"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

About People

  • Bill Ah Chow

    The Man from Moscow Villa

    "The horses were hired from Bill Ah Chow – one of the legends of the area – who mounted fire watch on Mount Nugong on danger days during the summer".

  • Tom Bailes
    Mount Cole Forester

    Peter Evans (bio)

    This article first appeared in the Newsletter of the Australian Forest History Society, Issue 43, April 2006

    Thomas Derham Bailes arrived at Beaufort, Victoria, in 1899 to take up the post of Forester for the Mount Cole Reserve. He stayed for thirty-eight years in his official capacity and, like most foresters, displayed a passion for protecting the forests under his care from foolish and wasteful exploitation. While we do not know whether or not he was formally trained as a forester, he appears to have had a solid grasp of all the practical principles of forestry, and was a fine example of that class of unsung heroes so aptly named ‘public servants’. In response to an application by sawmiller James Emery for a site at Mount Cole in 1925, Bailes rose to the defence of his forests in an impassioned letter to AV Galbraith, a newly appointed member of the three-man Forests Commission of Victoria. This letter amply demonstrates some of the conflicts between conservation and utilisation at the level of an early twentieth century forester in the field.

  • Bushfire Widows

    Peter McHugh (bio)

    I have often joked over the years that there are three sorts of firefighters in rural Victoria;

    • Firstly, there are the large numbers of CFA volunteers in their bright yellow overalls and shiny red trucks fitted with flashing lights and sirens who operate in small country towns, on private and cleared farmland or around houses scattered along the more accessible and visible interface with the public forest. The men and women that turn out so rapidly and so selflessly with these tanker crews and strike teams do a sensational job and their local communities and the media are quite rightly very proud of them. I certainly am.
  • Jack Clarke Yarram Overseer

    “They don’t make them like they used to!”
    Ian Hastings, 2018 (bio)


    Many of us will have particular amusing (and perhaps not so amusing) memories and anecdotes about experiences and people we came across during our careers with the Forests Commission. My first posting after completing VSF studies was to the Yarram District in 1970. Ken Sheldon was the District Forester, with John Booth, Forester and Jack Clarke and John Blythman as Forest Overseers. I assisted John, Jack and John on a range of programs, the Strzelecki re-forestation program, the PX plantation program, timber harvesting supervision and the fuel reduction program.

  • Coool Waters

    Leon Pederick (bio)

    The fire raged and roared above us as we retreated along the tunnel, with only a wet blanket between us and the fiery intruder invading our camp. Smoke poured in and we were, for the time being, trapped and in darkness.

    It all happened more than sixty years ago, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. The year was 1952. I was a newly graduated forester, 21 years old, and engaged in resource assessment and themapping of the upper Sandy's Creek catchment, about 40 km north of Bairnsdale in eastern Victoria. The team consisted of three foresters (Peter Britton, Len Laing and me) and five chainmen. Our camp was positioned on the end of a short track off the Mt Baldhead Road, which followed along the divide between the south-flowing Wentworth and Nicholson Rivers. The track to our camp had been constructed by gold miners many years ago, and it wound down off the ridge to a spot where a horizontal tunnel been driven deep into the hillside. Our mess hut was placed next to the tunnel entrance to take advantage of a stream of clear, cold water flowing from it. To emphasise the temperature of the water, we called the camp 'Coool Waters'.

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  • Roger Cowley

    The Young Forester in 1964

    Leon Bren (bio)

    With contributions from Brian Fry and Peter Lawson

    This originally hand-written letterfrom my brother-in-law, the late Roger Cowley (1940-76) to his “little sister” (aged 14 at the time) turned up in family archives. Matching the date with the days puts the year as 1964. The letter gives an account of fire-fighting half a century ago (and when people still wrote real letters). Roger went through the Creswick Forestry School in 1958-60 (dux of the school) and Melbourne University in 1962-63.

  • Alan Cracknell

    David Buntine (bio)

    This article was written in 2008.

    I first met Alan Cracknell early in the 1980’s when he was Principal of the Wodonga High School. It was a fleeting contact but I do remember him giving me the stern well practiced Principal look designed to freeze students in their tracks. Some time later I moved to Wodonga and I found myself attending the same Church as Alan but even so that student look still kept me at a distance. But slowly our Church lives intertwined and the barriers were broken down. With time we shared some Church responsibilities and often had to work on projects together and enjoyed each others company.

