Chips, Bark and Sawdust

1938 - 1974

“I hope that by putting these events and happenings on paper, it will be of interest to my relations, and forest officers in time to come. The past 35 years has seen great strides in forestry, and the next 35 years will no doubt bring even more progress.”

Thomas A. Higgins
Forest Overseer
Nowa Nowa Forest District

The following are extracts from Tom’s paper titled ‘Chips, bark, sawdust and scales’, in which he summarised items from his work diary. They include information from other notes by Tom.

1938 to 1950

 
 
1938
 
November
My first introduction to sleeper cutting when I spent a couple of days with Richie Trevaskis in the Mottle Range area.
 
 
 
 
December
Richie accepted a beam cutting contract for Joe DePiazza of Orbost. We set up in the hills beyond Murrungowar.
 
 
 
1939
 
July
Started work with the Forests Commission of Victoria. Mr E.D. Gill D.F.O.
With Foreman H.E. McKie erecting camp for gang to commence road to Mt Tara. This is in readiness to erect fire tower on same.
(Tom started construction of the road with Ivan Cootes using horses, plough, scoop and grader. It became the first job for the Commission’s first crawler tractor operated by Alex Havers and Ernie Fitzclarence.)
 
 
 
1940
 
January
New Year’s Day at Glory Holes Beach. Mr Gill D.F.O. told me that day, I was on permanent from that date. Previously I was only casual, temporary, permanent?
 
 
 
1942
 
January
Enlisted in A.I.F. Promoted to Bombardier in 1943. Served in New Guinea with 2/2 Field Regiment. While in New Guinea worked with engineer on road construction and bridge building. This was done in readiness for attack on Japanese stronghold at Wewak.
 
 
 
1945
 
December
Complete war service. Mr J. Cosstick D.F.O. put my name in as applicant to attend Forest Foremans School at Kinglake. I had successfully passed an Army Education Course in forestry from Melbourne Technical School. My correspondence teacher was Mr R.W. Bond.
 
 
 
1946
 
January
Foremans School at Kinglake starts. In our first exam Tom Loughrey had a question – “What is my name?” One hard doer put LOVELY. Tom said this bloke thinks I’m lovely, so he’ll get on.
Recommenced with the Forests Commission after four years war service. Leading Hand.
 
 
 
1947
 
January
Started diary of work, as I now have to compile journal each month.
 
 
 
 
May
Start erection of store rooms at the Nowa Nowa office. These are still in use (1974).
Erected first vehicle ramp at yard.
 
 
 
 
October
Check equipment for Seldom Seen tower. Tower being constructed for fire spotting.
 
 
 
1948
 
January
Purchase 2 year old horse from O. Davies for £13. Called him ‘Boxer’. Use for work at £60 per year.
 
 
 
 
May
Alex Havers and I take bulldozer to junction of Kenny’s and River roads.
Completed erection of cattle pit at Nowa Nowa yard. Jim McKinty was just saying it was a good job, when the boarding house cow hopped across it as though there was nothing there.
 
 
 
 
July
Start to re-deck Burnt Bridge.
 
 
 
1949
 
January
First supervision of J. Cameron & Co pole cutters. Rogues incorporated.
 
 
 
 
March
Broad arrow 400 poles J. Cameron, cheque bounced.
(By marking the poles with the 'broad arrow' Tom was seizing the poles for the Crown. The double-ended metal hammer Tom used comprised a crown at one end enclosing a unique number, which was registered to him, and a broad arrow at the other.)
 
 
 
 
April
First brand of poles for Kennedy & McDiarmid. The last brand 1973. Excellent licensees.
 
 
 
 
July
J. Collins & Stott sawmill commences falling in the Tildesley West Logging Unit.
 
 
 
 
October
Snowy River Authority formed to implement the Snowy River scheme.
 
 
 
 
November
Arthur Lowe’s sawmill commences logging operations, Hartland River Logging Unit. Contractors Nelson Bros. Fallers J. Geddes and Frank?
 
 
 
 
December
New Forest Commission office at Nowa Nowa opened.
 
