Contact Us Sitemap Links
spacer spacerHome > Honoured CPHFS Members > Robert "Swede" Black
Robert "Swede" Black text bar

Robert "Swede" Black


"Swede" Black was born July 28, 1922 at Lucky Strike, Alberta and named Robert Wallace Black. Because his hair was so white as a child, his dad nick-named him "Swede", the name by which most people have known him all his life. Swede's dad was an underground coalminer who died when Swede was 9 years old, leaving a family of 4 boys and 2 girls to be raised by his wife in the Depression Years.


Swede, like his older brothers, accepted responsibility at an early age. He left school and home at 14 to work for a neighbour who was a farmer and a rancher in order to help his mother raise the family. He earned $10 a month in the winter and $30 a month in the summer. After working for Medhurst Drilling until February 1944 when he joined the army and moved to Halifax where he took basic training.


After working in the army until 1946, Swede then worked in the trucking business hauling coal. Realizing that both trucking and farming offered limited career opportunities, he moved to Leduc in 1947 and started in the Leduc oilfield as a roughneck.


Swede and his family (he had met his wife Kay in 1946 during his trucking days) moved to the Imperial Oil camp on 156th street, at that time on the outskirts of Edmonton. They set up home in a 10'x16' skid shack as two of the earliest residents in the camp. After the birth of two children in rapid succession, it meant that a bigger 11'x24' shack had to be built. Soon after it's completion, Swede set up pushing tools for CanTex Drilling and the family moved from the Imperial Oil camp to the Golden Spike Oilfield. During the years from 1950 to 1960, Swede gained experience as a toolpush with a number of different companies - CanTex, Brinkerhoff, Wagner, and Duke. His family followed from lease to lease in their shack.


After the birth of his fourth child, Swede and Kay sold the 11'x24' skid shack and bought a house in Calgary. Swede continued to work on the rigs for Duke where he had been promoted to Field Superintendent. It was in January 1959 that Swede was offered the job of Drilling Superintendent with Peter Bawden Drilling. His salary was $1,000 a month and when Kay's father heard this he emphatically stated that no man was worth $1,000 a month. Swede worked all over for Peter Bawden Drilling and he was the Drilling Superintendent for the first well drilled in the Arctic on Melville Island.


In December 1962, Swede was asked to go to Australia as Drilling Superintendent for the new venture Richter Bawden Drilling which was the biggest contractor in Australia during the oil boom there in the 1960's. In 1968, Richter Bawden Drilling contracted to build the first offshore rig in the Bass Strait and Swede and his family moved to Sale, Victoria for six months while the first rig in the Bass Strait was set up. After six months, Swede and his family returned to Brisbane where they stayed a further six months before returning to Canada in 1968.


After he left Peter Bawden Drilling, he worked for Argus Drilling as Drilling Superintendent and as Vice-President of Operations, becoming the second largest shareholder in the company. He retired in 1978. Swede considers his retirement years as his best working years. He and Kay set up their own company, Kay Rob Holdings. Swede consulted on building drilling rigs, inventoried and appraised drilling equipment, provided an employment agency for Australian toolpushers and drillers and also managed a tank rental business.


Career Summary:

  • 1958 Field superintendent - Duke Drilling.
  • 1959 Drilling superintendent - Peter Bawden Drilling.
  • 1962 Drilling superintendent - Richter Bowden Drilling, Australia.
  • 1970 Drilling superintendent, vice president of operations and shareholder - Argus Drilling.
  • 1978 Kay Rob Holdings.


Copyright © 2019 Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.