Hands-on con­ser­va­tion in Paddy’s veins

Paddy Maguire has a mil­lion sto­ries, mostly end­ing with a dead­pan punch­line, a wry smile, and a wink. As an en­gi­neer, he helped build the first heart and lung ma­chine in Aus­tralia, in­vented the fa­mil­iar three-wheeled stand trans­fu­sion re­cip­i­ents cart arou

Field and Game - - PADDY'S PASSION -

For pure de­sign and in­ge­nu­ity you can’t beat mother na­ture, and from a young age Paddy was drawn to the bush. In 1958, when he heard the Vic­to­rian Field & Game As­so­ci­a­tion (FGA) was be­ing formed in Gipp­s­land, he rushed to join. “In 1951, at 19 years of age, af­ter clean­ing the bush alone or with my camp­ing mates I joined my first vol­un­teer group along the Mur­ray River near Echuca,” Paddy said. “In 1958, on a trip back to Mel­bourne I read about the for­ma­tion of the VFGA but be­cause I was liv­ing in Syd­ney all I could do was do­nate some cash.”

A year later Paddy moved back to Mel­bourne and be­came an ac­tive mem­ber. “It was an op­por­tu­nity to join with others to re­pair the en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age of the past,” he said.

“In our early days a Vic­to­rian Na­tional Parks As­so­ci­a­tion (VNPA) rep­re­sen­ta­tive came to our meet­ings to talk about their work. He said they were nearly broke, so I gave them a good do­na­tion and they made me a life mem­ber. A lot of our mem­bers dug deep to keep them afloat.”

For years Paddy was ac­tive with both or­gan­i­sa­tions but he even­tu­ally tired of the “so­cial” out­ings with a lit­tle work on the side con­ducted by the VNPA. “There was no com­par­i­son with FGA work­ing bees which were well planned and or­gan­ised, the mem­bers were not afraid of hard yakka,” he said.

One early ef­fort at Kerang in­volved a con­trolled burn at a 1200 acre wet­land which had been used as a dump­ing ground. The clean-up was a slog, but af­ter sev­eral weeks the light rub­bish had been col­lected and bagged and the larger junk like old wa­ter tanks, car bod­ies and bath­tubs, re­moved with heavy ma­chin­ery and crushed.

The work con­tin­ued with 15 000 trees and plants planted by Field & Game vol­un­teers. “Years later I re­vis­ited the swamp, it was healthy and thriv­ing and alive with birds and wildlife,” Paddy said. “As an Ir­ish­man would re­mark, it was as if the hand of man hadn’t set foot there since cre­ation.”

Paddy had al­ways been drawn to the >>

>> bush, and from age nine, when grad­u­ated from sling­shot and bow and ar­rows to his first firearm, he was a hunter.

A sec­ond-hand slug gun re­ceived as a birth­day gift at age 10 wasn’t a li­cence to hunt any­thing. A fam­ily ver­sion of the pest an­i­mal bounty was in forced. “The ammo was re­stricted be­cause of the cost,” Paddy re­called. “I had to hunt some pest birds or rats to get ex­tra am­mu­ni­tion.”

At 15, a Har­ring­ton & Richards 16-gauge shot­gun was just the ticket for a trip to Wer­ribee with some mates to hunt ducks. “My first real duck open­ing was at Kow Swamp near Gun­bower; my two broth­ers, one 15, the other 16, my­self and four ex-ser­vice­men who were rel­a­tives of my mates,” Paddy said. “The men slept on the grass with a tar­pau­lin over them in case it rained and the seats from the old Chevro­let were taken out for the boys to sleep on as best we could. “We had no train­ing at all, not much sleep, no waders, mos­qui­toes as big as black­birds and we got no ducks al­though the men got quite a few.”

Around 1950 Paddy went to Third Marsh near Kerang for open­ing, he re­calls it was filled with live trees, good cover and birds. “I got 15 ducks be­fore lunch.” A good re­sult soon spoiled by a youth­ful mis­take. Paddy had not thought ahead and they spoiled while he was off check­ing the progress of the rest of the hunt­ing party. The next day he cleaned a fresh bag of birds and headed straight home via the ice works in town.

Jack Dre­witt, a fine gun and bush­man,

be­came an early men­tor and a part­ner on reg­u­lar hunt­ing trips.

“He in­stilled the golden rules,” Paddy said. “Work hard, do your best, only hunt for food or for pest an­i­mals and above all, re­spect the bush and the wildlife.”

Camp­sites had to van­ish, leav­ing the area as if you had never been there. Spare time was spent clean­ing up af­ter less prin­ci­pled campers. It was the ba­sis for Paddy’s life­long in­ter­est in con­ser­va­tion.

