James Archibald Muir
Block 105B Gungahlin District – Property Name: 'Honeysuckle'
James Archibald (Jimmy) Muir was born at Berridale, NSW in 1889. He lived in the Tidbinbilla/Uriarra area until 1902 when his father died in an accident. His family then moved to 'Barrack Burn' near Queanbeyan. Muir was working as a shearer in the Canberra region when he enlisted on the 19th January 1916. His brothers, William and John, also served in World War 1.
Muir served in Palestine as a driver with the Machine Gun Brigade of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. He was hospitalised in April 1917, suffering from "general abrasions" and returned to his unit on the 25th June 1917. He was hospitalised again with a toe injury on the 23rd January 1919, repatriating to Australia on the H.T. Euripides in March 1919. Muir was officially discharged on the 3rd June 1919 and married Hazel Priscilla Neale the following year.
Gungahlin Block 105B
In 1920, Muir was allocated the 472 acre (191 hectare) Soldier Settlement Gungahlin Block 105B for £129/16/0 per annum. The block, which he named 'Honeysuckle', was located near Pialligo with the Molonglo River and the Canberra-Queanbeyan railway bisecting it. This was to cause Muir numerous problems over the following years.
Map of Gungahlin Block 105B in 1920.
Google Maps image of area c2014 with Gungahlin Block 105B boundary in red.
In February 1923, wishing to improve his chances of obtaining additional land, Muir purchased a cottage from William Darmody and erected it on his block. Writing to the Commonwealth Surveyor General, Muir stated:
"My block is too small (472 acres) - and I wish to apply for an extra block as I understand you are helping those living on their Blocks (& without a living area) in this way."
Letter from Muir to the Commonwealth Surveyor General dated the 10th February 1923.
The buildings on Gungahlin Block 105B. The House was completed in April 1923 at the cost of £135.
In addition to the usual problem of controlling rabbits and weeds, Muir faced a threat to his livestock that was unique to his block. In February 1924, he wrote to the Commonwealth Surveyor General complaining that the Canberra-Queanbeyan train running through his block had killed some of his sheep:
"I will be obliged if you will assist me to overcome this trouble by suggesting to the Railway Dept that the Engine Drivers should exercise more care when travelling through unfenced paddocks - apparently at the present time the trains travel too fast in that locality."
Muir's suggestion went unheeded. On the 24th April 1924 he lost another eight sheep. He once again wrote to the Commonwealth Surveyor General:
"This is the third occasion that I have had Sheep run over, (47 killed altogether), and as the Railway Department have only paid me about a "third" value on one lot, I think it is time something was done to prevent a recurrence."
Letter from Muir to the Commonwealth Surveyor General dated the 26th April 1924.
In May 1924, the Secretary of the Office of the Railway Commissioners for New South Wales "approved payment of £4 as an act of grace without admission of liability". He added, "There is no evidence to show that there was any negligence on the part of the enginemen concerned."
In September 1925, Muir again pleaded his case for more land. His lease had expired at the end of 1924, at which time the Federal Capital Commission (FCC) withdrew 13 acres (5 hectares) for road works. This reduced Gungahlin Block 105B to an area of 459 acres (186 hectares). Writing to the Chief Lands Officer, Muir proposed a land swap:
"You will appreciate that the block is not a living area and although I have established my home on it I would be prepared to remove it if you would grant me one of the three leases i.e. "Flynn's" fronting Uriarra Road, "Weston" [Woden Block 24A] or "Oakey Hill" [Woden Block 25A]."
Muir was still leasing Gungahlin Block 105B when the FCC withdrew the 159 acres (64 hectares) south of the Molonglo River on the 6th April 1926. His rental on the remaining 300 acres (121 hectares) was £82/10/0 per annum.
Gungahlin Block 105B, Canberra City Block 13 & Woden Block 19
Despite its greatly reduced living area, Muir remained on Gungahlin Block 105B when finally, in July 1927, his perseverance paid out. FCC Lands Officer, James Brackenreg, offered Muir a new lease on a substantially enlarged block. Now incorporating the adjoining Gungahlin Block 105C, along with the previously withdrawn southern area of his original lease, Muir now had a usable living area of 1150 acres (465 hectares). However, due to changes in District boundaries, Muir's new lease covered three separate blocks - Canberra City Block 13, Gungahlin Block 105B and Woden Block 19.
As part of the new lease agreement, Brackenreg promised that the FCC would also fence the railway at an estimated cost of £450.
Map of Gungahlin Block 105B, Canberra City Block 13 & Woden Block 19 in 1928.
Muir remained on Gungahlin Block 105B until March 1933 when Vernie William Buckmaster took over the lease. James Muir moved to Queanbeyan and died there on the 5th July 1980 aged 91. His grave is in the Tharwa Road Cemetery.
- ArchivesACT: Government Property & Tenancy Registers - Gungahlin Block 105B & Canberra City Block 13 (PDF 684Kb) & Canberra City Block 13 (PDF 320Kb) & Woden Block 19 (PDF 317Kb)
- ArchivesACT: Rate Book : Territory for the Seat of Government - 1927 (PDF 17.8Mb) - 1928 (PDF 18.7Mb) - 1929 (PDF 8.74Mb)
- ArchivesACT: TL982 (Part 1) - Block 105B Gungahlin District Including Bk 19 Woden and 13 City, 35 City - V.W. Buckmaster
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/248552
- News and Notes. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 24 October 1916, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31672668
- News and Notes. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 24 April 1917, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31675403
- Our Returned Soldiers. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 10 June 1919, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31648766
- Wedding. Muir-Neale. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 9 January 1920, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31652082
- Family Notices. The Canberra Times, 8 July 1980, p.22: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125609103
- ACT Memorial - Muir, James Archibald: http://www.memorial.act.gov.au/person.php?id=3040