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Muir, James Douglas (Jim) (1920–2012)

Jim Muir, n.d.

Jim Muir, n.d.

Jim [James Douglas] Muir was born in Esk in the Brisbane Valley on 11 November 1920 i.e. the second anniversary of Armistice Day, hence the Christian names given to him. His father, a farmer, moved from property to property in the area. For a year Jim did not go to school at Toogoolawah as it was too far to ride and he had to catch up later at Blackbutt School. Jim and his brother and two sisters every morning (before going to school) and every evening had to help milk 80 to 90 cows by hand.

Jim passed the State Scholarship exam at Blackbutt in 1935 and as a boarder attended Ipswich Grammar School where he passed the Junior exam in 1937. Because times were hard, Jim left school and got a job as a clerk in the Queensland Forestry Department (QFD). He realised this was a mistake, so he returned to Ipswich Grammar School in 1939 and completed the Senior exam in one year and gained a Forestry cadetship to attend the University of Queensland (UQ) in 1940.

Jim served in the RAAF during World War 11 from March 1942 to November 1945 reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant in charge of a radio and radar unit off the coast of Borneo at the end of the war. It was then back to UQ and in 1947 he entered the Australian Forestry School in an intake of 12 students and on graduation he was awarded the Schlich medal. He was also awarded a medal of merit from UQ.

After graduating with a B Sc For and a Dip For, Jim served as a sub-district forester in Brisbane and Imbil within QFD. His first posting as a District Forester was to Mackay where he served for many years. Mackay was a rather small (in terms of budget) district but very diverse with the management of tropical rainforest (in State Forests and National Parks), dry sclerophyll forests, exotic pine plantations and gravel resources as well as a large amount of freeholding and reservation of Crown lands. Jim put in long hours in the field and often caught up with his office work at weekends. He was extremely energetic and there was almost nothing going on in the district that he did not know about. His staff found him to be a demanding taskmaster and it was while in Mackay that he earned the nickname of ‘The Master’. As Mackay was rather remote from Brisbane, visits by senior staff from Head Office were few and far between. There is a host of stories about Jim’s achievements in Mackay district, among them the construction of a road from Eungella to the headwaters of the Pioneer River. This was a very difficult construction that was achieved at extremely low cost—the real story has been largely lost in time but it seems some creative accounting may have been involved.

From Mackay, Jim moved to Dalby as District Forester in 1962 and swept through the district like a new broom. In 1964, he was appointed as Assistant Silviculturist based in Brisbane. It was from here on that his influence on all of Queensland forestry began to manifest itself. In due course, Jim was promoted to Silviculturist and then Director of Operations. He rationalised nursery production through the closure of small units, creation of large central operations with a large increase in mechanisation. Many changes in nursery practice that he instigated were not well received by some of the staff above him, but he persisted with the assistance of key personnel in the field. Jim was instrumental in altering clearing specifications to allow for complete site preparation in exotic pine plantation establishment. His leadership led to the establishment of a suite of magnificent plantations that are a source of raw material for the sawmilling and peeling industry today.

Jim was also very active in setting the standards for native forest management being responsible for a number of prescriptions to ensure only the growing stock with good potential was retained in logging and silvicultural treatment.

Outside working hours, Jim was a very personable individual who could mix with people at all levels. During working hours, Jim adopted a very professional attitude and always demanded a high level of performance from his staff. He was well regarded for his professional knowledge and personal drive.

Whenever the opportunity arose, Jim was a great advocate for forestry with politicians, the Public Service Board and a range of visitors to Queensland, although his somewhat maverick actions at times in getting the job done did not always find favour with the QFD hierarchy. It is almost certain that this prevented Jim from attaining higher positions. Late in his career, Jim was moved from Operations to Planning from where he retired in 1980.

Jim was a long serving member of the IFA and prior to his retirement often attended meetings and field weekends. Jim has bequeathed his Schlich medal to the IFA.

After retirement, Jim and his wife Joy moved to Tugun overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Jim remained very alert mentally, taking a keen interest inforestry, sport and the stock market which he played very successfully. Jim never took to the computer age; in fact he said it was the onset of computers that prompted him to retire early. All his stock market dealings were done without the aid of a computer. Jim was disgusted with the treatment of forestry in Queensland at the hands of a left wing government influenced by their greenie allies.

‘The Master’ passed away on 12 February 2012 aged 91. His wife Joy predeceased him; he is survived by his son, three daughters, seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. As one of the later CEOs of QFD remarked: ‘doubt that the forests of Queensland will see his like again beneath their canopies’.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 55, no 3, September 2012, p 12

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Muir, James Douglas (Jim) (1920–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/muir-james-douglas-jim-18391/text30038, accessed 25 September 2017.

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