I really can not let Bil Loth’s passing be finished with a single commentary. There just had to be more. Yesterday my wife Jane and I went to his ‘remembrance’ gathering. What else would you call an event when many of your friends, colleagues and most of your family gather to drink a bit of beer, eat marvelous Indian (and I mean real Indian) food and reminisce about the idiosyncracies of your varied life.
As I spent so much time with Bil – probably the equivalent of a month a year for nearly a decade – I thought I must have heard all of his stories. Not even close. There were so many things I did not know. He was such a tearaway in school that he hijacked one set of teachers’ paychecks (his father was school treasurer) and would not tell where they were for two days. Like he was a heavy metal fan – who knew? And that he was such a lover of Shiner Bock – the one Texan beer worth drinking even if it is always served too cold – that he demanded a case of it in his final few days.
What I failed to mention in my first piece about Bil was his love of motor vehicles. I once did an interview with him for Upstream and the adjoining photo had to be of him with one of his fleet of vintage – but not necessarily operational – vehicles, now in the possession of one of his sons. Yesterday, I met a friend of one son who was part of the crew who used to go to LeMans for its famous car race. Assuredly that would have been a highlight of any year for him.
What yesterday’s gathering brought to mind were a number of other senior – but apparently still kicking – subsea pioneers whose names were associated with Bil. Preston Mason was one (or maybe THE) founder of Seaflo Systems in Houston who helped form one of the most significant UK front-end engineering companies of the mid-1980’s, Seaflo Pell Frischmann. According to a story repeated yesterday, Mason was another petrol head, known to have been driving around the UK in a vintage souped-up Bentley, which was described as ‘a Spitfire on four wheels’.
Another ‘vintage’ subsea engineer was Tom Childers, also a member of Esso’s original SPS team who later was here working on the UMC. He had the distinction, though, of also working on the third of that family of subsea systems, the Snorre SPS. In the early 1990’s, operator Saga Petroleum was still a pretty green company and it needed a technical advisory partner. If I remember correctly it was down to Conoco whose expertise was in tension leg platforms and Esso who had the subsea experience. The latter got the job and so Childers was involved in the child and then the grandchild of the SPS. What was quite funny was that this morning I tried to find out where Childers is these days, but there are so many Tom Childers in the US that I could not locate him. Many Tom Childers, but only one Bil Loth.