Percival Francis Robertson
Blocks 98J & 99 Gungahlin District
Percival Francis Robertson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1894 and studied at the Edinburgh College of Agriculture for three years before migrating to Australia in mid 1914. He spent the next nine months at the Rosenthal Government Experimental Farm in South Australia before enlisting in February 1915.
Robertson served at Gallipoli with the 27th Battalion but in March 1916, was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion in Egypt. He later served in France at Pozières, Bullecourt and the Third Battle of Ypres where he was shot in the thigh and sent to England to recover. He returned to his unit in July 1918, but was gassed a few days later. Robertson was Mentioned in Despatches for his work and finished the war with the rank of Lieutenant.
On the 27th January 1920, Robertson applied for a Soldier Settlement Block in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He stated that he was still suffering slight weakness from his bullet wound, receiving a pension of just over 26 shillings per fortnight and had £260 in cash. Robertson was officially described as "the best type of applicant interviewed". He had good local contacts as he was living in Gundaroo, NSW where his Commanding Officer in the 2nd Pioneer Battalion, John Donnelly, was a well known grazier.
Although Robertson preferred a lease with a longer tenure at Jerrabomberra or Tuggeranong, he was allocated land in the Ainslie-Majura Subdivision. On the 17th December 1920, he signed five year leases for Gungahlin Block 98J, of 544 acres (220 hectares) at £108/16 per annum, and Gungahlin Block 99 of 539 acres (218 hectares) at £67/7/6 per annum. These two blocks covered most of the modern day suburb of Hackett as well as the northern end of Ainslie.
Google Maps image of area c2013 with Gungahlin Blocks 98J and 99 boundaries in red.
Shortly after Robertson signed the leases and occupied the blocks, stock inspection reported a 73% lambing rate from his ewes giving him a flock of around 600 sheep. But like other Soldier Settlers, Robertson obtained an advance to purchase his stock. By April 1921, he was regretting that decision:
"The restriction caused through holding stock under mortgage to the Government", he complained "is liable to place me under serious disadvantage."
He claimed he had to pass up good business opportunities because of the constraints of the loans provided by the Commonwealth. The following month Robertson paid out his loans in full.
By September 1921, the Assistant Lands Inspector, Fred Cox, claimed that it was known locally that Robertson had "sold" his leases to Charles Masters, a grazier from the Gundaroo District. A man working the block told Cox that Masters employed him. According to Cox:
"Mr. Robertson discharged his mortgages some time ago, and that is when the sale is supposed to take place. The sheep now grazing upon the blocks are the property of Mr. Masters."
Notably, the sale occurred without the agreement of the Commonwealth.
Robertson stayed in the district and was living near Bungendore, NSW when he got engaged to Miss Bertha Bannerman of Sydney in 1930. However the marriage did not go ahead. In 1935, he instead married Joan Zouch. Percival Robertson died at Forster, NSW in 1970 aged 76 years.
- NAA: CP326/8 – P. Robertson Blocks 98J and 99 Ainslie
- NAA: (A363) DSL1921/63 - P. Robertson Blocks 98J and 99 Gungahleen. Advance File.
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/296550
- Engagement. The Canberra Times, 17 March 1930, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2286312
- Breach of Promise. The Canberra Times, 1 May 1931, p.3: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2373323
- Out of Town News. The Sydney Morning Herald - Women Supplement, 3 October 1935, p.6: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27993519
- Wedding. Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 18th October 1935, p.4: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103394027