Oil dis­as­ter re­called sad fam­ily mem­o­ries

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Letters -

Sir — On the morn­ing of Jan­uary 8, 1979, I was on a night shift at Great Is­land Power Sta­tion in Co Wex­ford, work­ing as an op­er­at­ing tech­ni­cian look­ing af­ter one of Ire­land’s largest steam tur­bine gen­er­a­tors of the time, the 120mw Unit 3.

About 6.30am, I turned on the ra­dio in the con­trol room to lis­ten to RTE’s early morn­ing news bul­letin. The head­line item was the Whiddy Is­land dis­as­ter, the ex­plo­sion of the oil tanker Betel­geuse in Bantry Bay, with the loss of many lives.

Af­ter the ini­tial shock had worn off, I tele­phoned my fa­ther with the news. My rea­son stemmed from sev­eral years pre­vi­ously when my dad was called to the High Court in Dublin — up against ‘wigs and gowns’, while John Bald­win rep­re­sented him­self — to be hum­bled (de­spite the sym­pa­thy of the judge) by the le­gal peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing the Gulf Oil com­pany.

Gulf Oil had de­nied my fa­ther any com­pen­sa­tion af­ter a pre­vi­ous spillage of oil into Bantry Bay, when my fa­ther had been buy­ing her­rings from the lo­cal skiffs and pro­cess­ing the salted fish into bar­rels.

All of John Bald­win’s fish on the pier at Bantry had been de­clared ‘con­demned’ by a lo­cal heath in­spec­tor, and around 20 tonnes ready for ship­ping to Hol­land had to be de­stroyed.

I will re­mem­ber un­til my dy­ing day my fa­ther’s words af­ter that ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent at the Whiddy Is­land: “I only lost my liveli­hood, Thomas, but those poor men have lost their lives, lost ev­ery­thing, and all be­cause of Gulf Oil’s con­tin­ued in­ep­ti­tude and care­less­ness.” Tom Bald­win, Mi­dle­ton, Co Cork

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.