Jack Peattie celebrates 100th birthday

Ron Webster, NPANSW Tamworth Branch

Jack Peattie, a longtime member of the National Parks Association of NSW, Tamworth Branch celebrated his 100th birthday on the 19th October 2021. Over many decades, Jack has made an outstanding contribution to environmental education, recording the distribution, abundance and breeding of birds in northern NSW and south west Queensland, conserving birds and other wildlife through revegetation projects and the protection of their habitats with the establishment and management of national parks and other reserves throughout Australia.

Jack and his late wife, Marj first met at school with Marj immediately recognising the outstanding qualities that set Jack apart from the rest of their classmates.  The feeling was mutual and their relationship began. Jack served during World War II in the jungles of New Guinea and that experience obviously played a role in the formation of his character.  After Jack’s war service from January 1941 to June 1946 a chance meeting in Peel Street led to the establishment of a closer relationship with Marj, followed shortly by marriage.

A stint of accountancy did not inspire Jack so the couple pursued a long career of teaching.  Jack in primary school and Marj in high school.  Generations of Tamworth students fondly remember either “Mr Peattie” or “Mrs Peattie” or in some cases were fortunate enough to have both as teachers during their time at school.  Marj and Jack have two children, Susan and Ian, who both became teachers in vastly different arenas, delightful twin grand-daughters and one great grandson also appropriately “Jack”.

Long before the environment became a household word Marj and Jack realised the importance of Australia’s unique bush.  They not only shared it with their children but Jack was involved in many of the early school excursions to the Warrumbungle National Park and other environmental education programs.  Many of the trees at South Tamworth Primary and at other locations are the result of the efforts of Jack and his classes.

In 1974 the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), a statewide community conservation group, formed a branch in Tamworth as a result of the efforts of the University of New England staff and local members of the community such as Marj and Jack.  Not only were they foundation members but Jack was President from 1976 to 1980 and a committee member for many decades.  It would not be possible to measure the contribution they both made to nature conservation or to count the number of walks and longer trips they have led, camps attended or talks at monthly social meetings on trips around Australia and overseas.

Jack was heavily involved in all the projects of the local NPA including the “Natural History of the Peel Valley” and the establishment and maintenance of the Dulegal Arboretum (a botanic gardens of many thousands of local and other interesting species) at Chaffey Dam in 1982, the Year of the Tree and other projects such as the Tamworth Citizens Wildlife Corridors.

The Peatties were involved in many conservation campaigns stretching from the rainforests of south-east Asia to Kakadu, south-west Tasmania and local national parks such as Coolah Tops. The most memorable is probably Ben Halls Gap near Nundle, south east of Tamworth. Jack and Marj were involved from the early 1980’s when the state forest area was investigated and proposals written, through taking politicians on 4WD expeditions to gazettal as a national park at the end of 1995. It was later changed to a nature reserve as originally proposed.

Like many older ornithologists, Jack’s interest in birds began as a boy collecting birds’ eggs in the wild and later having a large aviary where he could watch his favourite finches for many hours at a time.  This fascination, soon shared by Marj, led to their participation in many projects including the first RAOU Atlas of Australian Birds in the 1980’s.  They have also assisted in a number of ornithological investigations of new (at the time) Queensland National Parks at Currawinya and Diamantina with the Northern NSW Group of Birds Australia (now Birdlife).

Retirement was not a time to slow down or take it easy for Marj and Jack.  Rather it was an opportunity to further explore Australia and learn more about our wildlife and plants.  It was also been a time to propagate numerous, often hard to grow, species of native plants for friends to share or towards various tree planting projects.

After tossing around the idea of a local bird group for many years, often around the campfire at some remote location on an NPA trip, early 1998 saw the formation of the Tamworth Birdwatchers (TBW). The Peatties were instrumental in the group’s establishment and for many years continued to be an inspiration to beginners and seasoned birdwatchers alike. They became the first TBW Life Members in 1996. 

Jack and Marj moved to St Andrews Retirement Village until Marj passed away in 2013. When his health started to deteriorate, Jack moved into care at Nazareth House where he continues to have the love and respect of both residents and staff.

Jack Peattie has been an inspiration to generations of Tamworth school children, a leader for more than 40 years in the conservation of our unique natural areas and an outstanding member of the NPA Tamworth Branch. Congratulations on a lifetime of achievements and best wishes to Jack Peattie. 

Jack Peattie – celebrating 100 years

Sue Lim, Jack’s daughter

Jack enjoyed the outdoors from an early age. Although he lived in town, many of his best friends lived on rural properties and he spent much of his early life with them. He always loved nature and had wanted to become a veterinarian before WWII intervened. He then took a shorter course in education so he could go to fight in New Guinea.

On his return he married and continued to teach. He taught his children and students to love nature as he did. Numerous blue-tongues and other reptiles were fed and loved in classrooms before being released to their natural environment. Every year Jack took his classes to explore Warrumbungle National Park so they could learn to appreciate the outdoors.

With the love of his life, Marj, he founded the Tamworth Bird Society and started the first National Parks group in Tamworth.

After they retired Jack and Marj spent the happiest years of their lives travelling in their caravan to the many National Parks across Australia. They travelled from the East Coast to Darwin, Central Australia, Western Australia and South Australia. They also made several trips to Tasmania.

In his younger years, Jack was a keen sportsman. At Tamworth High he was a top middle and long distance runner and swimmer. He also played rugby and hockey. This interest was shared with his high school sweetheart and future wife, Marj, who was also a top athlete. In addition, Marj was an outstanding tennis player and captain of the school and later regional hockey teams.

Jack spent many rewarding years training school hockey and rugby teams and running inter-school competitions. He was known as a fair and compassionate teacher and many of his former students have noted that he was their favourite teacher.

Jack’s other interests included collecting stamps and coins. He also had a keen interest in photography. Jack spent his final pay packet before his departure to New Guinea on his first camera. He brought this camera to New Guinea and took invaluable photographs of his experience of WWII in New Guinea. He photographed not only his mates but also New Guinea locals and later Japanese prisoners of war.

Jack has many albums of photographs and coloured slides taken of his family and trips with the National Parks and Bird Society. He and Marj often travelled to Singapore and Malaysia to visit his daughter and family. Soon after China opened up to foreign visitors, Jack and Marj took the opportunity to visit and photograph that experience too.

Within the family, Jack’s influence continues. His children and son-in-law are teachers who naturally share his interest in the outdoor life and have endeavoured to pass this on. His twin granddaughters have benefitted from their grandparents’ love of nature and the outdoors. Michelle is a leading International Biodiversity Law Scholar and her husband, Nengye, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Environmental Law, Macquarie University – the oldest ongoing Environmental Law Centre in the Southern Hemisphere. Michelle and Nengye have named their son Jack after their grandfather. Jack’s granddaughter, Sylvia, has two degrees in the medical field and a masters in International Law. She enjoys working and contributing to rural life as a GP in regional NSW.

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