Gerald O'Hanlon

Gerald David Unthank (Gerry) O'Hanlon

Blocks 35 & 35A Stromlo District – Property Names: 'Thatch Hut' or 'Rabarak'

Gerald David Unthank (Gerry) O'Hanlon was born in Glebe, Sydney in 1892 and arrived in the district with his family in 1895. At the time of his enlistment on the 23rd July 1917, he had been the Yarrowlumla Shire Clerk since 1911.

O'Hanlon served in the Army Medical Corps for over two years. Initially he was stationed in Sydney as a Private working at the Liverpool Field Hospital then the Garrison Hospital in Victoria Barracks. In 1918, he served on the Hospital Ship No.2 "Kanowna" sailing to Suez twice that year. In 1919, now a Corporal, O'Hanlon returned to Australia on the "Warwickshire".

O'Hanlon applied for a Soldier Settlement block in February 1920. On his application, he is described as being 26¾ years of age and 6 feet 3 inches (190 cm) tall. He was granted a 25 year lease over the 998 acres (404 hectares) Stromlo Block 35, for £224/11 per annum rent (including rates) starting from the 5th April 1920.

In the 1830s Thomas Macquoid and Donald Simson purchased several blocks of land in the Parish of Tuggeranong including Portion 188. It later became part of the Yarralumla estate and was known as the Thatch Hut Paddock. After the Commonwealth acquired Yarralumla in 1913, the block became Stromlo Block 35. O'Hanlon named the block Rabarak after the Queanbeyan, NSW suburb Karabar (Rabarak is Karabar spelt backwards) where he lived. The approximate location of Stromlo Block 35 is now covered by the suburb of Wanniassa and the south eastern end of Kambah. The gate to Rabarak was situated on the northern side of Kambah Lane (near current day Whiteman Street, Wanniassa).

Plan of Stromlo Block 35

Plan of Stromlo Block 35.

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There was no residency requirement attached to Stromlo Block 35 and O'Hanlon continued to live at his home Karabar in Queanbeyan. In September 1925, O'Hanlon was offered 86 acres (35 hectares) on the western edge of his block which became Stromlo Block 35A. He leased it for £23/13 per annum.

Like other rural lessees, O'Hanlon struggled to control rabbits and weeds. He was told by Lands Inspector, James Brackenreg, that the Federal Capital Commission (FCC):

"expects no briar and no rabbits, and considers three or four burrows and a few briar objectionable. As you know we are all out to destroy these, and in this we ask for your hearty co-operation."

Plan of Stromlo Block 35A

Plan of Stromlo Block 35A.

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The Depression was a financial burden for all rural lessees and in 1930 drought also bit hard. O'Hanlon sold his 1929 wool clip at a loss of four pence per pound below the cost of production and some lambs at three to four shillings below the cost of production. His reserves were spent and he was in arrears by almost £140. By June 1933 he was behind almost £600 in rent. Nonetheless O'Hanlon survived and improved the land and in 1945 his leases were renewed until 1958 at an annual rent of £175/16/6.

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Stromlo Blocks 35 and 35A boundary in red

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Stromlo Blocks 35 & 35A boundary in red.

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On the 30th April 1953, O'Hanlon sold Rabarak for £9500 to Geoffrey Hyles, a returned serviceman from WW2. Hyles, who had grazing interests in the Bungendore area of NSW, already held the neighbouring Stromlo Block 36.

O'Hanlon's life was not limited to the land. He was the Yarrowlumla Shire Clerk between 1911 and 1962, Queanbeyan Mayor during WW2, a trustee of the Queanbeyan Racecourse for 30 years and secretary for over 20 years. Incredibly he served his 52 years with the Shire as a temporary employee because he couldn't be bothered with going through the "rigmarole" for permanent appointment. He retired as Yarrowlumla Shire Clerk in February 1963.

O'Hanlon died in Queanbeyan on the 28th August 1965.


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