 
 
1950
 
January
Sinclair and McLees, sawmillers, start logging operations on Knocker Road, Tildesly West Logging Unit.
Supervise cutting of willow logs Buchan River. To be used in manufacture of cricket bats.
(The purchaser would have been Jim Crockett who also investigated willows in the Orbost District in 1955. The 'Crockett' brand of bats became a household name amongst cricketers.)
 
 
 
 
 
August
First supervision of H. Cameron pole-pile contractor.
Supervised log samples for CSIRO.
Appointed Forest Overseer 1. Salary £1141 pa.
 

1951 to 1960

 
 
1951
 
January
My first supervision of logging by Lord and Livingstone at Mt Victoria Logging Unit.
 
 
 
1952
 
February
Survey area for Forests Commission house at Buchan.
(This became the residence for the Assistant District Forester posted to the Buchan sub-district.  The first occupant was F.J. (Frank) May in 1954.)
 
 
 
 
 
April
Medical test for entry to Public Service.
 
 
 
 
 
May
Mark area boundary to be cut by Victorian Railways sleeper gang. The gang of mostly New Australians were on wages and well set with 15 swing saws, dozers, trucks etc. About 40 men in all.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Appointed Staff Foreman
 
 
 
1953
 
February
First supervision of logging operations Waygara Sawmilling Co.
 
 
 
1954
 
January
Inspected Mt Victoria Logging Unit with prospective purchase.
My one and only experience with pack horses, carting food and equipment to fire in the mountain south east of Sugan Buggan. When I had them loaded they failed to budge, much to the amusement of the gang. With the load removed they set off OK. The two trips gave me and the nags a 12 mile hike.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Collins & Stott cut box blocks for Buchan office.
 
 
 
 
 
May
Planted test areas of Eucalyptus deglupta which had been brought from Mandanee? in the Phillipines. No plants survived the first winter, in which we had several days of 22° of frost.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Mr G. Griffin D.F.O. Nowa Nowa Forests Commission.
 
 
 
 
 
October
Help move furniture into brand new residence.
 
 
 
1955
 
October
In Guard of Honour for the visit of Sir Dallas Brooks
Supervised falling and preparation of Kanooka logs for C.S.I.R.O.
 
 
 
 
 
May
Cull falling started today in Nowa Nowa Forest District, at Fairweather Track.
 
 
 
1956
 
April
Farewell party to Divisional Forester Bob Seaton. Held in Orbost.
 
 
 
1957
 
February
Gerry Griffin astounded at the method of sleeper hewing used by A. Gosler and expected to hear at any time that he was beheaded. Gosler ran his saw on the back of an old truck, and while he prepared and lined log, the saw was spinning just above his work area.
 
 
 
 
 
April
Attended National Resources Conference at Bruthen.
 
 
 
 
 
May
Arthur Norman first cut poles in Nowa Nowa District.
 
 
 
1958
 
July
Mr Lawrence, Chairman Forests Commission, and Mr G. Griffin D.F.O. inspect cull falling areas under my supervision.
 
 
 
1959
 
January
20/01- Physical and nervous exhaustion caused blackout at Red Knob fire.
23/01 - Bete Belong fire. Collapse after 16 hours straight work.
Forest Foreman M. Hunt comes to Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Cyril Banfield appointed Tree Marker. He will be a big help, as the timber industry has increased considerably over past year.
 
 
 
 
 
August
Restart work after 5½ months on compensation caused by breakdown after, and including fire fighting.
J.P. Brisbane D.F.O., Col. Almond Assistant.
Overseer Phil Morgan had been transferred to Nowa Nowa to fill the vacancy during my absence. Phil was a competent officer, and I appreciated his help to get back on the rails. He later was posted to Mt Taylor.
 
 
 
 
 
October
Public Service Board and Forests Commissioners visit Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Fire fighting, 3½ hours off in period of 30½ hours.
 
 
 
1960
 
April
Chas Pettman and I to Nunnett to look for long poles (55’ – 65’) for main S.E.C. line from Bruthen to Orbost. Marked the required quantity (50), then caught 16 trout from Mellick Munji Creek. When we arrived in at the office, J.P.B. said “How did you go?” I answered “We got 16.” J.P.B “What length?” Me “About 1ft to 15 inches”. J.P.B. “You pair of B…, what about the poles?” Me “Oh, you mean the poles, we found enough of them to fill the order.” Jeff Brisbane “Ah, a man should know better than to send you two up there together.”
 
