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Jim Jacobi, GP & rugby league great, dies at 83

The death has occurred in Brisbane of Sir James Jacobi, 83, a key figure in the development of rugby league in PNG. He was President of the PNG rugby league for more than 25 years and a member of the international rugby league board.

He was born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1925 and served in the Australian Air Force in PNG in the final stages of World War 2.

Jim was also probably the best known general practitioner in Port Moresby for forty years, in the process building the largest medical practice in PNG. He was a robust, avuncular and generous man – who often led us to believe that there was no disease known to mankind that penicillin could not overwhelm.

He also was the first rugby league official to be knighted (by the PNG Government in 1991) for his service to rugby league after earlier being awarded the OBE.

He was the first president of the PNG rugby league in 1964 and during his time in this role rugby league prospered and PNG became the only nation in the world to regard it as its national sport.

Jim moved to Brisbane in the mid 1990’s and continued to work as a locum until two years ago.

“Rugby league in PNG today would not be the strong national sport it is today without his leadership and commitment,” said friend and colleague Jeff Wall. “His passing will not only cause sadness in rugby league in PNG – he will be greatly missed by the nation’s political and community leaders, and the countless thousands of Papua New Guineans who benefited from his generosity over the best part of forty years.”

Source: Off the Wall by Jeff Wall, 22 June 2009, and other sources


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John Elmgreen

Quote: "My wife, Miriam Ryan, a nursing sister in the male ward in Port Moresby hospital in the mid sixties, drove Jacobi's jag for three months while he was on leave. I believe it was an XK 120."

I am a Jaguar historian and would like to know more! I may know this car and could provide a (more recent) photo of it.

Could Miriam please contact me? Email elmgreen [at] Thanks!

Miriam Ryan

My wife, Miriam Ryan, a nursing sister in the male ward in Port Moresby hospital in the mid sixties, drove Jacobi's jag for 3 months while he was on leave. I believe it was an XK 120

Jan Devereaux

We were in Port Moresby from 1982-1985, and we always had Dr Jacobi as our doctor. But our youngest daughter hated all doctors after one particular visit to him.

She was only about two years old, had stubbed her big toe when her sister closed the door on it and it became very infected.

I took her to see him and he decided to remove her nail without any local anaesthetic, saying it was easier to do without the needle.

I said , 'what no local' and he remarked it was quicker to remove the nail without it.

I must say it was many years before she liked doctors again.

Barney a Arête

Yes I think everyone would remember Dr Jacobi (Jacobi, as here was commonly called) - speeding around Moresby, in particular Boroko in the 80s.

I however haves a sad story. I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in 1981. I had sustained a (severe) head injury causing aphasia, thus I could not speak.

Dr Jacobi failed to diagnose my head injury, even though I was exhibiting classic and severe head injury symptoms, of which aphasia is one. Basically it means that the brain has become swollen.

I should havens been transferred to Australia - to a spinal hospital. All Dr Jacobi did was staple up my suture line, to stop the bleeding and gave me some 'Stemetil' to stop the vomiting. Vomiting is also a sign of possible head injury.

Oh yes he did send me for an X-ray of my skull. It is of such poor quality, that many doctors have commented that you would not have been able to diagnose anything. I still have it.

So I was just sent home, even though I could not speak and was vomiting. I was also falling over to the left when I walked. I was sent home to bed rest.

It was not until my neck began to fall apart years later that I began to research everything in an attempt to understand.

My Dad was an airline pilot. Dr Jacobi was the longest serving and often only GP (in Moresby) and was also the airlines GP, he did the pilots' medicals.

I only just found out that he had passed away (sorry) in Brisbane though I would have liked to have asked him why he did not transfer me to Australia.

Due to his error in judgement I have had two major upper cervical operations and have to have two more. The next round will signal the end of my driving days and that is if I can still walk. Not to mention the pain.

Not to speak ill of the deceased, but when I read various comments on his passing and his practice(s) in Moresby, let's just say that there are two sides to every story.

Denis Wright

Have recently bought an old Jaguar car which was owned when new by a Dr Jacobi in New Guinea.

This would have been in 1956. Does any one remember this car?

John Hey

Great to see you still plugging along. I have good reason to remember the doctor. He was the doctor who saved my right hand and saw me through gas gangrene in late 1962. Sorry to hear about Val Murphy. He is a great. I love to see Attitude.

Ken Grant

I read with sadness of the passing of Jim Jacobi. ‘Jabber Jim’ was an institution in Port Moresby and regularly renewed my Airline Transport Pilot Licence. From memory his clinic in Boroko was still operating in late 1999 and perhaps even later.

I had reason to visit Jim early one morning after what I had self-diagnosed as food poisoning, had lingered into a second day, preventing me from flying.

His experience kicked in and he suggested that I should have an immediate blood test at his premises, wait 20 minutes for the results and take it from there.

His concerns were well founded as the diagnosis was cerebral malaria and he calmly commended me for the early visit as I would have died by nightfall. I apparently was bitten on a recent overnight in Kavieng.

After treating me with a Chinese injection, not then approved in Australia, and the usual 15 anti-malarials and pain killers, I was sent home with a clean bill of health.

Jim Jacobi will always be fondly remembered.

Geoff Vincin

Jim Jacobi was the patriarch of the PNG Rugby League. His efforts in developing the code, particularly in fundraising and giving PNG League recognition on the world arena, were second to none.

Jim was also my family GP for 15 years and, had I not knocked on his door in the middle of a New Years weekend in the early 90s, I would have lost one of my children to malaria.

Jim's compassion towards Papua New Guineans was remarkable. A great man, great doctor and great friend. Indeed an irreplaceable loss to Rugby League and Papua New Guinea.

Diane Bohlen

A sad loss. He was my GP for all the years I was in Pt Moresby and a very good one too. Vale Dr Jacobi.

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