Nights of gin-and-tonic

  • CHAPTER TEN: Endgame


Plot Spoilers for OIL! An Explorer's Tale

Travels and professional memoir of an oil company executive and family.
Rise and fall of Burmah Oil, of the British National Oil Company and of Britoil .
Players and politics of North Sea oil (Benn, Kearton, Morton, Shelbourne and others).
Loving, educating and losing a visually handicapped child