 
 
 
 
May
First cut of poles by Gippsland Pole Company.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Staff conference. Matters for discussion –
(a) Marking areas for cull falling.
(b) Safety regulations in bush operations.
 
 
 
 
 
August
Guide for university students on botany excursion.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Step up method of fire line construction introduced to Eastern Division.
 

1961 to 1970

 
 
1961
 
January
Jeff Brisbane failed to walk the tie off Noel Birch. Says he will have another go.
 
 
 
 
 
June
Sold ‘Boxer’ for £30 as Forests Commission now supplying vehicles for field staff. He was a very good horse for the job as he would stay wherever he was left, even for several hours, my dog ‘Charlie’ always used to stay with the horse too.
Represented the Forests Commission at the opening of three new Aboriginal homes in Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
July
With Forester Bob Allen and Overseer H. Welsh, inspect logging and road conditions in Nunnett logging area.
 
 
 
 
 
August
Extensive silviculture work now being carried out in the Fairweather Track area.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Patrol Mundy’s Plain – Buchan River dozer trail. 109 miles in 11 hours 50 mins. Land Rover in four wheel drive for most of the journey. There are many descriptive names for some areas here. Mt Seldom Seen, The Playgrounds, Brumby Point, Windy Point, Wild Dog Creek, Rame Head Range, New Guinea Jungle, Bills Garden, McFarlane’s Flat and Christy O’Rouke’s. McFarlane and O’Rouke were early pioneers. Bill's Garden was a 50 acre flat with very good grass, and was fenced to hold cattle. It was on the main trail used to travel cattle from the Monaro in N.S.W. to Gippsland. The fence was of post and rail cut on site. Christy O’Rouke’s was on the same trail, and part of the old blacksmith shop is still evident. It is mostly used to re-shoe horses.
Map areas logged in the Nunnett Range Logging Units.
 
 
 
1962
 
January
Install lights on Mobile Cooker. Also maintenance of same.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Tostaree Pilot Farm comes into being. First inspection with J.P. Brisbane D.F.O. Farm to be run by Agriculture, Lands, and Forests Departments. To test soils for growing of pastures and pines.
 
 
 
 
 
May
First day of log inspection at Timbarra Road Checking Station.
 
 
 
 
 
June
Clearing of Pilot farm commences.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Inspect Pilot Farm with Mr F. Drake of Agriculture Department.
Supervision of employees on construction of the Ingegoodbee Trail.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Inspect Pilot Farm with Mr F. Drake of Agriculture Department.
Supervision of employees on construction of the Ingegoodbee Trail.
 
 
 
 
 
August
Attend meeting with committee of management re Tostaree Pilot Farm. Report on progress to date. Committee consists of members from Lands, Agriculture and Forests.
 
 
 
 
 
October
Botany excursion with children from Lake Tyers Road School.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Attended funeral of ex Forest Overseer H.E. McKie.
 
 
 
 
 
December
Appointed Justice of the Peace, Kevin Connally likewise.
 
 
 
1963
 
May
Ian Orton cutting flitches for Waygara Sawmilling Co.Pty.Ltd. Area of operation Carl Smith’s Road.
 
 
 
 
 
June
Bommers logging Pilot Farm. Spot mill on site.
 
 
 
 
 
December
Mr McArthur lecture to staff on fuel reduction burning.
 
 
 
1964
 
February
Attend court for trial of S. Guarnaccia for fire lighting offence – fined £20.
 
 
 
 
 
March
Office duty. Log accounts, compile data for Annual Report, write Journal for February.
With Assistant W. Clifford on patrol of northern areas of Nowa Nowa District, over 2 days we travelled for 24 hours. With four wheel drive vehicle we managed 5-6 miles per hour. We also erected signs.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Promoted to Forest Overseer 2
Logging supervision with Bob Allen.
 
