Local field naturalist and conservationist Dr Neil McKilligan has passed away.
Local field naturalist and conservationist Dr Neil McKilligan has passed away.

Conservationist remembered as a ‘gentle, loving’ man

A CELEBRATION of the life and contributions of Toowoomba field naturalist and conservationist Dr Neil McKilligan will be held in March.

Dr McKilligan passed away peacefully in Brisbane on Tuesday, January 7.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1940, Neil was the second son of four children to naval Captain Hector McKilligan and keen reader and Fabian Socialist Edith McKilligan.

He attended Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen Teachers College and then the University of Aberdeen where he studied biology.

He spent his university holidays working as a ghillie on Scottish private estates, gaining a love of nature.

Marrying Helen Selman, a Scottish Australian, in 1964, he emigrated to Australia in 1967 where he lived in Toowoomba and lectured at the University of Southern Queensland in zoology and ecology genetics until retirement.

He gained his Masters from Griffith University and a PhD from the University of New England and conducted research into the management and population dynamics of ibises and herons.

He published Herons, Egrets and Bitterns in 2005 and Bushwalks in the Toowoomba Region in 1986.

A series of editions of Bushwalks in the Toowoomba Region followed from 1993 to 2011 with co-author Ian Savage.

Neil campaigned for and co-founded the Toowoomba Bicentennial Waterbird Habitat in Rangeville, a 19-acre natural habitat and park, designed to mimic natural wetlands.

Neil and wife Helen were long-term members of many Toowoomba community clubs, including the Toowoomba Field Naturalist Club, where Neil held the role of president on three occasions spanning 1976 to 2006, and Probus Club of Toowoomba City, the Toowoomba Caledonian Society, and the Toowoomba Bushwalking Club.

He was also a member of the Toowoomba Wine Club, despite claiming that it all tasted the same to him.

In retirement, he taught bird biology and field identification at U3A and volunteered for the library bus.

A gentle, loving man of mild temperament and courteous demeanour, Neil was beloved of wife Helen, children Iain and Bree (christened Sheree), grandchildren Hannah, Lily and Sam and remaining siblings, still living in Scotland, Jean and Fiona.

Neil became infirm in September 2019 and moved to Brisbane with Helen to be close to their son.

Up until the end, Neil was generously inquiring about others and showing a keen interest in the world around him.

All are welcome to Neil's memorial to celebrate his life and contributions.

It will be held in Toowoomba on Saturday, March 14 at 2pm at Picnic Point.

Contact 0413 895 527 or breemckilligan@gmail.com to RSVP.


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