Millie Vigor was born in Dorset and was educated at Ludwell village school. At fourteen she left to start work and she considers this the beginning of her real education. Throughout her many jobs; kitchenmaid, farm-worker, glove-maker, canteen cook and B&B landlady she took note of what made people tick and of sights and sounds, and stored this all away to use later, in her writing.
In addition to articles and short stories sold to various magazines, her autobiographical book, Kippers for Breakfast, was published in 2003. She lives in Shetland with her constant companion, a cat called Harriet.
Here she explains why Paying Davy Jones was chosen as the title of her new book…
The Catherine of Deepdale trilogy follows Catherine’s life from 1946 up to the 1970s, time of the North Sea Oil boom. The discovery of North Sea Oil radically changed the life of the Shetland Islands people. The population, then about 22,000, doubled almost overnight when workers were brought in to build the oil terminal at Sullom Voe. There was work for everyone and good money to be earned.
Catherine worried about the outcome of it all. ‘The oil companies are robbing Davy Jones’s Locker,’ she said to a friend. ‘And he will have to be paid.’
Davy Jones is thought by men of the sea to be the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep. They hate him because he is seen as a portent of death. All things that go to the bottom of the sea go to Davy Jones’s locker. Davy Jones’s locker is the sea bed. And what is under it? Oil.
Was Catherine right? Did Davy Jones exact his fee?
Yes, he did. Tankers spilled oil. Torrey Canyon foundered off Cornwall. In 1982 the Esso Bernicia at Sullom Voe caused a major disaster. There were many others. A Dan Air plane carrying oil workers on leave crashed on take-off. 17 died. A Chinook helicopter went into the sea a mile and a half from shore. 43 died that day. And who doesn’t know about the fire on the Piper Alpha drilling platform. 167 men died, 61 survived.
Paying Davy Jones is dedicated to ‘the oilies’, the men who worked on the rigs, but is not just about all that. The story still follows Catherine and the lives of her family. Her children are now adult, her eldest boy working on an oil rig in order to earn enough money to buy the fishing boat he has set his heart on. He is on Piper Alpha, said to the safest rig in the North Sea.
Is he going to be among the survivors of the fire that destroyed it?
I’m not going to tell you.
– Millie Vigor
You can find out for yourself what happens when Paying Davy Jones by Millie Vigor is published by Robert Hale Ltd on 30 April