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Peter James Obituary

BGS Old Boy Peter Michael James ’52 passed away on 26 June 2021. Born on 14 December 1935 in Brisbane, Peter was a geologist and writer, publishing more than 25 books on earth science, global extinctions, society and corruption and also many novels and short stories, several of which won prizes. He also wrote 100 Years of Grammar Rugby (1988) charting the history of rugby at BGS from 1887 to 1987.

During his BGS days, James was captain of athletics, in the First XV, was a champion swimmer, broke the U16 record in 1951, and was the first junior to win an Open Queensland athletic title – the under 19 record for the high jump. He beat champion high jumper and future Australian Olympic silver medalist ‘Chilla’ Porter twice, before as James liked to say, “Porter just kept going higher.”

James spent a couple of years on cattle stations out west, returning to Brisbane in 1955. He played for Souths Rugby Union while studying for senior, then went on to Union College at the University of Queensland, where he played for the University’s XV’s A grade for three years and saw three grand finals.

He played two tests for Australia against New Zealand in 1958, after playing state side for three years. Graduating from UQ in Geology and Maths, he spent the next two years in seismic oil search in northwest Australia, married Andrina then moved to the UK where they had two children – Andrew Frederick ’78 (architect) and Katharine Chloe (physician; St Margarets - 1980). James later completed a Masters of Engineering at Imperial College of London, and thereafter spent two years in Malaysia completing his PhD in Civil Engineering, also through Imperial College. He returned to Brisbane in early 1970 to an academic position at UQ where he later met his second wife Joyce and had two more daughters Pi (social justice campaigner; BGGS - 1999) and Ashleigh (counsellor; BGGS - 2004).

James then set up a specialised consultancy taking on assignments in Europe, China, Southeast Asia, and the Southwest Pacific, before spending his later years in Tasmania and then the Sunshine Coast. In addition to authoring some 50 technical papers for journals and conferences over his career, he never stopped writing – was working on fiction and nonfiction manuscripts until the end.

James came from a long history of BGS boys. Jack Noble, his uncle, went on to study medicine at Sydney University after BGS and enlisted for WWI – he was killed in December 1918. Jack’s brothers, Walter and Winston Noble, attended BGS in the mid-1920s. Winston went on to become Queensland Minister for Health.

His eldest brother Robert (Bob) James ’43 was school captain, champion athlete, stroke first crew, and winger in the First XV.  James’ other brother Rick James ’45 was also a champion athlete, stroke first crew, and represented BGS in swimming. James also had two sisters Brenda, local artist, and Elizabeth (Betty) who lived in the UK. James’ son Andrew and Andrew’s son Jake are BGS Old Boys.

James was a magnificent storyteller, an adventurer, a tireless fighter against corruption, and could charm a room in minutes. He cherished his years at BGS and the lifelong friendships he made.

He is deeply missed by his four children (Andrew, Chloe, Pi and Ashleigh), five grandchildren (Jake, Nina, Harry, Mo and Flynn) and friends and family around the world. We are all very grateful for the time we spent together, the unique memories we have and the legacy he’s left behind.

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