It has been a real pleasure to work with Jill on producing this great little video series also featured in the Doric TV pages of this website (click here to view). She does a wonderful job of putting people at ease and getting them talking.

I hope this story will be of interest to residents of the Northeast of Scotland and perhaps also to many much further afield who have an interest in what goes on in these parts and/or simply an interest in energy transitions and oil industry history.

For those of you who regularly watch DoricTV, you’ll notice straight away that I’m no Doric Speaker. I love the land and the people here, and I have made it my home, but I was brought up on the southern side of that great geologic feature known as the Highland Boundary Fault. I can, however, claim a tenuous connection to the area since my grandfather worked on a farm called Nether Mains in Glencarse on the north banks of the Tay between Perth and Dundee, and within a mile of the Hawkstone that originally marked the boundary of the lands of the Earls of Errol before they gained the lands of Slains after supporting Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Barra (near Oldmeldrum) against John Comyn, Earl of Buchan and at the Battle of Bannockburn against the English King, Edward II.

My grandfather also spoke what is now considered to be Lowland Scots or “Lallans”, which is very similar to, and comes from essentially the same roots, as the Doric of north-east Scotland.

I lived in the Old Congregational Manse in Cruden Bay, built on land given to the church by the Earl of Errol, for over 16 years. Having studied chemical engineering at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh and starting my final year as the first Forties oil production was arriving at Cruden Bay, I joined Amoco (UK) Exploration Company in Great Yarmouth (where the tin-hat photo of the “young me” comes from) and became a petroleum engineer. I later worked in Houston, London, Trinidad in the West Indies and, of course, Aberdeen. After spending half my career with an oil major, I escaped their corporate clutches and focussed on specialist engineering consulting work and training delivery, even spending a few years on staff at the Robert Gordon University Energy Centre before setting up my own company.

Since school days, I have had a love of history and what it tells us about how people behave, and societies develop. In retirement, I can now pursue that interest again, and where better to start than in my own back yard. The energy in Buchan is truly amazing!

As the oil industry hands over the baton of energy supply to the renewable and hydrogen industries of the future, it is a good time to look back and reflect on how we got to where we are today and what we might learn to help us move forward into an exciting new era.

I hope you will enjoy the additional notes, photos and articles on oil industry history that I have posted here.

Episode 1

13th July 2021

This first of 3 episodes telling the story of Cruden Bay’s connection to Energy Transitions and Oil industry History covers an introduction to past and present energy transitions together with the story of initial oil exploration activities, onshore, in the UK between the 1st and 2nd World Wars.  This included the discovery of the first oilfield in Scotland, in Midlothian, south of Edinburgh.  An important role in this was played by Viscount Cowdray who made his home at Dunecht in Aberdeenshire.  He left his name on several buildings in Aberdeen – example of oil wealth flowing into Aberdeen 50 years before North Sea Oil started flowing.

Episode 2

19th July 2021

This second of 3 episodes telling the story of Cruden Bay’s connection to Energy Transitions and Oil industry History covers the period of the first North Sea Oil and Natural Gas discoveries, with companies like Burmah, Philips, BP, Shell and Hamilton Brothers vying to be the first to strike oil and bring it to shore. They spent a fortune betting on success and pushing the frontiers of technology in a notoriously harsh environment. Their success also rescued the UK economy from some serious distress. This episode also covers the arrival of the Forties Pipeline in Cruden Bay and some personal anecdotes giving the industry a human face.

Episode 3

19th July 2021

This third of 3 episodes telling the story of Cruden Bay’s connection to Energy Transitions and Oil industry History provides an update on the significance of the lines arriving in Cruden Bay. They have remained virtually invisible for almost 50 years now under the glorious beach, golf course and sea cliff environment of Cruden Bay. Closing comments reflect on the impact and importance of the oil industry on our living standards over the past 100years, even as we move on into another exciting energy transition, which is itself enabled by the same skills and technologies first developed in bringing the oil ashore to Cruden Bay. Reference is also made to “The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil” and to DoricTV’s own Jill McWilliam, whose dad sold the land for the pumping station to BP.

Cruden Bay and its connections to energy transitions and oil industry history

Supplemental notes:

• These notes are intended as a supplement to the DoricTV videos on “Cruden Bay; Energy Transitions and Oil Industry History, filmed in June 2021.
• It has not been written like a book, rather it is a series of “bullet point” notes, organised roughly along an historic timeline.
• The notes do not correspond exactly with the video, as the information in the video is radically condensed and, occasionally, slightly reordered to better fit the shorter version.
• The video is a collection of single shots, without rehearsal or precise pre-planning of the filming locations. It is a credit to Jill of Doric TV, who was behind the camera, that it ended up looking so good. We’re also thankful for the good weather! It required a lot of “thinking on my feet” and reorganising of information “on the fly” on my part, in order to retain a reasonably smooth flow for the story line. There is an old joke about a supposed proverb that says that the quickest way to make a small fortune (the video) is to start with a large fortune (these notes)!
• The videos are intended for a general audience and so a lot of detail is left out. There may be some who have worked in the oil industry who would like to know more. Perhaps the video has prompted debates with friends and colleagues about who was actually first to do this, that, or the other, as the North Sea developed into a major oil province. This is for you! It may be too much information for many others.
• I stand to be corrected if I have something wrong. I have done my best to research the information provided but, since this is not an academic work, I have chosen not include an extensive list of my references here. I decided that the time, effort and consequent delay to publication, now the videos are live, is not justified. They would also make an already lengthy document even larger. I am happy, however, to answer queries on individual points.
• Typographical errors etc are fully my responsibility and I apologise in advance for any that may be found. When I were a lad, we wrote longhand and nimble fingered ladies typed it up and corrected the spelling! At time we brought tears to their eyes, but I blame the onion skin paper used to produce copies while typing……
• This first edition of the notes comes without photographs. I plan to update the document shortly with some of my own photos and possibly website references where use of other photographs may present copyright issues.
• The usual copyright laws apply to this work, and I retain my rights over it.

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