 
 
 
 
August
S.E.C. power switched on in Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
October
Norman Brooks appointed Tree Marker. Later promoted to Log Checking Officer. First job to assist me with logging of Waygara Sawmilling Co, as they are using 11 fallers to fall 1½ million super in six weeks (Tostaree Hill).
 
 
 
 
 
November
D.F.O. Barry Johnston inspects work under my supervision.
Supervise construction of fire trails in the Colquhoun Logging Unit. Bulldozer driver Dan Darcy, who later attended Overseer School, and from there was appointed to Mansfield.
Supervise cutting of Eucalyptus radiata logs for C.S.I.R.O
 
 
 
 
 
December
Do alignment survey, Mellick Munjie Road. Road being constructed by Forests Commission employees for log extraction.
Logging operations cease for Xmas break. Inspected areas with Overseer Pettman, then caught a dozen trout.
 
 
 
1965
 
July
Log intake report. Log allocation report. Field date for budding and flowering.
Traverse log extraction roads in Nunnett logging areas.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Demonstration of bombing fires from the air with Phoscheck. Aeroplanes and helicopters, now being used for various operations.
 
 
 
 
 
December
Last sleeper cutting inspection for this year. Saldaneri Bros, Zagami, Grange, Brooks, Banfield, Hartley, Ryan, Bailey, Waites.
Chas Pettman and I, building jetty at Devil’s Hole. To be used for Forests Commission boat. There is an Aboriginal legend about the Devil’s Hole, hence the name. Water 50’ – 60’ deep.
 
 
 
1966
 
January
Commence traverse of Gillingall Station boundary. This eventually proves that Forests Commission had cut 250,000 s.f. of saw logs on this private property.
Fire school, including new equipment.
Traverse western boundary of township of Nowa Nowa.
Had first ride in helicopter. Nowa looks very nice from air.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Left to take crew to fire near Deddick. Picked up 26 lb of steak at Buchan for crew already there. When we reached Wulgulmerang, message on radio that we were not needed as fire was under control. Instructed to repair telephone line to Mt Seldom Seen lookout. Ever tried to find a telephone line in the dark? With the aid of torches we managed to find the fault and got it repaired. There was 12 of us counting the lookout man and we tried to eat 26 lb of grilled steak for supper. I couldn’t look at a grilled steak for a couple of weeks.
 
 
 
 
 
April
With Mr Parke and Mr Johnston inspect works in the Buchan area.
 
 
 
 
 
July
Start assessment of timber standing on Lake Tyers Aboriginal settlement.
 
 
 
 
 
September
Overseer school students at Nowa Nowa. Inspect logging Collins & Stott and Departmental logging. Instructed in log fault allowance.
 
 
 
1967
 
March
David Paterson D.F.O. at Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
September
First day at work after three months long service leave. Assistant Forester Ian Thompson arrived during my absence and when I showed up at the office, he said, “Good morning, can I help you?” My answer, “Sure, give me another three months leave.”
 
 
 
 
 
December
25/12 - Duty officer - Communications. Cold day.
 
 
 
1968
 
November
Harry Prewett D.F.O.
 
 
 
1968
 
December
Hot day for Xmas. 513 points for week.
 
 
 
1969
 
January
Chairman Forests Commission, and members of Public Service Board visit Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Start erection of concrete oil store in Forests Commission yard.
This year had a record of 10days of Total Fire Ban.
 
 
 
 
 
March
Represent Forests Commission at meeting of Nowa Nowa Sawmillers Group.
 
 
 
 
 
June
Start a 3 day mill study to check percentage recoveries.
 
 
 
1970
 
January
Phil Garth and I patrol Lake Tyers in my boat, from Burnt Bridge to Nowa Nowa, about 20 miles. This was done to select areas suitable for camps, boat launching sites, and other fishing and tourist interests.
 
 
 
 
 
March
Take Overseer Pettman on patrol of work under my supervision as he takes over those works while I am on Long Service Leave.
 
 
 
 
 
August
Accompany Forests officers from Western Australia, New Zealand and Victoria on study of Phytophthora.
 
 
 
 
 
September
Phytophthora survey with interstate and Victorian Forest Officers.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Represent Forests Commission at meeting of Wairewa Rural Fire Brigade.
Check pollution on roads adjacent to 90 Mile Beach.
 
