Guy Tanner

Guy Dayrell Canning Tanner

Block 26A Woden District – Property Name: 'Illoura'

Guy Dayrell Canning Tanner was born on the 14th May 1899 in Sydney. After turning 18 years old in May 1917, he enlisted in Sydney and arrived in England in January 1918 as reinforcement for the engineers. Tanner served in France with the 12th Field Company Engineers from July 1918 until the end of the war. He was officially discharged on the 23rd November 1919.

Despite being a jackeroo before the war, Tanner had been unsuccessful in several applications for Soldier Settlement blocks. He spent three years managing a station near Adelong, NSW and was described by the owner as "absolutely reliable and trustworthy". In January 1928, Tanner offered to buy Woden Block 26A (926 acres - 375 hectares) from Thomas Cargill, the sale being approved by the Commonwealth the following month.

The block included the corrugated iron Sewer Mess building that Cargill had lived in as a boarder. Tanner sought official permission to paint it and it soon became his residence. He also kept the name Illoura given to the block by Cargill. That same year, Tanner became engaged to Frances 'Brownie' Parramore of Tarcutta, NSW although they did not marry until 1930.

Plan of Woden Block 26A

Plan of Woden Block 26A. Click on plan for larger view.

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In mid 1929, Tanner applied to erect additions to the Mess building. The additions were described as comprising a "comfortable two bedroom house, living room, kitchen, laundry, garage, pantry and outbuildings". He received a £450 loan under the Housing Ordinance (1928), repayable over six years, to carry out the work. The existing structure was valued at £75 and the additions at £550, however the Chief Lands Officer at the Federal Capital Commission (FCC) was concerned that Tanner was overcapitalising.

Like other Soldier Settlers, Tanner was concerned that he did not have sufficient land to make a living and asked the FCC about the availability of land for agistment. He was also having trouble meeting his rental payments of £284/4/6 per annum. In January 1930, he applied for an extension to pay his quarterly rent because "sheep being practically unsaleable at present and the low prices for wool it will be necessary for me to borrow money to pay the rent."

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Woden Block 26A boundary in red

Google Maps image of area c2013 with Woden Block 26A boundary in red.

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Although Tanner began cultivating fifteen acres in 1930, he was principally using the land as a grazing proposition. He noted that as the Depression bit "my net returns from the said stock for last year were the lowest I've experienced". His position did not improve over the next year and the Department of Home Affairs asked him in April 1932 as to when he would liquidate his debt of £213. A report the following month noted that Tanner had subdivided the block into five sheep paddocks and three cultivation paddocks including four acres of lucerne. The land had a carrying capacity of over one sheep per acre; he had 480 ewes (four years old), 480 merinos (two years old), 360 lambs, 220 four year old wethers, 60 aged ewes and ten Springfield rams. The total value of Tanner's property, including the house, was £2700.

Through hard work, the Tanners survived the hard economic times of the 1930s and extended the amount of land on Illoura under crops during the 1940s. In 1948 and 1949, Tanner won the prize for the most outstanding wheat crop in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) but thereafter reverted to pasture because of the difficulties with wheat farming.

Guy Tanner died on 22nd March 1956 and his son, Robert, took over management of Illoura. Shortly after however, parts of the property were resumed for the development of Curtin. The remaining 335 acres (136 hectares) were resumed in 1970.


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