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Folklife Festival 2003 > Scotland > Occupation > Oil
Scotland / North Sea Oil

There's harbours to be built lad, an' rigs to tow an' tilt,
That sit upon the ocean bed like pylons in the sea.
There's piplines to be laid an' a hundred different trades
That'll give a decent livin' wage to the like o' you an' me.
—Lyrics from "Men of Worth," by Archie Fisher
In 1969 giant oil and gas fields were discovered under the North Sea off the northern coast of Scotland. This event had a dramatic impact on both the British economy and the culture of North East Scotland. Off-shore drilling platforms or "rigs" were need to reach the oil and to house hundreds of workers who kept them pumping 24 hours a day. An intricate system of boats, helicopters, and suppliers maintains the rigs, and much of it is based in the ancient Scottish port city of Aberdeen.

Before oil was first pumped ashore from "The Forties" field in 1975, northern Scotland and the Shetland and Orkney Islands relied heavily on fishing and farming - traditional ways of life that were already economically struggling.

The oil boom brought new jobs, new money, new opportunities, and oil workers from around the world. It also brought new challenges to local culture, as the lives of thousands of Scots in previously remote northern coastal towns and islands were daily affected by the demands and the economic ups and downs of the oil industry. Scotland's oil and gas fields are expected to produce oil well into the 21st century.

Coming to the Festival...
Off-Shore Oil Industry

—In collaboration with oral historians Hugo Manson and Terry Brotherstone of The Oil Lives Research Project at the University of Aberdeen, we have invited off-shore oil workers Dennis Krahn, Alexa Reid, and Bob Ballantyne to attend the Festival to talk about their lives and experiences on the North Sea rigs. The display will feature models of off-shore oil rigs and examples of specialized tools to give visitors a sense of what life is like for Scottish oil-field workers and the impact of the industry on the culture of North East Scotland.

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