March 1989


Blaze Rages on "Jinxed" Oil Rig

Fifty firemen were hoisted 100 feet on to the blazing oil rig Ocean Odyssey at Dundee's Harbour yesterday and battled for several hours through acrid black smoke to put out the flames - pumping thousands of gallons of water from the Tay.

Tayside Firemaster Mr Alex Winton, who personally took control of operations on the "jinxed" rig - brought to Dundee to be scrapped after a fierce North Sea blaze which claimed the life of radio operator - said he men faced "very difficult conditions" on the structure already weakened by the earlier fire.

Yesterday's outbreak erupted in an engine room where workmen from a salvage company were using cutting equipment to demolish the platform. They were all evacuated quickly and safely.

The cause is still under investigation.

"We faced a very, very severe fire in the early stages" said Mr Winton yesterday.

"Firemen had to wear breathing apparatus to combat thick smoke, and choking fumes from residual diesel left on the platform"

The fire fighters also had to cope with the shifting level of the platform in the water, as the tide slowly ebbed during the hazardous operation.

Eleven machines - eight pumping appliances, hydraulic platform, special communications unit and a foam salvage tender - rushed to the spectacular blaze.

Firemen took two hours to bring the flames under control and remained "damping down" for several hours more.

The 50 firemen were lifted on to the platform using a personnel hoist on the rig.

Explaining that the rig had already weakened by the previous fire, Mr Winton said, "A rig like that is always dangerous. In the early stages we had to proceed with great caution.

"It was very hard work in very difficult conditions".

He heard "loud banging noises" as his men trained their water jets on the flames. These, he said, were "the sound of metal buckling in the intense heat"

Mr Winton said a large percentage of his men were already familiar with the rig before arriving to fight the fire, having visited the structure on routine visits while it has been berthed in the Tay.

Despite the fierceness of the fire, he said the blaze would have "very limited financial implications" since the rig was being dismantled for scrap anyway.

He said the damage had been caused to fire hoses which had been dragged through the diesel oil.

This was confirmed by demolition chief Mr Tom Howen, of Grangemouth-based company James White & Partners, who is overseeing scrapping of the mighty rig.

He said later molten metal had set fire to the diesel soaked engine room floor.

"It's already had a fire through it so there was no loss" Mr Howsen added "It's just scrap".

The demolition crew working on the rig will be back aboard on Monday as usual.

The dockside drama began shortly before mid-day when the fire broke out.

Massive columns of thick black smoke, which could be seem as far away as Monifieth, rose hundreds of feet skywards over Craigiebank and West Ferry from the stricken steel giant.

Firemen transversed a walkway between the shore and base of the rig before covering into a small lift which took them to the platform level where the fire had broken out.

A crane at the corner of the Ocean Odyssey was used to lift aboard hose reels and other fire-fighting equipment.

It was some minutes before the firemen could begin to tackle the blaze and flames could be seen briefly as a series of small explosions sent out even greater palls of smoke.

As firemen wearing breathing apparatus brought hose-reels to bears and won the battle to contain the blaze, the flames gradually subsided.

As the wind blew huge streams of smoke up to around 300 feet in the air a number of spectators, many carrying camera's arrived.

Police and port control officials quickly sealed off the wharf area nearest the rig, and traffic was prevented from travelling down Fish Dock Lane and Caledon Street.

By 12.25 p.m. the blaze had been contained and flames could no longer be seen from the dock.

Over the next half hour the smoke billowing from the engine rooms slackened off and gradually changed from black to grey.

By 1.30 p.m. a brigade spokesman said "good progress" was being made in the operation to completely extinguish the flames.

"This was a serious fire in the rig's engine rooms in close proximity to diesel fuel tanks" he explained.

"At one stage three jets were in operation and there were a total of 11 units at the scene - 10 from Dundee and one from Fife.

"I can confirm all rig workers are accounted for and nobody has been injured."

Time Running Out For Dundee Rugby Club?

By Our Rugby Reporter
As the meeting of Dundee and Orleans approached it is perhaps appropriate to reveal that at the top level of the game in Scotland it is felt time may be running out for the city at national league level.

That may be a dramatic interpretation to place on it but it is the bottom-line emanating from a recent conversation with the President of the Scottish Rugby Union Tom Pearson.

