There is much to see in Aberdeen’s city center. A stone colonnade along Union Street beckons visitors into an old churchyard (kirkyard), leading to the Kirk of St. Nicholas Uniting, Church of Scotland. Established in the 12th century, this is the Mither Kirk (mother church) of Aberdeen and its history chronicles the life of the community through the centuries. When you enter the stone edifice, your eye is drawn to a vibrant stained glass window at the far end of the north transept. As you enjoy the play of colors and light streaming through the glass, you cannot fail to note two oil platforms with flare booms in the center of the artwork, seemingly incongruous. But this is the “Oil Chapel,“ or St. John’s Chapel, named for the patron saint of oil workers. The chapel is delimited by a wooden screen and contemporary wooden furniture, designed and worked by the late Tim Stead MBE, a Scottish craftsman. His widow Maggy said in an interview that he

"...made a series of chairs, the communion table and the screen. The idea of the ‘Strata’ design is that it echoes the geological strata of the earth. The initials of the wood used in the strata also spells out the words ‘We remember you’ (walnut, elm/ rowan, elm, maple, elm, maple, beech, elm rowan and a thin strip of yew)."
"Light, serene and elegant, the woodwork in St. John’s Chapel is both original and unforgettable," said Dr. Jane Geddes. Oil Chapel window by Shona McInnesLocal artist Shona McInnes FMGP designed and crafted the eye-catching stained glass window, installed in 1989:
The window marks 25 years of oil exploration in the North Sea, showing the relationship between the city of Aberdeen and the oil industry. It contrasts the new offshore technology with traditional local industries. At the heart of the window is the market town of Aberdeen, whose traditional fishing industry is represented by the overflowing nets of a trawler. Beyond, lie today's harvesters of the sea: the oil tankers, support vessels and supply boats which service the North sea oil fields. Glass lenses symbolise all the oil and gas fields in production when the window was made [1989], with a white lens commemorating [the lives lost at] the Piper Alpha field.”
The Piper Alpha production platform was operated by Occidental Petroleum (Caledonia) Ltd. in the UK sector of the North Sea, about 120 miles (193 km) northeast of Aberdeen. It caught fire and exploded on July 6, 1988. There were 225 men aboard; 165 of them died, along with 2 men on the Stand-by Vessel Sandhaven. Only 59 of the crew survived. When that platform sank, 21 years ago, I was at the beginning of my career, working as a fledging exploration geophysicist for Amoco Production. I had been offshore on summer jobs, but the Gulf of Mexico has exceedingly fair weather compared with the North Sea. More to the point, I had spent a summer in Scotland, camping in the rain and learning how to map in the British Isles Field Camp (BIFC) with Dr. Dennis Wood of Robertson Research. We started in Llandudno, Gwynedd, Wales, and made our way up to Durness and Balnakeil, near Cape Wrath. Afterward, I went to the Orkney Islands and down the east coast of Scotland, travelling frugally on a BritRail pass, 6 years before the Piper Alpha sank. I loved the rugged landscape and developed a deep respect for the people who made their living there. The Piper field is not far from the Orkneys. The site of the wrecked platform is now marked by a buoy. Many contributed to honoring the lives lost in the Piper Alpha disaster. By January 1989, the United Kingdom Offshore Operators’ Association (UKOOA), now Oil and Gas UK, funded the interdenominational UK Oil & Gas Chaplaincy. The Chaplaincy is accommodated by member companies of Oil and Gas UK, previously at the Aberdeen headquarters of Unocal, Phillips, and Elf, and now at Total in Altens. Survivors and relatives of the victims formed the Piper Alpha Families and Survivors Association, which provides counseling and campaigns for North Sea safety. Improved offshore safety standards are perhaps the greatest legacy, but Aberdeen has many other tangible signs. The association raised funds for a bronze memorial in Aberdeen, so that families of men lost in the accident would have a place to honor their memories. Sue Jane Taylor, an artist who visited and stayed on the Piper Alpha platform in 1987, designed and sculpted the memorial with three bronze figures in 1990. It was installed in the Rose Garden of Hazlehead Park in Aberdeen in 1991. Taylor recently wrote, “Oilwork—North Sea Diaries,” and describes working on the memorial In one of the chapters. It is published by Birlinn Publishing, Edinburgh. “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” –Sir Winston Churchill