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Stanley Raymond (Ray) Margules (1926–2013)

Ray Margules, n.d.

Ray Margules, n.d.

Ray Margules can rightly be called a founder of consulting forestry in Australia and he was visionary in his understanding of the landscape and the value of forests and the importance of trees to human wellbeing.

He was born on February 15th in 1925 and grew up near the Cotter settlement with his brothers and sisters in the foothills of the Brindabella Range outside Canberra. His childhood ensured he had good bush skills.

After a short stint in the Merchant Navy during the final phases of the Second World War it was not surprising that his love of the bush took him to study forestry. He graduated with a B.Sc.(For) Sydney and a Diploma of Forestry from the Australian Forestry School in Yarralumla, Canberra at the end of 1950.

In 1951 he joined ACT Parks and Gardens which was then part of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior. He first worked under another forester and former IFA Jolly Medallist Lindsay Pryor and then David Shoobridge also a Forester, his principal role was in fire protection and suppression.

He was awarded a Public Service Scholarship in 1965 to study for a Masters Degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Davis campus. Upon graduation he returned to Canberra and ultimately negotiated a release from his public service commitments to establish his own consulting business in 1967 which specialised in forestry and landscape architecture. Ray’s interests were broad. He had a strong an interest in traditional forest management and plantation development as well as developing trees in urban landscapes to improve the living environment for everyone. He had a true sense of the landscape approach to forestry something which is only just coming to prominence today.

His knowledge and influence in tree planting was widespread including the new suburbs of Hughes and Curtin of Canberra, around Albury Wodonga, Bathurst and Orange. He believed in getting trees and shrubs established well before the houses arrived to ensure the new suburbs would quickly benefit from the climatic, visual and calming influence that trees provide in this setting. He co-ordinated the development of a significant softwood plantation estate around the southern New South Wales town of Bombala and was the quiet inspiration for the design of their bicentennial gardens in 1988 which effectively joined the two sides of the town around its main feature the Bombala River.

Unfortunately not everyone could see the future as clearly as Ray and with the pressures of budget restrictions it was often the landscaping component of major projects that were cut first leaving in his mind some pathetic efforts. Little did he think that it would take nearly 30 plus years for others to understand what he was talking about.

For a little over 10 years Ray managed all his own forestry consulting and it was not until 1979 that he employed his first forest consultant employee a recent graduate. When queried on why he had not perhaps engaged someone with more experience he would jokingly state that he wanted to shape their ideas and not have to undo someone else’s thinking.

Ray lived by a number of philosophies:

• Every day in the forest is a picnic and he would often remind us that someone is paying you to be here, how lucky can you get?

• There is no job that you cannot contract—contracting he believed instilled discipline in managers who had to know exactly what they wanted to write in the contract specification and the better the specification the easy it was for the contractor to quote on the job. In his eyes everyone won.

• Get started—you may not have enough data but start with what you know and just keep on improving.

A true professional I remember his dismay at the cessation of harvesting in the tropical rainforests in Australia, not because he was against National Parks but because we would cease learning how to improve sustainable forest management particularly in terms of wood production. It would mean we could not legitimately assist our neighbours overseas, who have to harvest their forests as our management knowledge from home would diminish over time. Ray believed that you had to be good in your own country before you could legitimately take your expertise overseas.

Feeling that consulting foresters were not represented in the Executive of IFA or even particularly welcomed he proposed the formation of the Association of Consulting Foresters of Australia. Following discussions with other consulting foresters particularly Geoff Chandler and including Keith Gray, Don McIntosh, Bob Newman, Peter Stevens and Jack Gittins, Ray became their inaugural President in 1978. He led the association through its formative years and he was adamant that it should never be a ‘club’ and that any forestry professional consultant to the industry should be able to join.

Ray retired from full time consulting in 1985 and moved to Byron Bay to grow macadamia’s a crop he believed would have a good future as it was a native species, a durable crop and the climate on the North Coast of NSW was ideal. He took keen interest in the IFA on the North Coast of NSW and was elected a Fellow. He also remained interested in the company he started and encouraged the joint venture with his old forestry school colleague John Groome who had a similar forestry consulting business in New Zealand in 1991. His first two employees continued to build the forestry consulting business which is now a household name in the Australian forest industry—Pöyry Management Consulting.

Ray was a good sportsman playing Rugby Union for the Australian Forestry School and was part of their winning Canberra Cup team in 1951 and he continued for many years as a referee. His wife Lorraine for many years his business partner was a great support to him and they had four children. Although none became foresters, his eldest son Chris was a highly regarded ecologist at CSIRO.

In summing up Ray as a person Chris provided the following words at his memorial that I am sure that everyone who worked with him would concur—Ray had a presence that is hard to put into words. He had a major influence on the people around him, managing to impart the key values that governed his life, empathy, honesty, integrity and optimism. He did this in a non-judgmental way, by his own example, not by imposing, lecturing or hectoring. He was always there, strong and dependable; a model for his children and grandchildren to aspire to. He leaves a gap in all our lives that, while it might shrink a little with time, will never be filled, and we will never forget. Rest in peace, Stanley Raymond Margules.

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'Margules, Stanley Raymond (Ray) (1926–2013)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 July 2024.

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