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Frederick Manson (Fred) Bailey (1906–1984)

F. M. [Frederick Manson] Bailey, who had spent his entire working life with the Forestry Commission of N.S.W. prior to his retirement as Commissioner in 1971, died on 30 December 1984 after a very short illness

Fred Bailey was born into one of Australia’s most distinguished botanical families. His greatgrandfather, John (1800-64), migrated to South Australia in 1838, and for a short period was Colonial Botanist there. Fred’s grandfather and namesake (1827-1915) was from 1881 till his death the very famous Queensland Colonial Botanist, in whose honour many plants were named. Fred’s father, John Frederick Bailey, succeeded the original F. M. Bailey as Queensland Government Botanist in 1915, but resigned two years later to become Director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Fred’s brother was curator at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and his cousin, C. T. White, served a long term as Government Botanist in Queensland. Not surprisingly, Fred had a lifelong interest in botany and possessed an extraordinarily detailed knowledge of the flora of N.S.W.

Born in Brisbane in 1906, Fred moved to Adelaide with his parents in 1917 and attended the University of Adelaide in 1925 and 1926, in his second year studying Forestry under Professor N. W. Jolly. On Jolly’s appointment as Commissioner of Forests in N.S.W. he awarded Fred a traineeship (actually “Commissioner’s nominee as student”), and Fred transferred with other students to the new Australian Forestry School in Canberra in 1927 to complete his studies under C. E. Lane-Poole. He was awarded his B.Sc. from Adelaide and his Dip.For. from Canberra at the end of that year.

Joining the N.S.W. Forestry Commission in 1928, he worked for six years on the North Coast, with a six months’ interlude when he was appointed to assist Stephen Kessell during the latter’s inquiry into forestry in N.S.W. in 1933-34. He then spent two years as the forester at Armidale, where he met his future wife, Mary Madden, the daughter of an Anglican rector.

In 1935 he was awarded the third Russell Grimwade Fellowship, and in 1936 he travelled to Oxford for a year at the Imperial Forestry Institute. One of the highlights of that year was a University visit to Finland, where the forestry staff and students were entertained by one of the few foresters to translate successfully to the political arena, President Cajander; the presidential banquet remained vividly in Fred’s memory. He returned to Australia via the United States where he observed timber stand improvement in operation in previously unmanaged native stands, and he was later instrumental in adapting “T.S.I.” to a wide range of forest conditions in N.S.W.

For the remainder of his forestry career Fred Bailey was based in Sydney, for 12 years as Chief Silviculturist and for several years previously acting in that role, though without the title. This was probably the period of Fred’s greatest contribution to forestry in N.S.W. He was essentially a field forester, with a great love for the bush and with a very keen and observant eye. He travelled widely through N.S.W., in the process building up an unexcelled photographic record of forestry conditions in the State. Particularly after 1945, when funds for forest treatment were again available, Fred supervised the silvicultural treatment of forests in many parts of N. S. W. and the fine condition of many stands today is a direct tribute to Fred’s interest and advice. He was also largely responsible for establishing the State’s silvicultural research programme.

Due to the personal antagonism between C. E. Lane-Poole and E. H. F. Swain, Swain refused to be a member of the Board of Higher Forestry Education and appointed Fred Bailey to the Board in his place. Under the circumstances it placed Fred in a most invidious position, but he remained a member of the Board throughout its existence. He also served on a number of official committees in N.S.W. For many years he was on the selection committee for forestry trainees in N.S.W., and was the person who guided and helped the trainees through their University and Forestry School days—a task which he handled with great friendliness and good humour, and which has left a large number of foresters with fond memories of him.

He always took an active interest in the Institute of Foresters, and was Divisional Secretary and a member of the N.S.W. Divisional Committee from 1941 to 1951.

He became Deputy Chief of the Division of Forest Management in 1953, Chief of the Division of Forest and Timber Resources in 1961, Chief of Forest Management in 1965, an Assistant Commissioner in 1966 and Commissioner of Forests for slightly over a year in 1970.

Following his retirement Fred was a regular visitor to the Commission’s Head Office, where his interest in forestry developments, his fund of stories about earlier days, and his sincere personal regard for his former colleagues made him always a most welcome guest. He rarely missed any function arranged by the Institute in Sydney, and as recently as July 1984 he taped a several hours’ interview about his recollections of some of the earlier foresters as a contribution to the Institute’s anniversary project on The Foresters.

He was a keen family man, and is survived by his wife, Mary, their two sons, John and Tom, and their daughter, Jane.

Fred Bailey made a notable contribution to forestry in N.S.W., and he will be sorely missed by his numerous friends.

Original publication

Citation details

'Bailey, Frederick Manson (Fred) (1906–1984)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 May 2024.

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