John Reid was a well known and very influential naturalist from the Melbourne area who inspired many thousands of children and adults to better understand and love the places where they live.
As Val Himmelreich and Jean Edwards say in their memorial below, “His knowledge of plants, birds and other fauna was exceptional and his quiet yet authoritative way of imparting his knowledge to those around him started many of us on a path of understanding and appreciation of our local natural environment”.
I met John many times while living in the Dandenongs, and loved his quiet passion for natural landscapes and his remarkable knowledge of plants and animals. He was a genuine and authentic person, and his passing in February will leave a big gap in the lives of many, and a real loss of knowledge about natural systems, at a time when we need this knowledge more than ever.
Thank-you, John, for your works to educate and empower people to understand and protect their home place. Go well.
The following story about John comes from the wonderful regional newsletter The Understorey.
JOHN REID 3.10.1949 – 8.2.2012
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea.
A little shy
and sad of eye
But very wise was he
And then one day
A magic day he came my way
And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings
This he said to me
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return”
– Eden Ahbez
Many people who lived in the Dandenongs in the 1980s will remember John Reid. He initiated and led “Walking with a Naturalist” from Morrison House, Mount Evelyn and Park Orchards, Blackburn and North Ringwood community houses. His knowledge of plants, birds and other fauna was exceptional and his quiet yet authoritative way of imparting his knowledge to those around him started many of us on a path of understanding and appreciation of our local natural environment.
John had been told by various people that there was no work as a naturalist but he wanted to open people’s eyes to the world of insects and plants, birds and frogs.
· He wrote the text for a Bush Treasures poster (Gould League)
· With Cecily Falkingham he devised an ecology course which was run through Yarra Junction Primary School
· He gave talks about caterpillars, moths & butterflies to various groups using slides by Mike and Pat Coupar, culminating in a book called “Flying Colours” by Pat & Mike Coupar
In 1986-7 John provided plant identification, field work, text writing and editing for “The Original Garden – Plants of Mt Evelyn and other Victorian Foothill Forests”(first pub.1988 as “Mt Evelyn’s Original Garden: Plants of the Northern Dandenongs). The decision to use non-technical language was and still is a hallmark of this book. He consulted botanists at the National Herbarium (Melbourne) and insisted on a scientifically correct botanical list of plants in the book. This guide was the first complete local list of plants in Victoria to be published.
He also provided plant identification & ecology information for a book by members of Upper Beaconsfield Conservation Group and wrote nature articles for local papers.
Between November 1987 and May 1988 he made a significant contribution to a comprehensive survey of remnant vegetation across Melbourne’s metropolitan area with David Cameron, collecting data from 157 quadrats. 710 plant taxa were recorded in the DSE Flora database. This information remains a “snapshot in time” as many of the locations are no longer extant or have become degraded.
In David Cameron’s words “John’s contribution to this major regional survey was a critical one – he hit the road running with considerable botanical expertise and his data is regarded as reliable – he was conscientious in his field survey and plant determinations and prepared to learn on the job – in my opinion his season of work in the Flora Survey Team was the perfect apprenticeship for his subsequent role as Identification Officer at the National Herbarium of Victoria.
John’s contribution to botanical survey whilst a member of the Flora Survey Team deserves to be acknowledged and commemorated.”
From 1988-1990 John led the “People in the Environment” project (Victorian Association for Environmental Education). Based at Kallista Community House it produced an environmental resource guide for the Dandenongs region. John wrote
“Our primary aim was to involve children, school teachers and the general community in investigation of local issues relating to conservation and the problems posed by urban residential development adjacent to natural environments. The Dandenong Ranges were chosen for the project because this area provides such an obvious focus for . . issues such as weed invasion and the effects of feral animals and pets on wildlife.”
- studied for a degree in Environmental Management – 1992
- worked on the Middle Yarra Timelines calendar
- contributed to the Regional Pest Plant Strategy Working Group which produced the first brochure on environmental weeds in Victoria – “Garden Plants are going Bush . . . ”
- had his own program on local radio
- was a substantial contributor to the “Sites of Significance” (Maroondah Council, 1997)
At the Herbarium his professional position was plant identification, and he provided assistance to many individuals and voluntary groups. [Jean recalls one time when she discovered a pea-plant near the Olinda Falls, It seemed familiar, but could not find it in any Australian book. John identified it as South American – and knew the particular location.]
Meanwhile, living at Heathmont, he became a local legend, joining the Bushlinks group (later Bushcare).
John died on Wednesday 8th February. He had been suffering multiple myaloma for two years but succumbed to pneumonia. A celebratory service and reunion was held on Saturday 18th February.
Val Himmelreich and Jean Edwards