Canvey Islanders take to the boats

Protest against the oil refinery 1973

Boatload of protestors
Robert Hallmann

In the 70’s Occidental were building a refinery to the west of Canvey.  I understand it was part of the deal that they built the new road off the Island ‘Canvey Way’. Land down Northwick was sold for the refinery and Northwick Road itself was widened to make way for tankers.  But Canvey Islanders would have none of it.

This picture was lent to us by Robert Hallmann who featured it in his book ‘Canvey Island: A History’.  His caption reads:

  •   In 1973 demonstrations came to a head when the ‘Oil Mada’ took to the water with banners and posters and ‘graveyard’ crosses on the Viceroy protest boat. Eventually demands changed and fewer installations were needed. Occidental had spent £65 million, of which £10 million went on the longest jetty in Europe at a mile in length. It was never used. The United Refineries’ land was also left unused.

I believe the protestors boarded the boat at Tilbury, they went up to London taking a petition to Downing Street. I also understand Wilko Johnson was part of the demo.

Can anyone tell us more?

Comments about this page

  • Yes thats correct. I was their aged 8 years old with my 3 sisters and mum. We barged into a board room meeting and took them by surprise. Wilko was part of the oil protests however not knowing his face at that time im afraid i couldnt verify his attendance on that particular day. I would love a copy the famous Oil Mada parading down the Thames for my photograph collection.

    By Cia Parker (15/10/2011)
  • I was on that armada too, there was more than one boat involved this armada being just one of many protests the people of Canvey embarked upon. There was an Action Group of a number of people many like Phil Haslam gave up a considerable amount of time over a five year period to prevent Canvey being fed on a plate to the Oil companies, fact is few if any environmental groups take on oil companies and win, we the people of Canvey did and those that gave their time should be proud.

    By Ken Burgess (28/05/2013)
  • Interesting finding this photo on the web. It was used in a book based on the seventies. I am the lad at the front of the boat in the fetching checked jacket with the White collar. Wished I had that much hair now!!

    By Stephen campbell (13/02/2017)

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