    But Alan had a surprise in his past. He knew I had studied forestry but it was not until many years later that he casually told me that he had taught at the forestry school at Creswick. And so it turned out that Alan had done a stint at Creswick as the Education Department science lecturer early in his career.

  • Crowning

    O Raymond (bio)

    This article was first published in “Firefighters. Stories from Australian foresters”, published by York Gum Publishing in 2014, and edited by Roger Underwood and Oliver Raymond. ISBN 978-0-9942271-0-2. The original title of the article was “Bushfires and Fish – an Unlikely Combination” Author: Oliver Raymond.

    It was a glorious early autumn in 1964. The dry weather had produced perfect conditions for a large wildfire to start in the headwaters of Victoria’s Jamieson River. It had been sparked off from a carelessly abandoned campfire during an annual field exercise being carried out by the Citizens’ Military Forces.

    As part of the Victorian Forests Commission’s North Eastern Forest Division’s remote fire fighting crew, I had been sent with my crew to the most distant part of the fire to help in its containment. It had been threatening to burn the Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) forests in the headwaters of the Jamieson, and we had to build a firebreak to stop it.

    Because of the cool, moist nights, the fire had been largely going out of its own accord during the hours of darkness. However, once the heat of each morning’s sun and the inevitable pick up in the wind hit the smouldering edges of the fire it soon took off again.

  • Bjarne Dahl - Pioneer Assessor

    Mike Leonard (bio)

    As set out elsewhere on this website, the early 20th century was a challenging time for Victoria’s newly established, foundational Forest Service. Responsible for around a third of the State, an area in the main remote and poorly, at best, mapped, and one dominated by plants and animals that were only just beginning to be studied, relevant skills were often thin on the ground.

  • Kristian Drangsholt

    Pioneer Assessor
    David Drangsholt (bio)

    This article about my father comes from extracts from my book, Man of the Forest.

    Kristian Drangsholt, was born at Kristiansand in Norway, on 17 October, 1899. He came to Australia in 1927 and joined the FCV in February of that year.

    “Kristian finished school in 1916 and then was employed in practical forestry in the southern part of Norway until the Spring of 1918. His grandfather still had interests in timber, which is the reason Kristian was able to pursue a career in forestry.”

  • The Eddy Papers

    Alan Eddy (bio)

     

    Alan Eddy graduated from the VSF in 1948 and went on to have a long and distinguished career in the FCV and CFL.  Alan has written extensively about his career, and has very kindly provided his papers to be published on this site.

    The first of those papers, The Forestry Family, is available at this link, and it is a "must read" if you wish to get a real flavour of the times from Alan's graduation onwards. The "Family", as Alan so rightly calls it, worked under conditons that are unimaginable today. Below are more of Alan's recollections.

  • Gelignite Can Be Very Useful Stuff

    Bernie Evans (bio)

    This article is based upon a conversation between Bernie and Richard Rawson in August 2018

    On his first visit to the FCV District Office at Swifts Creek in early 1960, while he was assessing in the area of Davies Plain, Bernie was to find the District Forester, Moray Douglas, sitting in his office with feet on a footstool comprising a number of boxes of gelignite. Now, even in those days that seemed a little unusual. Powder magazines were a common feature of FCV locations, but they were not usually located in the main office.

  • Victorian Fire Crew “Lost” in NSW

    - build freeway and then backburn to keep warm

    This article is based upon a conversation between Bernie Evans and Richard Rawson in August 2018

    In about 1972, with many FCV personnel already committed to a big fire at Mt Elizabeth, near Buchan, a very large fire in the Kosciusko National Park “was gradually burning its way south between the Snowy and the Ingeegoodbee Rivers” heading towards the Victorian border and, typical of the time, the NSW people were interested in their own side, not ours. Well, the truth is they probably were not really worried about the fire at all, but we were interested, because if nothing happened we would have a huge unwanted blaze inside our patch.

  • The Spiral Grained Pencil Pine

    Euan Ferguson

    Written in 2016

    Editors note : This article by Euan Ferguson is, in Euans' words, "completely fictional. I wrote it one tired night whilst doing the Overland Track in Tasmania. During that day we'd seen a number of dead and fallen pencil pines that seemed to have an anti-clockwise spiral texture on the sapwood. The group asked me what caused this spiraling. I have no idea what causes it, so I made up this story.

    Whilst a fictional story, it nevertheless contains some interesting and challenging messages for readers, natural resource managers, politicians and the wider community as follows:-

    • as Euan has written,... "Our duty for caring for our forests extends beyond the years to generations.... the life of the forest is measured in generations, not just in years.", and
    • Old growth trees are a valuable and important part of our native forest ecosystems, but they eventually die hopefully with another generation of younger trees following, some of which will become old growth trees.

