Offshore Europe: From Tentie Toon to the AECC

David Stott and Judith Patten - back in the days before email and smart phones
David Stott and Judith Patten - back in the days before email and smart phones

How clear some things that happened nearly 40 years ago are, whereas more recent ones have virtually disappeared from my over-stuffed memory bank. Determining the year of some memories is also tricky!

Offshore Europe 75 was my first. I met David Stott, its creator, in Glasgow when working at a conference on China’s offshore oil industry in late June.

As the Chinese Ambassador had been readily available for interviews journalists disappeared rapidly to file end-of-day stories. So at the conference reception I talked to David, who said: “You must have heard of us, we’re organising the biggest oil show outside America.”

And when I said I hadn’t and perhaps he ought to use me, the answer initially was “no”, but within a fortnight he’d been in touch and I became part of the Offshore Europe/Spearhead Exhibitions team.

Six weeks of frenetic activity, and then I was Aberdeen-bound. I was met at the airport by Bob Barton, editor of “Offshore Services Magazine” launched by him and David.

“I’m taking you past the harbour, you need to know what all the vessel types are,” he said. Gulp! Thankfully no-one asked me!

The 1975 exhibition was at the Bridge of Don, in a series of tents earning it the name “Tentie Toon”. Someone else was running the show press office; and I was based at the conference at the Arts Lecture Theatre at Aberdeen University, with delegates bussed back and forth.

I did see the exhibition and was amazed at the size of it, and the attendance. It rained that year, which meant that if anyone said “Ah Offshore Europe, rain” you could accurately respond: “You must have been in 1975 or 1995” as those were our wet years.

Subsequently, the conference moved to a temporary structure on the barracks side of the exhibition. So I made an appointment to meet the CO some weeks before the show, and was marched across the parade ground by two soldiers, wondering if I was supposed to march in step.

My request: “Please don’t use the firing range during conference hours.”

He kindly agreed.

It was a joy travelling to Aberdeen to visit the expro companies, to urge them to encourage as many of their people to attend the show as possible.

At their request meetings were arranged from the public phone at the airport on arrival “only then will I know what my plans will be”.

Warm welcomes, lists of names to be put on invitation lists were the order of the day.

Much later, we toured the industrial estates with a “registration bus” aboard which people could register; and after that – long before online registration – we had post boxes in all the expro companies with twice daily collections of forms and deliveries of badges.

“When the oil runs out” seemed to be the catch phrase of the late 70s/early 80s.

Judith Patten
Judith Patten

The 1977 conference was, incredibly now, largely involved with tertiary recovery; and later when we published a pre-show newsletter I interviewed a minister and key stakeholders all of whom uttered those immortal words.

My final interview was with Offshore Europe conference chairman, Dave St John of Mesa, who on hearing them banged his desk so violently that, cartoon-like, everything on it jumped.

“This industry will see me out, it will see my children out and their children – the oil industry is here to stay!” said he.

Collections of tents soon gave way to a temporary structure, the Spandrel supplied by Jimmie Milne of Balmoral with the prototype in his garden. It had distinctive yellow and white strips of fabric and offered a clear line of sight across the show for what seemed like miles, but was in fact the size of a great many football pitches. The current De Boer structures followed.

1985: the AECC was built and Mrs Thatcher opened the show. During her exhibition tour it was decided she would hold a press conference.

No mobile phones in those days, so news reached me by runners. I was to set up the press conference, notify the press, and meet her at the door when she arrived by car, while the VIP party rushed back through the exhibition.

My memory? Primarily of asking her if she’d like coffee.

“Yes, strong black and nothing in it,”. . . and then attempting to rush with it without spilling a drop!

Then too there are memories of the P&J energy team – first Ted Strachen, then Dick Mutch and then Jeremy Cresswell.

And a tribute to David Stott who had the passion and belief in a permanent home for Offshore Europe that could be used year in, year out, for the good of Aberdeen, and mortgaged himself up to the hilt to ensure it happened.

He is inspirational!

And once we had both retired from Offshore Europe, with Aberdeen, we went on to create All-Energy. But that’s a whole different story!

To view and buy a wide selection of images from the last 40 years of Offshore Europe, visit PhotoshopScotland or call 01224 343332