David may have left us but he has left behind a huge legacy. He died on Saturday 14 January 2017 in the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, following a sudden massive heart attack in Dubai on 31 December 2016, aged 57. He left us far too early…..and still had lots more to give. As he put it, “I’ve still got the juice”!
David was a wonderful man, with a huge heart, great sense of humour who helped anyone who came to his door. He was loved, and hugely respected, within the oil and gas industry and beyond, and this Foundation is set up by his loving wife, Gillian, as a tribute of affection and respect.
David left school with no qualifications - and as a youngster he had many challenges in his personal life. He was excluded from school and told that he was ‘heading for the borstal’. He worked from a very early age to help support his family and continued to work all through his school age years.
David knew he was smart despite receiving no encouragement during his school years and he had an inner strength to survive and self-belief to succeed. Borstal was not an option! Instead, he took an apprenticeship with Taylor & Fraser and attended Reid Kerr and Telford Further Education Colleges where he thrived and twice won Apprentice of the Year for Pipefitting, Fabrication and Welding when in his late teens. He started to find himself and loved ‘being on the spanners’ as he put it.
David saw his future as an offshore worker. He started in the yards before moving offshore to do the hook-ups of the oil platforms. He worked on major projects in the North Sea for more than 25 years before moving onshore in the mid-90s to lead on maintenance support contracts as a business unit operations manager with KBR. He loved his time offshore.
Later in his life he became a passionate believer in education – he firmly believed that - in his words - ‘no education, no chances’. He was a massive advocate of Lifelong Learning as his early experience of the education system was not a positive one due to his fractured early life. In later years, he worked steadily to broaden his knowledge and experience, including returning to education in his 30s and 40s to study for an MSc at University during his periods back onshore and then studied for his Management Degree with the Open University.
Career-wise, it was OPITO that became his passion and his driver. He joined OPITO (the Oil and Gas Industry’s Standards and Skills body) in 1999 as head of the audit team as he felt by working for them he could make a difference. He became their Chief Executive Officer aged 45 in April 2005. In David’s own words “now we are rocking - not bad considering I had no school qualifications”. Reflecting on his huge business success he used to joke “so glad I never stuck in at school!”
David was a vocal champion of OPITO, a much-respected oil and gas industry leader, a firm advocate of social responsibility; and a trusted colleague and friend to many. His straight-talking approach, determination and passionate belief that all oil and gas workers regardless of their job role, their employer or their nationality should be able to go to work and return home safely at the end of the day, helped drive positive change in countless countries around the world and inspired great loyalty.
Under David’s leadership, OPITO supported initiatives to attract people to the industry and empower people around the world, including a transformational international higher education programme with the Open University and schemes in Africa and India to address the chronic shortage of teachers and increase pathways into education for women. The Open University have recently honoured David in their Garden of Remembrance for his contribution to this life changing work which has changed the lives of thousands of individuals.
As OPITO grew under his leadership, he relocated to the United Arab Emirates, over-seeing the organisation’s growth into new markets and the establishment of its first overseas offices in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Houston and Cyprus.
He was also a driver for change when it came to mentoring and opening doors for young people and was a champion of the UK oil and gas industry’s modern apprenticeship scheme since its launch in 1999, working with employers and the industry to ensure that career opportunities continued to exist.
He was massively - and rightly - proud of all of this.
David also had a wonderful gift of making everyone he met feel so special. He loved people. He had a massive generosity of spirit and vibrancy towards others which greatly enriched many people’s lives, all over the world. Wherever he went; he interacted with people, taking an interest in them, asking after them and treating everyone as one and the same.
Such a vibrant energetic force of nature cannot just die and his wife, Gillian, passionately believes that it is important for her husband’s memory and legacy to live on. Click on the Causes the Foundation Supports to learn more.