"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".
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.
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.
With contributions from Brian Fry and Peter Lawson
Arnis Heislers, Peter Lawson and Brian Williams have also written about Roger's life and career in this article submitted in August 2020.
This originally hand-written letter from 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.
"Let us regard the forest as an inheritance, not to be destroyed or devastated, but to be wisely used, reverently honoured and carefully maintained. Let us regard the forest as a gift, entrusted to any of us only for transient care, to be surrendered to posterity as an unimpaired property, increased in riches and augmented in blessings, to pass as a sacred patrimony from generation to generation."
Baron Ferdinand von Mueller - Suggestions on the Maintenance, Creation and Enrichment of Forests (1879)