From his first steps following his father into the wool and processing business to his last role as specialising in the carding end of the wool trade, the effervescent, Jim Lillie embodied Australian wool business history.
Big Jim, or Jungle, to his industry colleagues and friends career as a wool buyer, scouring and carbonising businessman, topmaker and exporter ranged from being owner, or shared owner in Clyde wool scouring in Geelong, Grampians wool industries in Hamilton, Fox and Lillie wool Industries at Melton and on his family sheep and wool property at Skipton in western Victoria.
He joined the company his father, Cyril Lillie and colleague Rhys Fox started after the war, and became managing director in the 1960s and continued to progressively expand Fox and Lillie into successful group of companies.
Mr Lillie died after a short battle with illness on August 3.
In the words of his lifelong colleague and friend, Australian Wool Industries Secretariat executive director Peter Morgan, Mr Lillie’s “family, friends and the industry have lost one of the great characters of life”.
He shared much with Mr Morgan, including serving diligently for the wool industry he was passionate on the principal’s committee of the Australian Council of Wool Exporters for many years before being elected president in 1976 and from 1994 to 1997.
The period of his second presidency coincided with the difficulties in the industry following the collapse of the reserve price scheme in 1990-91 and the resulting stockpile of 3.5 million bales.
Mr Lillie also served as a director of Australian Wool testing Authority and Austop.
Jim’s son Jamie followed “in the family tradition”, serving as president of the Australian Council of Wool Exporters from 2000 to 2002.
Even in his most prolific years in the wool industry, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, he also found time to achieve a pilot’s license and used his plane as the main way of getting to and from the farms.
In recent years Mr Lillie developed a great interest and respect for thoroughbred racing, owning shares in a number of horse that were trained by Robbie Griffith at Cranbourne.
Colleagues maintained that loyalty and a kind heart came easily for Mr Lillie, and there would be few people connected with the wool industry who were not touched by his generosity.
He is survived by his children, Amanda, Jamie, Jonothan, Peter and Catherine.
- ROWENA McNAUGHTON