Saturday, 21 February 2009


Frankie Veldman is originally from Letterkenny and has spent the last 14 years offshore working on Oilrigs. He started at the bottom as a labourer and moved up to the pipe deck before trying a hand at the drill floor. Frankie then studied Health and Safety in his time off and completed a Health and Safety Course in Aberdeen University. After stints working as a Safety Coach and advisor for a drilling company Frankie was offered a contract offshore on a fleet of Offshore Flotels (accommodation Barges), where he was responsible for the health and safety of 580 staff. Frankie has worked out of Ireland, UK, Holland, Denmark, and Norway and was onboard the Sedco 711 when they first discovered gas in the Corrib field back in 1999. In June last year Frankie came home full-time and set up a training centre to cater for personnel wishing to seek employment in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry. With all the doom and gloom in the country at the moment Frankie feels that the best way forward is training and has opened up the Feidhm Mara Teoranta Training Centre. The future plans for the centre will be to run more and more offshore courses so personnel will not have to leave the country to do these. Frankie feels, that this will benefit the county as a whole and put Donegal firmly on the map up there along with Aberdeen, Huston, and Dubai.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
I am not listening to anything as the phones are constantly ringing….I like most kinds of music and I suppose in my younger days I liked AC/DC a lot. I would loved to have gotten tickets for the concert this year in Ireland but unfortunately they sold out very quickly.

What book are you reading?
I don’t really have much time on my hands these days to read books. I can tell you the last book I read was Roy Keane’s. I read it 3 times, I enjoyed it that much. It’s the first thing I pack in my suitcase before I go on holiday.

What was your favourite childhood game?
If you are talking about board games then it would have to be Escape from Colditz. I remember my mum bought it at the market in Strabane many years ago for a pound. Ours disappeared and I remember looking for it in many game shops over the years and could never find it. Then one day offshore in the games room and snooker hall I spotted a familiar box….You now know what I was playing for the rest of my offshore hitch.

Have you been to the cinema recently?
Yes. The last film I saw was James Bond Quantum of Solace. I suppose it was fine. I would like to have seen more of the Aston Martin DB9 though.

What section of the newspaper do you turn to first?
It has got to be the sports pages first.

What would you never throw away?
The telephone numbers of good-looking girls. (Laughing).

Most embarrassing moment.
Getting off on the wrong oil-rig. I had to listen to that for years from the crews I work with.

Favourite TV programme?
I like comedy on TV and my favourite is Father Ted. I have the DVD box collection and my favourite two favourite episodes are a Song for Europe where they sing about My Lovely Horse. (I am humming it to myself just now LOL) and the book signing episode where Mrs Doyle swears a lot at Father Ted. Brilliant

What job did I want to do when I was a child?
Well my father spent 25 years of his life Offshore and I always wanted to be a sailor, just like my Dad. I got my childhood wish 15 years ago but on an oil rig and not a supply boat. So in a way I have followed my father’s footsteps.

What was my best holiday and what made it special?
My best holiday was in 2002 where I went to the World Cup in Japan and Korea. I travelled with my younger brother Dennis and Brendan Dunnion from Letterkenny. Things that made it special for me was sitting next to Packie Bonner all night in the team’s hotel. I was starving, as I am a very fussy eater and said this to Packie. He popped up to his room and landed back with a box of Tayto Cheese and Onion crisps. No doubt Dennis, Brendan, and I ate most of them. Later in the night he gave me his Irish training jersey.

What famous people would you invite around for dinner and why?
Firstly I would have invite Jamie Oliver. He would do the cooking. If Pope John Paul were still alive he would be top of the guest list as he could say the grace and have good stories to tell. I think there might be a seat for JR Ewing (Larry Hagman, Dallas) just for a few pointers. Shaun Gallagher would also be there I think he is doing a brilliant job rallying all over the world and putting Donegal on the Map. It would be good to have chat with him. Elvis would be there for a few tunes and I suppose one of the Pussycat Dolls for dessert….. I would have an Irish polititan to do the cleaning up but I’m not certain who would be the best person for the job….

What do you do for a special treat?
Well, with working offshore I have plenty of time off, so treats are always on the menu. I like going to the Indian restaurants and other activities include swimming with sharks and rally school. For a special treat I like going to the hairdressers…….

Favourite animal

Biggest Thrill?
Being on an oil rig on a little ledge throwing in drill pipe to the travelling blocks. This means that you are standing 90 feet up in the air on a bit of metal, throwing things.

Biggest Challenge?
That would have to be getting the training centre up and running. Our backs were put to the walls more times than enough but we have come through. I have been working solidly on this project for the last 10 months. (It has not been easy)

What was the best present you ever got?
My dad is a dab hand at the carpentry work and one time he made me a 3 foot model of an oil rig. I still remember to this day pushing toys around the decks of it. I don’t think it was a present for a special occasion though.

What was the last thing you bought yourself?
I honestly can’t remember it’s been that long since I treated myself to a new pair of jeans or trainers. If it’s any item, then that would have to be a litre of milk.

What charities do you support?
I sponsor Whales and Dolphins and receive an update on my Dolphin in the Moray Firth Scotland.

The world’s most Irritating Invention/Most useful Invention?
Most irritating would have to be the mobile phone especially if you are sitting on a train and you want some chill time.
The most useful invention would have to be the Iron Roughneck. The Iron Roughneck is a robot, which is used for making up drill pipe on the rig floor. When it breaks down you know you are in for a hard shift ahead. It’s a Roughneck’s best friend and it is always the first piece of machinery you should check before your shift.

Favourite pastime?
I used to swim a lot but have not had the chance recently.

What do you have for breakfast?
That depends, mostly 2 cups of coffee. When I get up in the morning the last thing on my mind is breakfast and it is about lunchtime before I even think about food. Maybe once a month I might have a big fry.

What was your first job?
My first job was selling the Donegal Democrat on a Thursday afternoon after school. I would get 1p per paper I sold. I usually ended up selling 40 of them. I would normally pocket a pound for the evening’s work that is including tips.

Best/Worst household chore?
I do not really mind any chores about the house. I live alone and am quite a tidy person so there are not many chores to be done.

What is the best advice you have been given?
My dad told me before I went offshore for the first time that, any job I do make sure you do it to a standard you would expect if you were inspecting the job yourself. I have never had anyone over the past 14 offshore years complain about my work.

Personal Philosophy?
I suppose it would be Live Life to The Pepsi Max. That reminded me of a storm we had on a rig west of Shetland back in 1999 or 1998 Hurricane Mitch. They asked for volunteers to go down to the spider deck to unlatch the Blow-Out Preventer as the weather was seriously rough. My pal Craig from Aberdeen and I headed down. We were frightened as there were big waves hitting the underside of the rig. It was the time the Pepsi Max ads were on telly and we just kept say Pepsi Max to each other

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