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  • My Old Plumb Axe

    Euan Ferguson

    We were young Creswick forestry students, “new” in every sense of the word.  On Saturday mornings we would be listed for various fieldwork jobs, often in the demonstration mixed species forest adjoining the forestry school grounds.

    On this day, each of us was issued with a shiny coloured (mine was yellow) hard hat and a sharp new axe.  This, for me, was not just any old axe.  It was a Plumb axe.  And it was mine.  It was forged and crafted as a thing of potent power, but also a tool that could be associated with risk of injury if your footing slipped or your swing missed its target.  It was a tool built by craftsmen for use by fellow craftsmen.  I had inherited the essence of caring for hand tools from my father’s wisdom.

  • Bill Flentje

    Forester, RAAF Pilot, Naturalist

    This article has been developed using extracts of Bill's story published by 485 Squadron, RAAF

     

    After a short period in Head Office, Bill was called up for compulsory military service for a couple of months with a CMF Engineers Unit at Trawool near Seymour. He then returned to the FCV Head Office. About this time Bill, and his brother Jack who was also a Forest Officer, tried to enlist in the Air Force, but Forestry had been declared a Reserved Occupation, so their applications were refused. Eventually, Jack was allowed to join the RAAF and later still, Bill was also permitted to join on leave from the FCV.

    In the meantime, after a short period in Head Office to become familiar with office procedures and personnel, Bill was posted to the Neerim South Forest District. After a short period Bill became Assistant Forester at the Toorongo Sub-District, which was the centre for some extensive timber salvage operations following the 1939 bushfires. There were five sawmills, other operators felling the killed trees into logs that couldn't be utilized immediately but had to be carted into dumps and covered with water to preserve them for future use. There were two camps, one for road construction and one for timber salvage operations.

  • Brian F. Gibson A.M.

    Forester and Senator for Tasmania
    Mike Leonard (bio)

    Brian commenced studies at the VSF in 1954, following both his father and an uncle as students at the school. Brian's father Kingsley (Ken) entered the VSF in 1929, subsequently being based at Bendigo, Forrest, Nathalia, Erica, Stawell, Daylesford (as DFO), Delatite, Mansfield (as DFO), Bairnsdale (as Asst. Div. For), and Traralgon (as Asst. Div. For.).  Brian’s Uncle, Colin, entered the VSF in 1931, and he died during WW2.

  • Gerry Griffin

    Gerald (Gerry) Griffin entered the VSF Creswick in 1942. His first posting with the Commission, in 1945, was to the Assessment Branch; then to the Bruthen District followed by the Corryong Sub-district of the Upper Murray Forest District.

    In 1951 he was promoted to District Forester in charge of the Casterton District. Further DFO appointments were to Maffra (Briagolong) in 1951, Nowa Nowa in 1954 and Orbost in 1959.

  • A Man's Career

    Ken Harrop
    Article from Tyalla 1974

    KG Harrop, the author of this article, is the newly appointed Divisional Forester to Central Division. His qualifications are Diploma of Forestry Creswick and Diploma of Forestry Victoria. In answer to a request by the editorial staff he has written this account of his work since he left the school. Few people outside the forestry profession really know what a forester does, and it is for these reasons that this article is presented.

  • John (Ansis) Heislers’ Career in Forestry

    Arnis Heislers, 2018 (bio)

    John was one of 88 persons interviewed in 1993 by Greg Borschmann in an oral history project of persons involved with Australia’s forests and woodlands (The People’s Forest). I have drawn on my father’s tapes for much of the following account.

     

    He was born in Riga, Latvia in 1910 to Estonian parents. His father had wanted him to follow in his footsteps and study theology, but did not enforce his view when John said he wanted to pursue forestry. He chose forestry because he developed a love for life in the country, having spent most of his long summer school holidays on farms of his relatives in Estonia, some of whom were foresters.

    He said it was an exciting era for forestry in Latvia after 1918, when the former private forests under disparate ownership were consolidated into the public estate and brought under sustainable management. John enrolled at Riga’s university in 1931 in forest science, a 4 ½ year course, and graduated in May 1940 after interruptions from a voluntary break taken after 2 years and then military training. They were turbulent times because the Soviets occupied Latvia in June 1940. There were political purges and many locals in positions of importance were transported to Russia and replaced by Russian immigrants.