These days, James Nicol describes himself as “an old retired person” but, as usual, the former Warrnambool mayor’s trademark dry wit underplays his achievements.
Mr Nicol was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours for his service to local government, tertiary education, sport and social welfare.
As well as being Warrnambool mayor for two years and a councillor for 12, Mr Nicol served on the Deakin University council, became an honourary life member of Brophy Family and Youth Services and chaired a number of organisations including Lyndoch Living, Warrnambool Skillshare and Warrnambool Racing Club.
A partner at Maddens Lawyers for many years, Mr Nicol, who now lives in Melbourne, said he was “deeply honoured” to be recognised.
“I’m very grateful to those who supported the application made on my behalf. I’m humbled,” he said.
“There are a lot of people more deserving than I am and I am very pleased that my award reflects credit on organisations and people I have worked with.”
Mr Nicol’s role in governance began in 1971 when he began work as an articled clerk in the legal office of Dan Madden. He remembers Mr Madden as a man with a “very well-developed sense of social responsibility” who never took no for an answer.
So began a governance role with what was known as Brophy Boys’ Home, which later became Brophy Family and Youth Services. He also had a prominent role in establishing the Western Region Alcohol and other Drug Centre (WRAD).
“I’m proud of being part of the commencement of WRAD and of Brophy Family and Youth Services,” he said. “I did over 20 years on governance structures of each, after being involved in establishing them.”
Mr Nicol was also elected Deputy Chancellor of Deakin University four times and served as president of the Sharks football team, spending many hours as a goal umpire and manning the gates on game day.
Of his time on council, Mr Nicol joked that he got his name on a lot of plaques, including opening the Hopkins River Bridge, AquaZone, The Arc and the redevelopment of Flagstaff Hill.
“Warrnambool City Council has always been a highly regarded and very progressive council and I was pleased to have been part of that,” he said.
Mr Nicol left Warrnambool in 2011 and now indulges his passion for United States presidents or, more precisely, their graves.
Since 2010 he has visited the US four times and the graves of all presidents, with another trip planned for next year.