The Retirement of Arthur Gilmour

The Occasion

A few colleagues met with Arthur and Ellen Gilmour for dinner on 11 December 2008 to celebrate his 41 years with NSW DPI. Cameron Allan on behalf of Meat and Livestock Australia presented a plaque and others presented kind words and a gift.

The retirement speech

Arthur Gilmour Retirement Speech I thank God that through NSW DPI He has given me an interesting and satisfying career.

I did Agriculture at Sydney University because I gained a Commonwealth scholarship and Agriculture seemed a reasonable choice (I know nothing about anything else).

The Department of Agriculture picked me up in second year (6 March 1967) and found a place for me in Biometrics when I chose that major. My first fortran course was just two weeks of WATFOR in 1969.

After a few months in the State Office Block in 1970, we moved to the Mark Foys and then Union Carbide building overlooking Hyde Park.

I quickly got involved in computing (ABRA with Cameron Kirton) while Brian Coote concentrated on ABANOV.

I still have some cases we used to lug punched cards to the Treasury for processing. In those early years we used Univac (Compunet), Burroughs, General Electric, and Honeywell to complement our mechanical, later electric and finally electronic calculating machines. I remember our first programmable calculator costing $2000 dollars with 4 memory and 20 program steps.

While Warwick Lill did National Service, I looked after Wagga ARI and was well received by Ray Storrier and Alan Taylor. Typical of those days was Alan's project which involved 2 rates of Nitrogen sown on over 700 properties over 4 years with some 80 farm level covariables. So programming was required to perform such analyses.

I was one of the earlier biometricians to be regionalised (after Alan Gleeson and Greg O'Neill) when I moved to Trangie in 1976 after my first overseas trip to New Guinea. Brian McGuik and Dave Saville strongly encouraged that move and it laid the foundation for an ongoing association with sheep researchers. While at Trangie I developed REG which Brian McGuirk still tries to use today.

Paul Nichols told me about REML in those days and so I headed to Massey University for my PhD under Robert Anderson and Al Rae, with an AWI scholarship and half salary from DPI. After reading up on REML and related methods, I extended that to Categorical data.

On the retirement of Al Rae in 1981, New Zealand hosted the first World Congress on Sheep Breeding at which I met Robin Thompson. So in 1982 I visited him in Edinburgh and so began an association which continues today.

On returning to Australia, I was based in Orange, as a biometrician particularly supporting the sheep research group. This lead to the development of BVEST, a program for the prediction of breeding values in sheep. BVEST under pinned the development of LAMBPLAN which has revitalised and reformed the Australian Lamb Industry under the leadership of Robert Banks.

Meanwhile Alan Gleeson and a young upstart Brian Cullis were at Tamworth and started working on spatial analysis of field trials. I tried to keep up.

During a visit in late 1991 Robin proposed the Average Information algorithm to help me compute REML estimates in a variance components problem that Brian had. We wrote this up while I was working for 6 months with Robin in Edinburgh in 1993. I then wrote a general precursor to ASReml and then visited Rothamsted twice in 1996 to write the core of ASReml.

The development and widespread use of ASReml has been a very satisfying outcome. It depends heavily on the insight of Robin, and the support and rigor of Brian. My idea has always been to use my skill at Fortran to help people perform the analyses they need to perform.

I greatly appreciate the fact that the Department has not interfered or strongly directed my work. Rather, they have been happy to let me get on with the task at hand. The only serious disappointment I had was when I was required to cease from quoting a verse of Scripture on the botton of my emails.

I committed myself to living as best I could according to the teaching of Jesus when I was 12, because He died for me on the Cross, and rose again. I make no claim to have been particularly successful, but it has been a strong purpose in my life for 48 years. One command I have sought to implement was in all your ways acknowledge Him (Prov 3:6) and Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 3:22-24) When we moved to Sun operating systems, and email, the email systems included then (and still do today) a daily quotation of some philosopher. So, I started quoting Jesus briefly at the end of my emails.

After several years, I was challenged about this by the manager of OAI after a complaint from someone who objected. The Department formally sided with the unidentified complainant and sent a manager from HR who was also a professed Christian to ask me to stop. This upset me because according to my understanding, the authority of DPI derives from Jesus Christ (Romans 13:1-3) via the Queen of Australian and the Governor of New South Wales. Jesus is known as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and is represented on the NSW coat of arms as such. The Australian flag bears several forms of the Christian cross including the Southern Cross. When I went to state primary school, Jesus was honoured with the Lord's prayer, and at State High School (Yanco) at each meal. I believe parliament still opens with prayer. So, by siding against my simple attempt to acknowledge Jesus Christ in what I thought was a low profile way, the Department appears to deny its heritage. Anyway I was given verbal permission to write a blessing on my emails and Brian suggested I set up a web page, which I did in due course. While there was evidently further discussion when I added my personal web address to the email, DPI did not demand I remove it from my email signature block, for which I am thankful. Several people have declared their faith in Christ to me as a result.

So, it has been my privilege to serve Jesus Christ through DPI for 41 years and I will continue to seek to do so. I praise Him that through association with colleagues Kevin Atkins, Brian McGuirk, Robert Banks, Robin Thompson and Brian Cullis, I have been able to contribute to significant improvement in animal breeding, field crop research and forest research nationally and internationally.

I thank Ellen for enabling me to follow this career, especially in coping with the periodical overseas trips.

I acknowledge the many colleagues who have stimulated my work.

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