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Healy, Vincent Michael (Vin) (1916–2003)

Vincent Michael Healy (known to all as Vin Healy) died on 14th December 2003. He is remembered for his long and successful career with the South Australian Woods and Forests Department retiring in 1975 as Acting Conservator of Forests. A strong supporting member of the IFA, Vin was chairman of the SA Division at the time of the first conference held in Canberra in 1954.

Vin was born in Adelaide, the third of eight children. His parents were school teachers, and he spent his early years in school houses in Crystal Brook and Moonta mines before the family moved to Adelaide. He left school after completing his leaving certificate. This was during the depression and jobs were scarce, so his father enrolled him at what was then the School of Mines to do a carpentry course.

After the completion of this course Vin found employment with the Woods and Forests Department at Mount Burr. This was the beginning of a long career in forestry. At the age of 17 he found himself living in a remote work camp in the South East of South Australia. It was a harsh life and they had few amenities and none of the comforts that we take for granted today. His duties were varied and included soil testing, surveying and even drafting.

After two years at Mount Burr he entered Adelaide University and then the Australian Forestry School in Canberra graduating with a Bachelor of Science and a Diploma of Forestry. It was in Canberra where he first met Marguerite Healy who later became his wife. (They were intrigued by the fact that they shared a surname).

During World War II, Vin was put in charge of internment camps mainly at Murtho upstream from Renmark on the Murray River, where he was required to oversee the work of the detainees from 1942–1945. He was responsible for their health, well-being and the production of firewood for industry for the production of charcoal, a very necessary product at that time

After the war Vin took his wife and first two children to Penola Forest. There he remained for 12 years initially as logging officer and eventually becoming the district forester. While there, eight more children were added to the family.

Vin then moved with his family to Mount Gambier as Regional Forester for the South East of SA. After eleven years in Mount Gambier he transferred to Adelaide, and remained there until he retired as Acting Conservator of Forests for South Australia in 1975.

Vin is remembered by his colleagues as a man of energy, professional expertise and integrity—not to mention friendship and conviviality and he liked a good joke. He was deeply involved, post war with sponsorship of migrants to fill a labour shortage. He was renowned as a quick energetic walker in the pines, hard to keep up with, and a definite air of owning the place. Vin scorned the use of note books and used the back of a cigarette packet and a sharp memory and many’s the message that he took from the field back to the office on the back of a cigarette packet!

His expertise was in forest establishment and protection and in particular in setting felling rates when there were large numbers of fallers doing manual work. He handled the suppression of the largest fire in mature Departmental forests to that time in 1950 at Nangwarry and then oversaw the extraction of approx 264,000 cubic metres of timber from the fire killed forests from the estimated 283,000 cubic metres burnt.

He was widely known and respected in the South Australian timber industry.

Vin read widely and had a life long passion for Australian natural and political history and loved discussing or debating these topics. His family will always remember him for being a dependable, caring and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; others for his many accomplishments and achievements in the forestry industry and in the community.

The woods are lovely dark and deep.
He has kept his promise and earned
his sleep.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 46, no 2, June 2004, pp 22-23

Citation details

'Healy, Vincent Michael (Vin) (1916–2003)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/healy-vincent-michael-vin-18325/text29937, accessed 20 September 2017.

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