A tribute to Doug Howick, a highly respected figure in our industry whose legacy will live on for many years.

It is with sadness that we announce that Charles Douglas Howick passed away in Melbourne on 1 June, 2018. He died after a short illness, with his wife Sigrid by his side.

Departing from his usual style of formality, Doug stipulated that there be a private cremation followed by a wake where friends could gather and share their recollections. It wasn’t formal, but it was proper – as he’d have expected.

His early career

Born in London in 1935, Doug joined the merchant navy before taking up residence in Melbourne, which would be his home for the rest of his 83 years.

His first foray into wood protection was taken in 1961 when he joined the CSIRO Division of Forest Products in Melbourne as a technical officer and experimental scientist, retiring some 31 years later as assistant to the chief of the division as a senior specialist. His research focused on termite and other insect studies and the management of a variety of projects in wood protection, but also importantly, industry interactions, networking and technology transfer. His emphasis on these last three were the reasons he became one of the best known figures in the world of wood protection.

After being awarded an Australian Churchill Fellowship, in 1968 Doug embarked on a worldwide study tour when he worked alongside the international timber pest gurus in the US, UK, Europe and South and East Africa. He returned to Australia a well regarded figure whose recommendations to CSIRO to expand its research and experimental entomological endeavours were accepted.

He retired from CSIRO in 1992, aged 57. He was far too young, had too much knowledge, too many contacts and involvement with so many organisations to actually retire – so he didn’t.

As a young man on a CSIRO project in the Northern Territory

The industry statesman

Such was Doug’s reputation that the positions he held within industry bodies are almost too numerous to mention. Most notably, he was national secretary of the Timber Preservers Association of Australia (TPAA) for 20 years, during which time he also served as the national executive director of AEPMA for 10 years. His drive in both organisations saw an increase in membership and a deepening of ties between AEPMA and the Federation of Asian and Oceania Pest Managers Associations (FAOPMA). During this time, he was the figurehead of the timber industry service club, the Hoo Hoo Club.

When he ‘retired’, a healthy 71 years old, Doug remained a constant presence in the industry by attending conferences, editing newsletters and authoring a book.

Doug and Sigrid in 2006 at the AEPMA Conference

A literary legacy

Doug authored more than 60 scientific papers on entomology, wood technology and pest management as well as a further 50 reports, conference papers and presentations. Yet ultimately, he wished to write a book on the history of termite research in Australia.

Armed with a cavernous vault of meticulously recorded facts about anything pertaining to wood, together Doug and Ion Staunton co-authored Colonies in Collision, released in early 2018. The book was Doug’s last great effort and has certainly been well received since its publication.

The wake was a wonderful tribute to Doug, Sigrid and their family, with attendees from across Australia and messages from around the world. “Doug’s presence, integrity and humour are but three of so many words that fit – and which he wore quite comfortably.”

Jim Bowden and Ion Staunton