As the Howe of Fife man no-one holds the interests of Midlands rugby higher in their list of priorities than the president.
Nor will anyone be amore concerned at last weekend's result which saw Dundee High School F.P.'s chances of promotion to division II killed off while Dunfermline stepped closer to joining Howe in relegation from II.

That sorry scenario mean it looks increasingly likely that Kirkcaldy may be the Midlands' only representatives in the upper reaches of the league next season - and they have only just been promoted.

Not particularly disastrous in itself except when taken in context of the likelihood of league reconstruction in the very near future.

Mr Pearson pointed out that 1991 looks like being the logical time for change.

"We will have to reorganise the leagues that season because of the World Cup so it would seem the obvious time to make permanent changes" he explained.

All of which means?

Well the two most favoured plans for change seem to be for a three-division national league, comprising eight sides in each - or a single national league backed by several district leagues, with play-offs each year, similar to English football, for one promotional spot into the national set-up.

Clearly them the largest number of sides in the national leagues would be 24 - namely the then first division plus the top ten sides from the second division.

Such a development is seen as essential to ensure that Scotland's top players meet each other regularly.

Current Scotland skipper Findlay Calder is an influential proponent of an abbreviated, higher quality, league season.

"Once the international season comes around our best players should be in a position to concentrate on it" he argues.

Which is all very well for Scotland - but as things stand not too hot for the Midlands, or for that matter its sister district the north.

The possibility of isolating the combined districts - and indeed the trend towards the omnipotence of the "vortex of Edinburgh" as mooted by David Leslie and which has already sucked in so many top Midlands players - is something the S.R.U. is not aware of.

"We see Dundee and Aberdeen as priority areas for development" said Mr Pearson, a statement backed by the S.R.U.'s assistant technical administrator Dougie Arneil's recent comment that Dundee, in particular, is the ripest area in the country for development.

"I am a supporter of the Dundee Rugby Club," said the president. "I would very much like to see something come of it".

Yet despite such high-level support it is clear that unless the city is to go backwards in rugby terms, change is required almost immediately.

If a Dundee club is to be in the right place when reorganisation comes, promotion from division III has to be gained next year and the following year a position well up division II must be achieved.

If all our clubs have to go back to the district leagues before a Dundee club becomes a full-time entity then it will make change even harder to come by.

Ironically Aberdeen, relatively reticent as regards the creation of a community club, finds itself, almost by default, better placed.

High School F.P's defeat last Saturday means that Gordonians will be the side to join Kirkcaldy in division II and that gives the Granite City a far superior platform if such a side was to be started in the town.

Presto, Dundee

Open this Sunday
19th March - 10am - 5pm
Free box of Quality Street
(lb box work 1.05)
When you spend 20 or more
Valid only on Sunday 19th March, 1989.
Wishing you a Happy Easter
Arbroath Road, Dundee.

Taysiders Anxious to Cash in on Cheaper Unleaded Petrol

The rush for unleaded is on!
With the words of Chancellor Nigel Lawson's budget still echoing around the halls of Westminster, the country's garages are already beginning to feel the effects.

As the price of unleaded fuel is to be set at 10p less than that of ordinary four star, Tayside garage proprietors are being inundated with queries about conversion.

Mr Jack Cairns of Halfords Superstore, Dundee, said "We have received numerous inquiries, both by phone and through people coming in.

"We have made many bookings to convert vehicles and have in fact already completed a conversion today".

Many motorists have jumped at the incentive offer by Mr Lawson, but as Mr Ian McIIdowie of Barnett's in Riverside Drive explained, "There are a lot of cars that can already take unleaded petrol without any work needed.

"The phone has hardly stopped ringing today. We have made a few bookings for unleaded conversions, but have also surprised a few people by telling them that their cars are already geared to run on the new fuel".

A spokesperson for Tayford in Balfield Road said "We have been inundated with inquiries since we opened this morning. People seem genuinely interested in converting their cars into taking unleaded".

The process which enables the engine to run on a different grade of fuel depends on the vehicle concerned. For some lucky motorists, no work is necessary, while for others new parts may be required.

For the majority of vehicles, however, the good news is that all that's needed to convert the engine is a simple re-tuning.