 
 
 
 
December
25/12 -Duty officer - Communications.
 

1971 to 1974

 
 
1971
 
January
Commenced timber resources survey in the Boggy Creek block. Excellent chain and compass man, Liet? Nordholm.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Commenced assessment of flood damage to district roads and bridges, after 20 inches of rain in 10 weeks.
 
 
 
 
 
September
Regrowth survey. Supervise road drainage works.
 
 
 
1972
 
September
Commence resources and plant species surveys in Lake Tyers Forest Park. Very interesting work. Strips 40 chains apart running N.W. & E.W. with 1/3 acre plots each 40 chain. Booking also along each strip.
 
 
 
 
 
October
First supervision of A.P. M. Wood Products Pty Ltd, who have taken over from Waygara Sawmilling Co.
Snowy River Scheme completed and Snowy River Authority disbanded.
Standby to 2 p.m. Then to Lakes Entrance to collect supplies for fire crew at Suggan Buggan, then delivered to camp. Had tea there and then returned to Nowa Nowa. Arrived home 8.45 p.m. Trip of 182 miles.
 
 
 
 
 
November
Complete course of sawn timber grading. Test marks, written paper 100%, practical 80%.
 
 
 
 
 
December
Joy and I attend farewell dinner to Mr Charlie Elsey prior to his retirement on (13.1.1973). Held in Bairnsdale.
25/12 - Communications and standby.
To fire on the N.S.W. – Vic. Border on the Ingegoodbee trail with rations and supplies. Last 7 miles to camp and 7 miles back took 1 hour 40 mins in Toyota Land Cruiser. Today I named Chas Pettman, Harold Welsh and I as “Dad’s Army”.
 
 
 
1973
 
January
To Ingegoodbee fire with rations. Hurt back loading 44 gallon drum of diesel. Doctor put me on compo. for 1 week.
Duty Officer
There are many farmers of the district now working for the Forests Commission on drought relief. We are now getting a big back log of work done, including road and bridge repairs, silviculture and thinning. There are two ex-sleeper cutters and they are cutting bridge decking with Forests Commission swing saw.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Public Service increase recreational leave to 4 weeks.
 
 
 
 
 
March
Forest photography, doing scenes for tourist brochure. I acted as guide.
21/03 - New office opened during this week. Built by farmers working on drought relief, Andy Cella, Arch Trevaskis, Ed. Lavell and Perc Lord, and odd part timers. Perhaps Nowa Nowa has the best Forest Office in the State.
 
 
 
 
 
October
Attended Base Camp School at Dennis Hotel, Healesville. Enjoyed paid holiday and meeting officers from all parts of the State. Otherwise no use to me, too old and worn for the rigours of task entailed.
 
 
 
 
 
December
Distribute copies of ‘Forest Drives’ to hotels and caravan parks in Lakes Entrance.
 
 
 
1974
 
January
21/01 - notified today that Forests Commission have granted my application to be retired due to ill health. Before retirement I have to take my sick and recreation, which will be 9½ months. Pay in lieu for long service leave credits.
 
 
 
 
 
February
Complete resources survey of Waiwera Block 0403.
28/02 - Minister of Forests in East Gippsland and today we look at interesting areas in coastal belt, and work carried out in Lake Tyers Forest Park, and have picnic lunch at Pile Bay picnic area. The Chairman of the Forests Commission and Commissioner Mr J. Cosstick, in attendance. This was my 2nd last day before retirement, and I was grateful for praise and statements of faithful service during my 35 years in the job. With Harold Welsh 35 years, Chas Pettman 40 years, our total with the Forests Commission at Nowa Nowa is 110 years. A record, surely?
 
 
 
 
 
March
Today is my last with Forests Commission Nowa Nowa, although till 11.12.1974 I will be taking sick and recreational leave credits. I spent most of the day with my old mate Chas Pettman, who also retires on 25.1.75. My last permit to burn went to M. Veldon of Nowa Nowa.
 
 
 
 
 
April
My retirement dinner, held in Nowa Nowa Public Hall.