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John Hobbs Memorial


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Press release by Joe Murray - coordinator - John Hobbs Memorial Dedication - 30 Oct 2000

John Nelson Hobbs was born an Englishman at Watford Hertfordshire on the 7th June 1923. He volunteered and was inducted for naval service in the Royal Navy during World War 2. During this horrific time he was a naval gunner in the Atlantic , helping guard the Russian convoys. Two ships that he served on were the H.M.S. Colovyn and the H.M.S. Montcalm. On one trip his ship was torpedoed, blowing off the bow. They managed to limp into harbour. According to his family, John also served on unknown destroyers, corvettes and armed merchant cruisers. His 21st birthday was spent ferrying troops to France for the 'D day' landing, a job that he hated and never quite forgot.

Even when John was a child and then in, the Navy, he appreciated life and its natural history, he was a keen bird watcher or "birdo”.  

After the war he joined The Metropolitan Police Force. He was trained at Hendon and very quickly rose to the rank of sergeant, He served at Edgware until deciding to immigrate to Australia , around the end of 1952 or beginning of 1953. It is said that he bought an Australian bird book for his voyage out and studied it at length, gaining much of his early know/edge of Australian, birds from this journal.

John joined the N.S.W. Police Force on arrival and his documented record show that he became a Probationary Constable on 15 May 1953. He served at many country stations in his Career including Buronga, Dareton and Ivanhoe. He obtained the rank of Sergeant 1st class on the 18 January 1981. He was commended for outstanding courage and devotion to duty, awarded a Commissioners and the Queens Commendation for Brave Conduct.

John married a local lady, Shirley Lawrence and they parented a family of four boys, Peter, Michael, Bruce and Greg. He retired from the N.S.W police force on 6th June 1983 receiving the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Dareton was chosen as his retirement town.

All through his career he contributed to many bird Publications with written observational material, he was prolific and accurate in his recordings of nature. He had a trusted rapport with many life long settlers of the district, and no doubt he was helped by many. He contributed not only to Australian, but also to overseas Publications. He participated in bird banding under- the control of the C.S.I.R.O.

In N.S.W. an award was set up, in his honour and named the John Hobbs Award, this was later to be extended Australia wide, the greatest Australian award for bird watching, now an annual award called The JOHN HOBBS MEDAL. This is presented to one of a nominated few judged to be worthy by a council of Peers. Truly a word wide indication of the rewards of his nature observations.

John was very active in the local Community too, a member of  The Coomealla Lions Club, where he served as treasurer for three years, he also assisted with a boys club in Dareton, and played a part many other community projects including the planting and tendering of native shrubbery at the Coomealla Lawn Cemetery.

John passed away on October 20th 1990 while on a field trip observing birds at Hattah. He was a resident of Dareton at the time and was laid to rest in the Dareton Lawn Cemetery . His wife Shirley had a horrific death in a residential fire in 1994 at Wentworth, and was also at rest in The Coomealla Lawn Cemetery.

Coomealla Lions Club along with the Sunraysia Field Naturalists Club and other interested people fenced an area of 'Eremophila shrub’ north of the Wentworth – Dareton back road

As a memorial to John’s achievements. This took place in 1993, another patch has been fenced since at Dareton and still another near Buronga. Many lovers of birds and native vegetation come to visit these areas to observe and contemplate.  


Further accounts of John Hobbs work extracted from a letter of support for the memorial from Peter Thompson - 19 July 2000

My support is firstly for the work he did to preserve species in the area by preventing indiscriminate shooting and nesting site removal in the bush around Coomealla and District surrounds, and secondly, for his work in identifying species, banding and recording, so that we might see them survive in reasonable numbers.

John gained his knowledge of the bush in our area when arriving by talking to locals and learning of the birds habitat. With the full co-operation of land owners he travelled extensively in neighbouring bushland warning off indiscriminate shooters and bird enthusiasts who cut down natural nesting sites in the bush for their own aviaries. He recorded his own experience and assisted others in their work to identify, record numbers and habits attributed to many species. Favourite sites included the Eremophila site now fenced by the Bird Watchers Club, Hollands Lake, The Five Mile or Fletchers Creek, Fletchers Lake and the then Swamp in Keenans Drive near Reserve Road West. It was a great disappointment to him to see this comebunyee filled swamp burn one spring after some irresponsible youths set fire to it. Prior to this he had been seen wading into the lake on occasions to record and band young Brown Bittens found in the rushes. The nest which was quite rare was lost and its occupants. The bird is quite unique with its booming call and the way it mimics swaying rushes to avoid detection.

During this period he worked for the CSIRO under the leadership of a man by the name of Steve Wilson as did Max Mum from Bermagui NSW who still survives. Max made several visits to the area and worked with the aid of very fine nets about 10 meters long and 2.5 meters tall which were set to a pattern about watering places. John assisted Max by taking him to local known sites and helping him as he caught, identified, banded and released many species. While in the area Max had a special interest in birds with migratory habits but recorded the population of all species as they were trapped. John on the other hand, worked mainly by banding young birds found in the nest and personal observation. He seemed to be particularly interested in species that nested on the ground, honeyeaters, robins and water wading birds. During the latter years he completed a study of the red capped robin banding many birds in the Keenans Drive Coomealla area.

One of John Hobb' s greatest finds was identifying five Brolgas that appeared in Five Mile Creek in 1982. John felt it was an attempt by this bird to re-populate the area which at one time saw its presence in greater numbers. Standing over one metre tall this bird is a striking blue colour. Unfortunately the birds were to leave later that year after being seen on the Dareton River Road swamp and Kelso station.

I think it quite appropriate that the Rotunda at Dareton wharf be named after John Hobbs for his conservation practices. If the Shire wish to develop the idea of walks around the escarpment behind the Coomealla Packers and back along the river, a bird watchers dream, they could well name them the John Hobbs Memorial Walks which could initiate from the rotunda. While there has been many in our past that have contributed to conservation of our local wild life such as Jack Storey who also banded birds locally, Len Hippisley, Jim Bailey, the Cupper brothers Lindsay and Jack and finally Norm Favaloro, the contribution made by John Hobbs was outstanding and strongly Coomealla orientated.

Peter Thompson