For Christ­mas 1953, af­ter fin­ish­ing school, Paddy was given a Re­nault 750 and the fol­low­ing year he quit his job to go ex­plor­ing in central Aus­tralia. His equip­ment was rudi­men­tary, but a .22 Moss­berg ri­fle, some fish­ing line and tackle, tinned food, pow­dered milk and a box of matches seemed enough to get by. “I hung a wa­ter bag on the front bumper like I’d seen the bushies do, and I did buy a sleep­ing bag along the way af­ter find­ing the stones an un­com­fort­able bed when no grass was avail­able,” he said.

Roads were gravel or dirt and mostly sin­gle lane; but the road from Ade­laide to Alice Springs didn’t ex­ist. “I was young, fit and ad­ven­tur­ous and I reck­oned on learn­ing from my mis­takes,” Paddy said. “My sys­tem worked but I fell into ev­ery trap along the way and carry the scars to prove it. “The wa­ter bag died a dis­as­trous death on the rough roads but a kerosene tin made a good sub­sti­tute apart from the nasty taste.”

Mix­ing with rough and tum­ble bushies, indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, farm­ers, drovers, prospec­tors, drifters and the odd crim­i­nal seek­ing to re­main undis­cov­ered gave Paddy a real ed­u­ca­tion. Life skills, phi­los­o­phy, self-reliance and bushcraft were col­lected on his trav­els, along with a host of sto­ries to be told and re­told. “I once came across an Abo­rig­i­nal man 100 miles from any­where who had a fire go­ing, some bel­lows, an anvil and a ham­mer,” Paddy said. “He was sharp­en­ing the bit for a large wa­ter bor­ing drill, work­ing in the heat and flies to get it ready be­fore the fore­man ar­rived with the rig. The indige­nous peo­ple were great hun­ters and sur­vivors.”

Paddy de­scribes Ten­nant Creek in those days as a town at the end of a lumpy track too rough for cars. “It had two pubs, a store and a café with food, mostly ined­i­ble,” he laughed. >>

>> “I or­dered am­mu­ni­tion from Har­ris Scarfe in Ade­laide and my pastime was hunt­ing some­thing to cook on the open fire. I was able to hit rab­bits on the run and even a few wild duck en route to Mt Isa.”

Paddy re­turned from his out­back ad­ven­tures to take up a po­si­tion as a main­te­nance en­gi­neer at Mel­bourne’s Al­fred Hospi­tal.

He be­came fast friends with a fel­low in the work­shop called Char­lie Dixon, a trained gun­smith who re­paired and mod­i­fied guns for clients across Vic­to­ria. “He made “Dix” com­pen­sators and vari­able chokes but he didn’t have a car so I used to run him around to pick up and drop off jobs. Through Char­lie, I met Ge­orge Biggs (Hart­ley’s Sports in Flin­ders St), Hor­rie James (Don­ald Mcintosh’s in Lons­dale St) and Fred Shearer in Malvern, all cham­pion shots.”

Paddy’s fa­ther came from Gipp­s­land and he found him­self re­turn­ing reg­u­larly to an area close to his heart. “I met Dr Hugh Martin in 1957 or 1958 and joined the VFGA,” he said.

Be­cause of odd work hours Paddy wasn’t able to join com­mit­tees but he loved the work­ing bees, nest box projects, fox drives and clay tar­get shoots. He helped es­tab­lish the Serendip sanc­tu­ary and has been a gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor of con­ser­va­tion and other projects over the years.

Paddy de­scribes a lot of con­ser­va­tion­ists as “walk and gawk”, he much pre­ferred get­ting his hands dirty with the sort of prac­ti­cal work done by Field & Game. He helped with the es­tab­lish­ment of ibis rook­eries at Rhyll on Phillip Is­land and at Kerang, the restora­tion of im­por­tant wet­lands and the es­tab­lish­ment of shoot­ing grounds at Ararat, Sale, Lys­ter­field and Cape Schanck (Port Phillip). “I’ve had a few pats on the back but I lift my lid to all the others that have given so much more,” Paddy said. “My real re­ward is to see how far Field & Game has de­vel­oped. It is great to drive through the farm­ing ar­eas and not see holes in ev­ery sign and wind­mill blade. We give young peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to be­come in­volved in an or­gan­i­sa­tion where they learn safety and re­spect for the en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife.”

Paddy’s fi­nal word is on hunt­ing and the ac­tivists who op­pose it. “To me, eth­i­cal hunt­ing is not cruel and it poses no threat to sus­tain­able wildlife pop­u­la­tions, it is just an­other method of gath­er­ing food,” he said.

Now in his mid-80s Paddy is find­ing it more dif­fi­cult to con­trib­ute in the hand­son way he prefers but he en­cour­aged FGA mem­bers to keep do­ing the hard yakka. “As a strong or­gan­i­sa­tion we will al­ways be a won­der­ful help to the Aussie en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

The tra­di­tional Barmah camp

Early work on big en­gi­neer­ing

Paddy with col­league and gun­smith Char­lie Dixon

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