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Peter Colwell Bawden, OC (January 1, 1929 – February 28, 1991) was a prominent Canadian oilman, cabinet minister, former Member of Parliament and in 1990 was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada.[1][2] Bawden was elected to the House of Commons of Canada representing the riding of Calgary South, the heart of Canada's oil industry. A Progressive Conservative, he was re-elected in 1974.

Peter Colwell Bawden
Peter Bawden.jpg
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Calgary South
In office
Preceded byPat Mahoney
Succeeded byJohn William Thomson
Personal details
Born(1929-01-01)January 1, 1929
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedFebruary 28, 1991(1991-02-28) (aged 62)
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Political partyProgressive Conservative
ChildrenJennifer Bawden
Alma materUpper Canada College
Occupationbusinessman, federal politician
Professionoil executive


Oil and gas explorationEdit

One of the first Bawden Drilling oil rigs in Calgary, Canada; circa 1955.
A Bawden Drilling North Sea oil rig; circa 1980.
King Hussein of Jordan & Peter Bawden. King Hussein hosted Peter Bawden in 1979 as an official guest of the Country of Jordan.
Bawden Drilling United States headquarters in Houston, Texas.

Bawden founded and built the world's largest (at the time) privately owned oil and gas drilling company. In business for over 35 years, and consisting of a large fleet of offshore and land rigs operated from offices worldwide, Bawden Drilling worked closely with Shell Oil, Mobil Corporation and Dome Petroleum, among others.[3]

He moved to Alberta in the fall of 1950 and founded Peter Bawden Drilling in 1952 shortly after his arrival in Calgary. In 1960, at the age of 31, Peter Bawden's first drilling rig struck oil. With its acquisition of Trident Drilling, Bawden Drilling became Canada's largest drilling company. In 1968, Peter Bawden Drilling acquired Brown Drilling in California. Thereafter, as a land drilling contractor, Bawden expanded the company's on-shore operations throughout North America, from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, to Norway, Algeria, Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Madagascar, and the Middle East. Eventually having operations on every continent in the world.

A notable contribution of the Bawden organization was the development of Canadian oilfield expertise and technology in many parts of the world. Bawden's first offshore assignments began in 1968 off the coast of Australia where the company operated that continent's first self-containing platform rigs. In the North Sea, Bawden Drilling became the largest development-drilling contractor in the United Kingdom. Well known for technological, industry advances, Bawden designed and built the world's largest (at that time) semi-submersible rig for Shell Oil. They also had large platform rig operations off the California coast, in the Persian Gulf and off the coast of Malaysia.

Bawden set many industry records including drilling a deviated well -11,324 feet in eighteen days from a fixed platform in the North Sea. Other notable rigs were located in the middle of the Pasadena Raceway and behind the Beverly Hills high school. He was a visionary trailblazer in his 1964 activities to promote Canada as an exporter of LNG (Liquefied Petroleum Gases). In 1977, he created Mosswood Oil & Gas expanding into oil production.

Peter Bawden committed his life to the search for oil, gas and geothermal energy. Geothermal Drilling was a Bawden specialty with over 20 years of experience in the challenging tapping of hot water and steam reservoirs. Bawden won numerous industry awards for its emphasis on safety. The company also received the Canadian Export Award in 1985 and Export Achievement Awards in the years 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Canadian Parliament and public serviceEdit

Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark and Minister of Parliament Peter Bawden (circa 1980)

Bawden was honored in 1990 as an Officer of the Order of Canada for being "largely responsible for pioneering oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Circle and for the international transfer of Canadian expertise and technology in this field".[4][5][6] Peter Bawden was the first drilling contractor to drill in the Canadian Arctic where the harsh and remote environment demanded special logistical planning. He is recognized for the first offshore crude oil discovery in Canadian history on Sable Island earning the cover story of Mobil Corporation's magazine in 1971.

In 1972, with the strong endorsement of Prime Minister Diefenbaker, Peter Bawden won the liberal stronghold, Calgary South, with one of the biggest landslides in the country.

Bawden had a distinguished public service career and was elected (with one of the biggest majorities in the country) as a Member of the Canadian House of Commons in 1972 and re-elected in 1974. During his years in Ottawa he served on the Commons Committee on Finance, Natural Resources, Trade and Economic Affairs, including External Affairs and National Defense. For seven years he served as a delegate to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly representing the Canadian Parliament to meet and discuss common security problems. He also served on the Canada/US Inter-parliamentary Committee. His community service included acting as a Director in the Business Council of National Issues, Calgary Special Olympics and Trustee of the Canadian Olympic Association and Wycliffe College in Toronto. His membership included Canada West Foundation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and he was an Honorary Colonel of the 14th (Calgary) Service Battalion, Honorary Vice-President of the Calgary Regional Council of the Boy Scouts of Canada and Director of the Confederation of Church and Business People, and he was the founding donor to The Calgary Foundation.[7]

Bawden Drilling Global Oil & Gas Operations
Bawden Drilling crew conducting safety training circa 1979.

Other companiesEdit

Peter Bawden served as a director on a number of prestigious Canadian companies including Barclays Bank, Air Canada, Boeing, Safeway, Procor Limited, Jannock Ltd, Westair Resources Ltd and Mosswood Oil & Gas Ltd. He was a member of the Business Council on National Issues, the World Business Council and the Washington Quarterly Roundtable.


A pilot at age 17, Bawden also made a substantial contribution to the aviation industry and founded in 1991, Executive Flight Centre, Canada's largest aviation service company, including a large fleet of planes and jets.

Personal lifeEdit

Jennifer Bawden, daughter of Peter Bawden (founder of Bawden Drilling Company) visiting one of the company's oil rigs in Jakarta, Indonesia.


Born into the Toronto establishment, Peter Bawden attended Upper Canada College in Toronto. He was the son of Harry Norman Bawden, who was President, CEO and later Vice Chairman of Dominion Securities, one of Canada's largest investment banks before it was acquired by the Royal Bank of Canada in 1996.

Harry Bawden was Director of the War Finance Committee; a board member of Molson's Brewery; a board member of Dominion Foundries & Steel, among others.

Chuck wagon racingEdit

During the late 1950s and 1960s the Peter Bawden chuck wagon dominated the World Chuck Wagon Races at the Calgary Stampede and broke several world track records.

Honorary ColonelEdit

Peter Bawden served as Honorary Colonel of 14 (Calgary) Service Battalion for a number of years. The Battalion holds a number of artefacts belonging to Peter Bawden including one of his famous chuck wagons.


  1. ^ Source: Calgary Herald, March 1991
  2. ^ "The Governor General of Canada (Public Release)".
  3. ^ Nielsen, A. (2015). We gambled everything: The life and times of an oilman.
  4. ^ Governor General of Canada
  5. ^ "Peter C. Bawden (1929–1991) 2010 Inductee - Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2017-08-18.
  6. ^ Cameron, A. B. (1999). Under sand, ice & sea: The memoirs of an oilman. Toronto: Erracht Pub.
  7. ^ "Calgary Foundation Annual Report (2014-2015)" (PDF).

External linksEdit