Darcy Thompson

Darcy Mark Thompson

Block 4A Lanyon District – Property Names: 'Pine Island' or 'Kashmir'

Darcy Mark Thompson was born in 1895 and grew up in the Nanima area, between Gundaroo and Murrumbateman, NSW. He enlisted in the AIF in September 1916 and arrived in France in August 1917 as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. A month later, he received shrapnel wounds to the face, arms and hand shortly after the Battle of Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium. In November 1917, Thompson rejoined his unit at the front near Ypres. In early 1918, Thompson was hospitalised with bronchitis and returned to Australia on a ship called the SS Kashmir. Australia was in the grip of the Spanish influenza pandemic and Thompson was one of the sufferers. He was discharged on the 26th July 1919.

In 1916, the Commonwealth compulsorily acquired Tuggeranong, a property owned by the Cunningham family, for the purpose of building an arsenal at Pine Island in the Tuggeranong Valley. After the war the arsenal idea was abandoned and the site was included in the Jerrabomberra-Tuggeranong Soldier Settlement Subdivision, becoming Lanyon Block 4A.

Thompson applied for a Soldier Settlement lease on the 26th February 1920. On his application Thompson stated that he had been involved with farming and grazing all his life and had £800 in capital and 400 sheep. He held neither land, nor an interest in any land. Applicants could list their preferences for available blocks of land and Thompson nominated Lanyon Block 4A as his first choice. He was successful, signing a 25 year lease beginning on the 5th April 1920. Initially the rent for the 856 acre (346 hectares) Lanyon Block 4A, inclusive of rates, was £267/10 per annum.

Map of planned arsenal site at Tuggeranong - May 1917

Map of planned arsenal site at Tuggeranong, May 1917. Click on map for larger view.

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While Lanyon Block 4A was next to the Murrumbidgee River, the river frontage was excluded from his lease. On the 14th June 1921, Thompson was granted the right to graze on the Pine Island public reserve (41 acres - 17 hectares), referred to as Lanyon Block 20, for an annual rate of £5/15. However, the public was still able to enjoy fishing rights. This arrangement was terminated in 1936, when Thompson was granted permissive occupancy on a monthly basis. The Commonwealth changed its mind again in 1940 and he was granted a lease over Lanyon Block 20 expiring on the 4th April 1945 when his lease on Lanyon Block 4A also expired.

Plan of Tuggeranong Block 4A c1920

Plan of Lanyon Block 4A c1920.

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Like many Soldier Settlers, Thompson took advantage of Commonwealth assistance to purchase stock. He mortgaged 380 merino ewes that, by the end of 1921, had added 192 lambs to his flock. The Government inspector described them as:

"A very good line of heavy worked merino sheep; probably the best line of sheep yet valued by the Board. All sheep are in good health, sound and in good condition. Furthermore the sheep are under the care of one of the most level headed lessees in the Territory."

The sheep were shorn at Yarralumla and the wool was described as a "bit burry" but otherwise in good condition.

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Lanyon Block 4A boundary in red

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Lanyon Block 4A boundary in red.

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By the middle of 1924, Thompson had repaid his stock mortgage of £493, but was still affected by the onset of the Depression in the late 1920s. Thompson fell into arrears with his rent which, by 1935, had accumulated to £631/14/10. Lands Inspector, James Brackenreg, noted that the premium value of Lanyon Block 4A was £3 per acre:

"Mr Thompson as a lessee possesses initiative above the average, he is hardworking and steady, and his property is well improved, perhaps a little over-capitalised."

Pine Island Tuggeranong c1970

Part of Tuggeranong Block 4A c1970 - looking north over Pine Island towards Woden Valley.
Note Urambi Hills centre left & Mount Taylor top left.

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Unlike other Soldier Settlers in the Tuggeranong Valley, Thompson lived on his block. He built a house he named Kashmir after the ship he returned to Australia in after the war. A few years later he was referring to the property as Pine Island. In a 1927 valuation, the house was described as being:

"Built with concrete blocks on concrete foundation, roof, G.C. iron, verandahs on three sides. Internally the walls are plastered with art fibro plaster ceilings. The building is divided into four large rooms, hall, kitchen, laundry, sleep out room on verandah with all necessary conveniences. The work has been very well done and finished. Outbuildings consist of large garage and W.C. built of concrete blocks with iron roof."

The house was valued at £800 and all the other improvements at £600. It was said of him that:

"Mr. Thompson is a very enterprising and practical lessee who has repaid in full all previous advances and he recently met payment of his outstanding rental account."

In the fifth Department of the Interior land auction held on the 8th December 1951, Thompson purchased a suburban block in Griffith, ACT. The ACT electoral roll shows him living there in 1955.

In the 1970s his son, Ian Thompson, occupied Pine Island but the property was resumed in 1972 for the development of Tuggeranong. Darcy Thompson died in Canberra on the 6th November 1972.

Pine Island Homestead

Pine Island Homestead in 1994. Photo courtesy of Michael Hall.

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