Jim Westcott

The "Friendly Forester"

The following information about Jim Westcott has been precised from an obituary published by Scotch College.

James Campbell Westcott was born at Murtoa on 21 July 1912, the son of a builder and timber merchant.

As a young boy, Jim moved to Rupanyup, where his father was a builder and very successful businessman who built many of the civic buildings in Rupanyup and surrounding areas. Jim was sent to Scotch as a boarder aged 13 in 1926, and started in the equivalent of Year 10.

Jim won a scholarship to the Forestry School at Creswick from 1929 to 1931. Jim and another student were fossicking near Creswick and Jim found a 75-ounce nugget of gold. He and his colleague split the proceeds fifty-fifty, and some of this money enabled Jims’ brother Ron to attend Scotch for a year.

Jim became a forests officer with the Forests Commission, and was a career forester for over 43 years. This involved being proficient in an enormous range of jobs. He was first posted to Maryborough, then to Heathcote, Yarram and Erica. At Yarram he met the love of his life, Bessie, and they were married in Trentham. They moved from Trentham to Daylesford, Mansfield, Bruthen and finally Kallista for 18 years, where Jim retired in 1972.

In the late ’40s and into the ’50s, Jim, as the senior forester in charge of the Mansfield district, was heavily involved in a highly important road construction program. These roads were urgently needed to open up the forests to allow logging for timber to be used in housing and construction. Jim surveyed, designed and oversaw the construction of many miles of roads in the high country. He was also instrumental in the formation of the committee of management for the development of the Mount Buller ski resort.

While at Kallista he was heavily involved in community affairs, which included the rhododendron gardens at Olinda, the William Ricketts Sanctuary at Olinda and Olinda Golf Course, Kalorama Park, Sherbrooke Forest Advisory Committee, and as a board member of the William Angliss Hospital for 18 years. Jim gave unstinting time and effort to all the local fire brigades, the Puffing Billy Preservation Society and Belgrave Rotary. At Kallista, Jim realised that large areas of the Dandenongs should revert to public ownership, for better fire protection. Jim persuaded the local members of parliament and the Head Office of the Forests Commission to compulsorily acquire large tracts of land on the slopes of the Dandenongs.

After Jim retired he was awarded the MBE in 1975 as public recognition of his service to conservation, fire protection, community affairs and the Forests Commission. Jim’s work ethic and commitment to his community is best summed up by the headlines in the local newspaper when Jim retired: ‘Friendly forester calls it quits’.

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