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Male, Peter Seymour (1943–2012)

by Peter Holzworth

Peter Male, n.d.

Peter Male, n.d.

Peter, like many of us Queenslanders was a 1963 intake at Canberra’s Australian Forestry School. He was there on a Commonwealth Scholarship, like Phil Telford and Ian MacLeod. Ian recalls one of Peter’s stories: ‘Chooks and chokos mate—the chooks eat the chokos and the chokos thrive on the chook shit, more money in this than forestry.’ This is probably true as Ian tells of Peter having a brand new Vauxhall when in Canberra, courtesy of his parents, while the rest of us had to make do with clapped-out old ‘bombs’. Ian recalls the ‘lots of grog at the Wello and great parties at the AFS.

Peter [Seymour] Male, forester and friend to most in the profession was a very sincere man and one with a very Christian outlook on life. He had a positive attitude to the world around him and was not averse to voicing his principles some of which were rather old-fashioned, even patriarchal, but to his credit he believed in them strongly and lived by them. He disliked cant and was disdainful of the humbug that went with a lot of the ‘new management’ jargon, like many of us, and would sit at the back of the room, according to his friend Ian Lynch, and read the Courier Mail, rustling the pages scornfully.

His forthright manner and his tendency to say what he thought was sometimes seen as abrupt and his candid manner could be annoying to senior forestry officers and the milder mannered of his staff, but others admired his ability to stand up and ‘tell it like it is’. He was never one to leave you guessing what his position was on life and its vagaries.

He was an innovative man. When in charge of the Gambubal region in the Warwick District, he was keen to cut costs in the plantations there by using regrowth stems after clear fall, so he implemented the idea and was justifiably proud of it, despite some tut-tutting by the Conservator of the day. Nevertheless, it worked and is now understood to be a regime of some interest to the new owners of all our plantations.

Peter was far-sighted enough to try to persuade his father to buy Gambubal plantations when it came onto the market in the 1960s. He wanted to manage the area full time as a family business. It never came to pass, but ironically he eventually got to manage it anyway.

Ian Lynch told me that he thought it was Peter who designed a ‘very peculiar compartment at Toolara with a shape that would gladden the ancient Britons who inscribed the chalk down in southern England’. The design made Peter quite famous and was notoriously known as the ‘Dickhead Block’. Unfortunately, it has disappeared in the new second rotation design.

He was a very competent wood worker in cypress pine, specialising in squatter chairs and children’s’ toys. I once visited him at his family home on the outskirts of Toowoomba. His work shed was enormous, reminiscent of Cloudland Ballroom (well, not quite). It was packed with machines and electric leads hanging from the rafter. You had to duck and dive to avoid them and nudge your way along to find a pathway. It was efficient in output but Workplace Health and Safety guys would have had fits. Nevertheless, Peter loved his shed and his work and meeting buyers at the markets and chatting to buyers who came to his shed. He loved meeting people!

Like many District Foresters he would invite forestry visitors to his home after work for dinner with the family. That’s how a lot of friendships began in those days. Interestingly though, at the end of every dinner and when attending other people’s places he would make a short formal speech of thank you or whatever.

Peter was often away a lot in his time out west. This was due to the tyranny of distance and the long drives to the reserves. He even rented at times and seemed to live out of a cardboard box of comestibles that his wife Loretta packed for him on Monday mornings. These arrangements must have been hard on the family.

Sally and John Simpson remember Peter with affection. As John says, ‘Although our professional careers had taken us in somewhat different directions, the strong bond of friendship that flourished at the Australian Forestry School in Canberra has remained with me. It is with fond memories that I recall some of the moments of our youth and the sincerity of our friendship as we matured. We will always count Peter as a true mate and wonderful person.’

Peter Male was a very good forester. He was also a very charitable man. He would sell the produce from his flower and vegetable garden at his front gate and donate all the proceeds to favoured charities. Let us hope he is so favoured in his own Christian afterlife.

Peter’s family comprised beloved wife Loretta and children Martin, Monica, Marguerite, Luke and James.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 55, no 3, September 2012, p 11

Citation details

Peter Holzworth, 'Male, Peter Seymour (1943–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/male-peter-seymour-18371/text30011, accessed 24 November 2017.

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