Over a period of eight hours, with two other members of the crew of the diving support vessel, Lowland Cavalier, MacKay, in a small fibreglass workboat, braved intense heat, explosions, and falling debris, and went on to save three of Piper Alpha’s crew, despite suffering burns to his nose, hand, and right eye.
Piper Alpha was a North Sea oil production platform, operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Limited from 1976. Located approximately 120 miles off the north-east coast of Aberdeen, Scotland, Piper Alpha was originally an oil only platform but had later converted to add gas production. At 21.55 hours on 6 July 1988 leaking gas ignited, causing the first of a series of catastrophic explosions that would eventually totally destroy the platform. Of the crew of 226 who were on the platform on the night of the 6 July, 165 died and 61 were saved. A further 2 rescuers from the standby vessels, also died. At the time of the disaster, the platform accounted for approximately 10% of North Sea oil and gas production, and was the worst offshore oil disaster in terms of lives lost and industry impact.
On the evening of the disaster, Ian MacKay was serving as Second in Command of the diving support vessel, Lowland Cavalier, which was stationed off Piper Alpha, laying cable. At the time of the first explosion aboard the rig, MacKay, along with two other members of the crew, immediately boarded the Lowland Cavalier’s small fibreglass workboat and made for the rig. On reaching the rig, they were able to pick up two survivors before there was another huge explosion, resulting in a fireball rolling over the small craft. Pulling off with the engine full astern, the heat was so intense that MacKay and his crew had to jump into the water, hanging onto the workboat as best they could until free from the fire. Despite suffering burns to his nose, hand and right eye from the explosion, MacKay and crew would continue their search for survivors for the next eight hours, often dodging flames and falling debris.
For their Gallantry during the disaster, MacKay and his crew on the Lowland Cavalier’s workboat, Chris Dunwoody and Peter Thomas, were each awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. They were presented with their medals by H.M. the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 12 March 1991. MacKay was also presented with a Shipping Industry Numast award.
Christopher Mellor-Hill, Head of Client Liaison (Associate Director) of Dix, Noonan, Webb, commented: “The Queen’s Gallantry Medal was instituted in 1974 as primarily an award to civilians for ‘exemplary acts of bravery’, though the Q.G.M can be awarded to military personnel where the bravery performed would not be deemed suitable for a military decoration. The Q.G.M is a scarce award and are only sparingly awarded.”
He goes on to say: “The recipient has decided to sell it as he wanted the Piper Alpha story to be remembered and best while he is still alive and compos mentis to make this decision as he has more than one grandchild and the medal cannot be split between them to pass on!”
He finished: “We think that a collector of life saving bravery awards to Scottish recipients will be interested in his story and the Q.G.M.”
FULL CATALOGUING AVAILABLE
Due to the current COVID 19 situation, this auction will be online only and there will be no room bidding available. Customers are able to bid live online (DNW make no additional charge for this service) or leave commission bids prior to the auction.
FORTHCOMING SALES AT DNW
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2 - COINS AND HISTORICAL MEDALS
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24 – BRITISH, IRISH AND WORLD BANKNOTES
TUESDAY, MARCH 2 - COINS, TOKENS AND HISTORICAL MEDALS
TUESDAY, MARCH 16 - JEWELLERY, WATCHES, ANTIQUITIES & OBJECTS OF VERTU
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17 - ORDERS, DECORATIONS, MEDALS AND MILITARIA
Free online bidding is available is www.dnw.co.uk
For more information, please call 020 7016 1700
DNW are on Social Media
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Dix Noonan Webb – a brief history
In 1991, its first year of trading, the company held three medal auctions and sold 1,200 lots for a total hammer price of £553,000. Two years later it opened a coin department which also auctions commemorative medals and tokens and in 2015 DNW added jewellery to its sales calendar. In 2018, it set up a standalone banknotes department and expanded into premises next door. In the same year, DNW achieved a total hammer price of £11,676,580 and the total number of lots across all departments was 20,273. To date the company has sold in excess of 300,000 lots totalling £155 million.
For further press information and images please contact:
Rachel Aked - Tel: 07790732448/ Email: Rachel@rachelaked.co.uk