Ern Grant was born in 1924, and started his productive career delivering telegrams in Brisbane on foot for the then G.P.O.
He moved into accounting before spending several very unrewarding years with the R.A.A.F., winding up an extremely senior Leading Aircraftsman. While awaiting discharge at Sandgate in southern Brisbane, he was approached be a very, very senior officer - a Flight Lieutenant at least - who said: "You have afforded a great deal of innocent amusement to us officers by digging worms in the C.O.'s garden, going through the wire, and fishing over the Sandgate flats. What're you going to do after discharge?"
Grant described his proposed return to the Public Service, where he would expect to spend his life waiting for dead men's shoes. But the Flight Lieutenant (at least) explained that Grant was eligible for University training: and why didn't he try for a career in fishing?
So Grant went to Queensland University as one of the many Commonwealth Rehabilitation Planning Scheme ex-Servicemen students who lowered the august tone of the place; and went on to take his B.Sc. and (much later) his M.Sc. In 1955, he found a very narrow niche in the Queensland Public Service as a marine biologist; and went through various Departments (Harbours & Marine; Mines; Co-ordinator-General) to wind up as Deputy Director of the Queensland Fisheries Service.
He was then shifted across to his old Department of Harbours & Marine as their Special Adviser in Marine Biology, where he remained until his
"retirement" in 1984. Since then, he has written two editions of "Fishes of Australia" and seven more editions of
"Grant’s Guide to Fishes".
Grant recalls several real highlights among his career. One, when he brought in the Government shark-fishing measures in 1962; two, his mounting an immense display of 1,840 hand-tinted corals for Expo '67 in Montreal; three, his spilling some tonnes of crude oil over a bed of living Great Barrier Reef corals, seeing first-hand that the corals and associated marine life were unaffected by the spills - a totally unexpected finding; four, construction of a freshwater fish hatchery at Borumba in 1980; five, his production of the Government book: Guide to Fishes in its five steadily expanding editions from 1965 to 1982, with every cent of sales going into Consolidated Revenue. Because he was permitted to spend no more than 30% of his Government time working on these books, much of the work had to be done over weekends and during leave, assisted in no small capacity by late wife Meg and son Morgan - both of whom became effective fisheries technicians this way.
Grant has always held a view that no-one can speak with authority about fish and marine life unless he has wet feet; and unless he can go into the field and catch fish himself. A dedicated field worker, he has spent more than sixty years catching fish - and half that time photographing them. He still describes himself as a box-Brownie photographer.
His wealth of experience gained through this work is partly manifested in Grant's narrative on many of the fish that he has caught - and photographed. He has had the privilege of working in a series of remote and beautiful locations, such as Lizard and Heron Islands in particular; and in the process, meeting many diverse people, both in the marine biology field and those who were not - but often in the same locations.
"Your wonderful book ... has given us many hours of enlightening information and pleasure"