They were more accustomed to the green baize of snooker than the black oil extracted from the North Sea on giant oil platforms.
So it was a step into the unknown when three leading snooker stars, including Scotland’s Stephen Hendry – the most successful player in the game’s history – flew out to Total’s Alwyn North platform, 100 miles east of Shetland, to meet the workforce and exchange tips and tricks in the winter of 1992.
Hendry, the Queensferry-born maestro who went on to secure seven global titles and was No 1 in the rankings until 1998, was joined by Ireland’s Dennis Taylor, who edged out Steve Davis in the most-watched world snooker final ever staged at the Crucible in 1985 and England’s Mike Hallett, who led Hendry 7-0 at the Masters final in 1991 but, incredibly, lost the match 9-8.
And it’s fair to say, as they cast aside their bow ties and waistcoats and donned luminous red survival suits, prior to making the two-hour trip offshore, that this was a big break from the trio’s normal routine.
As you might expect, Taylor was in exuberant form during the flying visit to one of the UK’s most northerly oil installations and cracked plenty of jokes with the 180 workers who were happy for an escape from the January gloom.
While on the Total Oil Marine platform, he and his colleagues took part in exhibition matches, demonstrated their trickery at the table, signed autographs and provided a glimpse into their life on the snooker circuit.
Hallett, who had never ventured anywhere as northerly before, said: “This is the other side of snooker.
“It is a little bit out of the ordinary but it’s a trip into the unknown and it makes a nice change from all the serious stuff.”
The world-class trio, fresh from participating in the Mercantile Credit Classic tournament – where Davis defeated Hendry 9-8 in a thrilling climax at the Bournemouth international Centre – relished the opportunity to spread the gospel and parade their skills in an unusual environment.
Yet, as Taylor remarked later, he was used to practising behind closed doors in near darkness with few others for company – in the same way as Hendry emerged from the bowels of the John Spencer Snooker Club in Stirling – and they soon formed a bond with the workers on the massive floating structure.
However, within the space of a few hours, they left the site and moved on to another booking: one that also offered youngsters in the north-east of Scotland the chance to rub shoulders with some of the sport’s stellar figures.
During the same visit, the casually-dressed players met up with 12 teenagers at the Easter Anguston Training Farm in Peterculter and the latter swapped their shovels for cues, prior to being whisked away on a magical mystery tour.
The Press & Journal reported: “It was thanks to the efforts of Total Oil Marine that the once-in-a-lifetime meeting took place.
“After hearing how keen the lads were on snooker, Peter Staite, head of the company’s PR department in Aberdeen, invited them to come and meet the players as they returned from a whirlwind trip to the Alwyn North platform.
“It was smiles all round when the helicopter arrived in the Granite City to cheers from the trainees. The youngsters were clearly delighted to meet the trio and have a chance to swap snooker stories and find out more.
“After signing autographs, giving tips and cracking jokes, the players sped off to practise their game while the trainees rounded off a memorable day with a guided tour of the heliport.”
It might just have been another public relations assignment for the players.
But the joy they left behind testified to the life-affirming power of sport.