Like many referees before him, Jim Dunbar played school and club rugby before taking up the whistle. Following a ten year stint as a player with the Meralomas he chose to stay involved with the game as a referee. From 1955 to 1975 he officiated countless club and representative matches as well as the lowest level school contests. On more than one occasion he said that refereeing school games sharpened his fitness and decision-making.
Players and budding referees not only in British Columbia but also in Washington, Oregon and Alberta were the recipients of Jim's instruction in the Laws of the Game and its variations.
When he was awarded the Jack Patterson Memorial Trophy in 1966, Arv Olson, the Vancouver Sun sports writer, said that although players may have cursed Jim, they had a high respect for his judgment. After driving to Oregon with Jim, a passenger remarked: "This Dunbar guy is the greatest-ever joke teller, manager, coach and all-round traveling bum you'll ever find-let me recommend him."
Jim revealed his administrative abilities as a president and director of the Meraloma Club and as the BCRU chairman of referees and it was only fitting that he was chosen to referee Canada's 2nd and 3rd home internationals, against England and Fiji.