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McNamara, Patrick John (1926–1998)

by Peter Hewett

Patrick McNamara, n.d.

Patrick McNamara, n.d.

Patrick John McNamara was born in Newark-upon-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England. His father was from Irish stock and his mother was born in England from Italian parents. His formative years were spent at a Blackfriars College run by Dominican Fathers, of whom he often spoke with admiration.

When he was 18 he entered Brasenose College, Oxford University to study forestry. World War II interrupted his studies and between 1944 and 1947 Patrick was in the Royal Marines. He then completed his studies at Oxford, and in 1950 he obtained a Master’s degree in forest management. Soon afterwards Patrick joined the British Forestry Commission and was employed as a forester in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham—the forest made famous by the legend of Robin Hood.

Patrick’s brother Lou, a mining engineer had migrated to the goldfields of Western Australia, and in 1953 he followed and joined the Forests Department of Western Australia. For some 20 years Pat served as a forester in the southwest Jarrah and Karri forests, stationed in Manjimup and Pemberton, of which time he often spoke with passion.

In 1972 he was transferred to Perth head office, where he eventually became the Deputy Conservator of Forests, and was a very able assistant to Bruce Beggs who was then the Conservator. In the time of major changes to the Forests Department in 1983, when Bruce Beggs left to run the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Patrick became Acting Conservator of Forests, a position he held until the Forests Department was amalgamated with National Parks and the Wildlife section of Fisheries and Wildlife, to become the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) in March 1985. In 1985 he became the Director of the Timber Bureau, attached to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, until he retired the following year.

He was a founding member of the Forest Production Council, (a Ministerial advisory body established under the CALM Act) which was formed in 1985 and on which he served until his death. He was also appointed deputy chair of the Lands and Forests Commission (the vesting authority for State Forests and Timber Reserves) in 1994, a position he held until his death.

Patrick was well liked by his forestry peers, and played a significant role in the affairs of the Institute of Foresters of Australia. Shortly before his transfer to Head Office, he became Chair of the WA Division of the Institute just in time to become organiser of the 1968 IFA Conference held in Perth, and he did a sterling job. The conference was a great success, even earth shattering, with a major earth-quake near Perth at the time of the opening ceremony.

Patrick never married, and often said that his church was his extended family but he had many close friends in forestry, particularly other bachelors like Wally Eastman and Phil Barrett and his bachelor pad was often the scene of convivial gatherings with fellow foresters.

Steve Quain records the regular meetings in the so-called “killing pen” bar of the Manjimup Hotel, during the mid to late 1950’s where all the problems were resolved for local, state, national and international matters of importance. He also recalls similar venues and discussions at the Travellers Arms near Gleneagle, and later still in the “Alambra Bar” in Barrack Street, Perth. Others recall the saloon bar of “The Rose” in Bunbury, where Patrick could be found at weekends in the early 1960’s, when he spent weekends with his parents who were living in Bunbury at the time.

He was also valued for his forestry expertise, and for many years went to Canberra once a year to deliver a series of Forest Management lectures to students attending the Australian Forestry School and later at the Australian National University.

Patrick was a hard taskmaster (possibly inherited from having worked closely with George Nunn for a number of years) and through this approach avoided major “stuffups” in the units under his control. You always knew you were in trouble when he addressed you as “Mister”, and it was fair warning that you should play your cards with great care.

Privately he was also a staunch supporter of the Catholic faith at Kalamunda, and reached quite high office in the Darling Range Circle of the Catenians and with the Knights of the Southern Cross. He will long be remembered by the citizens of Kalamunda and by foresters and timber industry people with whom he was associated.

Original publication

  • IFA Newsletter, vol 39, no 6, December 1998, p 25

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Peter Hewett, 'McNamara, Patrick John (1926–1998)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mcnamara-patrick-john-18381/text30027, accessed 21 September 2017.

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