Robert John Butt
Block 31 Belconnen District – Property Name: 'Emu Bank'
Robert John Butt was born at 'Kirkdale' near Yass, NSW in 1892. He was working as a share farmer in the Yass area when he enlisted at Goulburn, NSW on the 14th March 1916.
On the 30th September 1916, Butt embarked from Sydney aboard the HMAT Aeneas as a Private with the 5th Reinforcements to the 56th Battalion. He arrived at the 5th Division Base Depot Etaples, France in December 1916 seeing action in February 1917.
On the 26th September 1917. at Polygon Wood, Belgium, Butt sustained "shell deafness". His military medical report states:
"Shell burst nearby on above date and he was struck in the back of the neck by a piece of mud. Since then has been deaf and getting worse. Was not evacuated, but while on leave in Feb 1918, reported to H.Q. London & was sent to No.1 aa H Harefield. Discharged thence 22-2-18"
Butt did not return to the front and was repatriated to Australia on the HMAT Medic in August 1918. He disembarked in Sydney on the 13th October 1918 and admitted to No.4 Australian General Hospital at Randwick. Butt was officially discharged in Sydney on the 8th November 1918.
In February 1923, Butt applied for a Soldier Settlement block in Belconnen District. The Federal Capital Commission (FCC) allocated Butt his fourth choice, the 649 acre (263 hectare) Belconnen Block 31, for a period of 25 years. His annual rental was £181/3/7. However, the Commonwealth Surveyor General informed Butt, "that owing to continued dry weather possession of the land cannot be given to you at present."
Map of Belconnen Block 31.
In April 1923, Butt requested access to his block so he could carry out fencing in preparation for moving his sheep onto the block. The FCC permitted Butt to proceed with fencing with the understanding that he will not be charged rent until he took full possession. Butt was also informed, "in the meantime you are not to put any stock on the land."
Google Maps image of area c2014 with Belconnen Block 31 boundary in red
Butt took full possession of Belconnen Block 31 on the 14th June 1923. He named his block 'Emu Bank', despite only around 40 acres (16 hectares) of the block sitting on the former 'Emu Bank Paddock', part of the earlier Ginninderra property. This part of Belconnen retains the name Emu Bank.
Letter from Robert Butt to Commonwealth Surveyor General date the 3rd March 1924.
In August 1924, the Commonwealth Surveyor General requested Butt pay £22/10/0 for "15 chains of netting fence" that the Commonwealth had erected along his Weetangera Road frontage. Butt argued that, "...no fencing has been done by the Commonwealth since I got possession of the block and all fencing and improvements come under term of five years payment from the date I took possession..."
The Commonwealth Surveyor General responded that the fence was part of the conditions of Butt's lease. As it was necessary to fence off a new road before Butt took possession, the FCC had erected the fence. He continued:
"What is desired now is that you will forward your cheque for the sum of £22.10.0 to purchase the fence, in order that you may maintain tenant rights over the whole of the fencing on your lease."
Chief Lands Officer, James Brackenreg, continued to pursue payment from Butt. On the 25th June 1925, Butt replied to Brackenreg's latest demand for payment stating:
"I have to inform you that I have already paid for the construction of the fence mentioned in your letter and hold the original receipt for the same. Will you kindly look up book 42 and receipt-No 4159 you will see where it was paid on April 15th 1925. Trusting to receive an acknowledgement of your error at an early date."
A note on Butt's letter states, "The matter was explained personally to Mr Butt 3/7, J.C. Brackenreg"
In November 1925, Brackenreg drew Butt's attention to Clauses 2(t & u) of his lease, that the lessee shall insure all fixtures and improvements in the name of the Commonwealth. Brackenreg sent a reminder to Butt in January 1926. On the 28th January 1926, Butt asked, "...as I have half the improvements paid for would I have to insure for full amount..." This would be Butt's last correspondence with the FCC.
Letter from Robert Butt to James Brackenreg date the 28th January 1926.
Robert Butt Tragically died is a fishing accident on the 31st January 1926. The Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer ran the following report on the 2nd February 1926:
Richard Andrew Butt, Robert Butt's father, was the executor for the estate. In April 1926, Richard Butt applied for the transfer of Robert's lease to Percy James Butt, Robert's younger brother. The FCC granted approval for the transfer beginning the 14th June 1926, provided that Percy repaid the FCC £246/19/7 owed by Robert. During Percy's time on the block, he constructed a five-room residence close to the current site of Belconnen Public Library.
Sketch by Percy Butt of proposed house plan for 'Emu Bank'.
Percy Butt remained on Belconnen Block 31 until he sold it in 1939 to Hugh Read, a master butcher who lived in Griffith, ACT.
- ArchivesACT: Government Property & Tenancy Registers - Belconnen Block 31 (PDF 420Kb)
- ArchivesACT: Rate Book : Territory for the Seat of Government - 1927 (PDF 17.8Mb) - 1928 (PDF 18.7Mb) - 1929 (PDF 8.74Mb)
- ArchivesACT: TL4519 (Part 1) - Block 31 Belconnen
- ArchivesACT: TL4519 (Part 2) - Block 31 Belconnen
- ArchivesACT: TL4519 (Part 3) - Block 31 Belconnen "Emu Bank" - W.D. McDonald
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/108494
- Shocking Fatality at Weetangara. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 2 February 1926, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31682326
- Advertising. Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 12 March 1926, p.2: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31682604