Today marks the 34th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster that claimed the lives of 167 people working in the North Sea. A service was held at Aberdeen’s Hazlehead park memorial gardens to remember those lost in the tragedy.
The service of remembrance was conducted by Gordon Craig, chaplain to the oil and gas industry. He said: “It’s important to remember every year because, for those who lost a loved one, the years mean virtually nothing, their loved one is still remembered in their hearts, they still remember them, hopefully with fond memories but also at times with sadness.
“I think for the community to gather to show that we also remember their loss is important and show our support and our willingness to try to do everything in our power to ensure something like this never happens again.”
Despite rain in the city of Aberdeen in the morning and clouds gathering over Hazlehead Park on the buildup to the service, the sun came out and stayed throughout the reading of the names of those who lost their lives on 6th July 1988.
Around 70 people were in attendance to hear Gordon Craig’s service and the subsequent reading of all the victims of the Piper Alpha disaster’s names.
Shane Gorman was one of those who read the names of the deceased, including that of his father Dave Gorman.
This was the first year Shane took part in the service, he said: “I lost my father when I was 18 and a half, I’ve travelled up from Edinburgh with my two sons aged 16 and 14 so they can see how important this is to keep the memory alive every year of all those lost in the tragedy that happened all those years ago.”
Shane changed careers at age 40 to work in offshore safety, the same role his father worked in. He said he decided to “follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
Steve Rae, chairman of the Pound for Piper Trust said: “Today, it might just be another year on but it’s clear from the turnout today that it means more than ‘it’s just a year’.
“To many of the people that were here today and it was great to see such a good turnout for the service this year.
“For me, it was in particularly poignant because we had Shane Gorman, who lost his father on the Piper 34 years ago, reading the names with us and I think that very courageous of Shane to do that and I appreciate him doing that and I know it must have been helpful for him also.
“The sun came out for us and it turned out to be a great service.”
Those in attendance
A number of the people at the memorial service chose to give a statement to Energy Voice. This is what they had to say.
John Reilly: “We come up here once every couple of years, my brother-in-law was killed in the Piper Alpha, he was one of the ones whose body was never found.
“I worked up there myself for while but fortunately I wasn’t there when the tragedy happened. It’s very important to remember, he was a very nice person.
“We came up here for the 25th anniversary and my sister had cancer, Jim’s wife, and she wanted to come up here for the last time, she passed away in October that same year. The whole family was up that time, it’s very important to remember so it never happens again.”
James Bruce: “I worked on the Piper but I was only on there for a few months, about three months before it happened.
“A few of my friends, sparkies, it was all sparkies that had just moved over there from another platform. It was just people I knew, you know?
“So I’ve always come up here every year just for the memorial.”
Gus Kessack: “I worked on the piper 11 years until it blew up, most of the guys on board I know.
“Young guys, we were all around the same age, 40 years old, 42, 41, thereabouts. I come here every year, just to remembrance sign, a sign of respect.”
Anonymous contributor: “My company were working on the Piper so I knew a lot of the guys so I think it’s only right to come and pay my respects, maybe meet a couple of the guys I know that survived who I think will be here today.
“So it’s still a sad occasion, even all these years later.”
Steve Grant, head of HSE for Spirit Energy: “We’re here because we believe that it’s important that we don’t forget this.
“The offshore oil and gas industry, unless we manage the risks properly, its a dangerous and unforgiving environment for people to work in and I think any proactive organisation doesn’t forget and participating in this service today helps us remember and keep driving for safety excellence.”
All over social media people are sharing messages of remembrance for those who lost their lives at Piper Alpha.
Some have chosen to queue posts for 10 pm tonight, the time that the Piper Alpha disaster started. Others, including Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, Greg Hands posted during the day, saying: “Our thoughts today are with the survivors and the friends & relatives of those who died in this awful tragedy.
“I was at university at the time and will never forget the sombre news. We also thank all those working offshore now for our energy. Safety must always come first. ”
Our thoughts today are with the survivors and the friends & relatives of those who died in this awful tragedy.
I was at university at the time and will never forget the sombre news.
We also thank all those working offshore now for our energy. Safety must always come first. https://t.co/JpOmhs6vTx
— Greg Hands (@GregHands) July 6, 2022