Blocks 15, 8C & 110B Woden District - Property Name: 'Kurrumbene'
Ernest Murray was born on the 1st December 1880 in Surry Hills, Sydney. He was living in Canberra with his father, the Murray family having moved there in 1909, when he enlisted on the 27th August 1914 aged 33 years old. Murray married Sarah 'Ruby' Elizabeth Monaghan, a month before he left for active service.
Murray initially served with the 1st NSW Field Engineers and was amongst the first group of soldiers to land at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915. In 1917, while serving in France, he was Mentioned in Despatches, awarded the Military Medal (Bupaume) and the Bar to Military Medal (Ypes) for "conspicuous services rendered". In February 1918, Ernest was gassed while on active service, an event that would have lasting effects on his health. He returned to Australia in August 1918 and was discharged as medically unfit on the 19th April 1919.
Woden Blocks 8C & 110B
Despite having virtually no farming experience, Murray successfully applied for Soldier Settlement blocks in 1920. He was allocated Woden Blocks 8C (248 acres - 100 hectares) and 110B (273 acres - 110 hectares), taking possession of them on the 6th September 1920. Murray was fortunate that his wife, Ruby, came from a farming family and had extensive knowledge in running a property. They named the farm Kurrumbene.
Plan of Woden Block 8C.
Plan of Woden Block 110B.
The blocks were located on Uriarra Road in the Jerrabomberra Subdivision of Woden District, an area now covered by Narrabundah. There was an existing farm house on Woden Block 8C described as:
"an old cottage of two rooms, a cow bail with a yard and small holding paddock and a shed near the house. The cottage was weatherboard, the corner timber being red box posts and an iron roof. The shed was very dilapidated. The cow shed no better."
Google Maps image of area c2013 with Woden Blocks 8C & 110B boundary in red.
Woden Block 15
In April 1926, Murray requested more land from the Federal Capital Commission (FCC). Lands Officer, James Brackenreg, noted that Murray was a returned soldier "and one of the best lessees in the Territory", recommending that he be offered Woden Block 15 (796 acre - 322 hectare) for five years. Murray accepted the offer in November 1926. Although the lease of was not signed until the 12th January 1928, he occupied the block officially from the 1st March 1927, at an annual rental of £179/2.
Woden Block 15 was created in 1926 and had a complex past. The block was a redesign of several earlier blocks including the amalgamation of Woden Blocks 4 and 15 and part of Belconnen Block 52A. The block included a part of Murrays Paddock, named after an unrelated early settler Terence Aubrey Murray, Giffords Paddock and Blundells Paddock. There were also two 18th century homesteads known as Hillside and Riverview.
Isaac Blundell had owned Riverview, then his widow Emily after his death in 1910. It was acquired from her by the Commonwealth before WW1 and described as being constructed from pisé with the kitchen, fireplace and living area in a separate building from the bedrooms to mitigate the danger from fires. Michael Horan leased Riverview before it was transferred to Sidney Blewitt in April 1918. However in June 1920, notice was given to terminate the lease. The block was to be added to Belconnen Block 52A as part of the Soldier Settlement Scheme which was leased by David Tully in October 1920.
Plan of Woden Block 15 in 1927
Murray ran sheep on the block and had them shorn and dipped at Yarralumla. He did not live on the block. Instead, he employed his brother Harry Murray to look after the land for at a wage of £2 per week. Harry lived in Riverview house.
Harry had some farming experience after successfully applying for Soldier Settlement blocks in 1920. He leased Gungahlin Blocks 98E and 98F from the 1st of January 1920 until he transferred the blocks to his neighbour, Leo Cameron, on the 27th October 1922.
One of Harry's biggest jobs was to control the noxious weed known as Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa). After regular complaints from land inspectors about the briars, Ernest Murray wrote that he again had the weeds mattocked:
"But as I have found in the past that it is almost impossible to irradicate them by this means in the stony parts. I wish to apply for a suspension of the work until the seedpod has formed when I will endeavour to poison them out."
Google Maps image of area c2013 with Woden Block 15A boundary in red. Today this area is part of the suburb of Coombs.
As economic conditions worsened during the Depression, Murray found that he was having trouble paying the rent on all his leases so he decided to sell Woden Block 15. In October 1931, Murray and Donald Tully, younger brother of his neighbour David Tully, agreed on the sale of the block for £500 which more than cleared his debts. Such was the relief that, according to his son James, when Murray gave the cheque to his wife Ruby "she looked at it and tears streamed down her face."
Ernest Murray died of Leukaemia at the Randwick Military Hospital, Sydney on the 28th July 1935 aged 54 years old.
After Ernest Murray's death, the Murray family continued to lease Woden Blocks 8C and 110B, now known as Murray's Dairy. In 1936, both blocks were incorporated into the expanding Canberra City District with Block 8C renamed Block 27A. Being so close to the developing city, both blocks were gradually resumed over time for suburban development. The "new" Canberra City Block 27A that was 248 acres (100 hectares) in 1936, was gradually reduced in size to only 33 acres (13 hectares) by 1950.
Ruby remained on Kurrumbene until her death on the 21st May 1978 aged 90. The final resumption of both blocks took place in 1982, leaving only a small grazing block (Narrabundah Section 34 Block 40) next to the Narrabundah Velodrome. This land is still leased to the Murray family for grazing.
- ArchivesACT: Government Property & Tenancy Registers - Woden Block 15 (PDF 431Kb)
- ArchivesACT: Rate Book : Territory for the Seat of Government - 1927 (PDF 17.8Mb) - 1928 (PDF 18.7Mb) - 1929 (PDF 8.88Mb)
- ArchivesACT: TL129 - Block 110B City - Mrs S.R.E. Murray
- ArchivesACT: TL6597 - Block 15 Woden - D.R. Tully
- ArchivesACT: TL7794 (Part 1) - Block 98F Gungahlin - H.I. Hamilton
- ArchivesACT: TL7794 (Part 2) - Block 98F Gungahlin (Includes Approval Drive-In Theatre Site 1955) - Hector Ian Hamilton
- NAA: (A363) DSL1920/748 Block 3 Stromlo SEA Blewitt
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/255004
- Canberra's First Anzac by James Murray, (Unpublished), 2002
- Homes for the Workers : The History of the Narrabundah Pre Fabs by Alan Foskett, The Narrabundah Pre Fabs History Group, (2011)
- Our Boys in Khaki - Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 14 September 1915, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31667373
- Australians Honoured - The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 February 1918, p.8: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15774453
- Obituary - The Canberra Times, 29 July 1935, p.4: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2395525
- The Late E. Murray - The Canberra Times, 31 July 1935, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2395678
- Obituary, Mrs Ruby Murray - The Canberra Times, 23 May 1978, p.7: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131854533
- ACT Memorial – Murray, Ernest: http://www.memorial.act.gov.au/person.php?id=3044