Housing Office Staff Go Back

Normal working resumed at Dundee's housing offices yesterday after Tuesday's strike by 300 staff.

As staff returned to their desks trade union officials met senior members of the Labour administration in the City Chambers.

Afterwards administration leader Mary Ward said the meeting to try to settle a dispute over the grading of 22 new cash collecting post had been "useful".

Mr James Cochrane, branch secretary, NALGO, the main union involved, echoed Mrs Ward's remarks. He could not say if yesterday's meeting marked the end of the dispute, explaining he would first have to report details of the talks to his members.

The row, which also includes proposals to extend opening hours at housing offices, centres on the employment of 22 new personnel to meet the extra work for the introduction of the community charge.

The administration say the posts, which have not yet been filled, should be graded the same as around 40 other council staff engaged in cash collection duties, while the unions want the posts to be one grade higher in recognition of the greater flexibility which will be expected.

During Tuesday's strike the unions arranged emergency cover for the homeless unit.

Top Ten


1 - Belfast Child?..Simple Minds
2 - Leave me Alone?..Michael Jackson
3 - Love Changes Everything?..Michael Ball
4 - Stop?..Sam Brown
5 - Help?..Bananarama 
6 - Hey, Music Lover?..S-Express
7 - I Don't Want a Lover?..Texas
8 - My Prerogative?..Bobby Brown
9 - Too Many Broken Hearts?..Jason Donovan
10 - Can't Stay Away from You?..Gloria Estefan


1 - A New Flame?..Simple Red
2 - Big Area?..Then Jericho
3 - Remote?..Hue and Cry
4 - The Raw and the Cooked?..The Fine Young Cannibals
5 - Ancient Heart?.. Tanita Tikaram
6 - Buster Film Soundtrack?..Various Artists
7 - The Marquee 30 Legendary Years?..Various Artists
8 - Spike?..Elvis Costello
9 - Technique?..New Order
10 - And All Because the Lady Loves?..Various Artists

*Charts supplied by Our Price Music, Wellgate Centre, Dundee.

Police Presence Puzzle Explained

Dundonians who were out and about in the Forfar Road area yesterday morning were alarmed to see two police traffic cars and several uniformed officers making their presence known between Finty Road and the Kingsway roundabout.

Several people out walking their dogs, going for the papers etc., at about 10 a.m., were somewhat perturbed, as the officers didn't seem to be doing anything - just standing still and silent.

All was later made clear when a police spokesman for Tayside Police explained that a number of prisoners were being transferred from Peterhead Prison to Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison.

He said that when prisoners who were categorised as "dangerous" have to be transferred, it was standard procedure to ask the police to man several key points along the route, as precaution just in case of any rescue or escape attempts.

In yesterday's case, police from Grampian, Tayside, Lothian and Borders, Central and Strathclyde forces would have been involved in keeping an eye on the escorted prison van as it pass through their area.

Normally such operations are carried out between 8 a.m. and noon during the week.

Timber-home Dwellers Call for Council Action

Residents in St Mary's and Downfield have petitioned Dundee District Council to take immediate action to remedy "the appalling conditions" of the timber built houses in the area.

Representatives of the Action 88 residents group presented a petition with over 250 signatures at City Chambers on Saturday, protesting at the poor conditions of housing in the area.

The group, who emphasise that their arguments are not driven by politics, say they are simply geared towards raising the standards of the area.

They are campaigning for an improvement in the conditions of both housing and the environment in the St Mary's and Downfield areas of Dundee - for both council tenants and home-owners.

The petition calls for an upgrading of the timber housing stock in the area.

A spokesman for the group said a survey two years ago had indicated that extensive repairs were required to the timber houses.

"Two years later the condition of these houses has been progressively worse. They and now appalling" he said.

Angered by what local residents see as years of neglect and their elected councillors failure to represent them properly, members of the Action 88 lodged the petition, demanding, amongst other things, that a decision be made to replace all doors and windows and to repair all damaged internal and external walls.

A spokeswoman for the council said last night that they were unaware as yet that the petition had been handed in on Saturday.

"However, we are well aware of the concern felt by the residents in the area, and have had discussions in the past about the problems

"The council will be more than happy to sit down again with representatives of Action 88 to explain our plans for the future" she added.