Ex-Servicemen Settle On Land
By A Staff Correspondent
28 January 1949 The Sydney Morning Herald
RETURNED Servicemen going on the land under the War Service Closer Settlement Scheme are helping each other as they learned to do during the war.
An example of this is the way in which ex-Scrvicemen who have been placed on blocks at Ellerslie Estate, Adelong (N.§.W.), are pull- ing together in the everyday problems which arise.
The men are young and strong, and all of them have previous knowledge of the land.
The original 40,000 acres estate was acquired by the State Government and divided into 29 blocks.
Of these, 27 are for grazing and fat lamb production, and two are for dairy farms.
A community centre of 50 acres has been set aside on the estate for public utilities and amenities for all the settlers.
On this 50 acres is a 21-stand woolshed, which is the chief meet- ing place of lie returned Service- men.
There they exchange ideas, discuss problems, and arrange to help each other when help is needed.
This is the way it works out. Last week Fred Davis, on Block 22, decided to drench and inoculate his sheep. He called on his neighbours, Harleigh Hanrahan, Harry Humphrey, Johnny Reakes, Barney Casey, Len Greer, Reg Edwards,, and Jim Robertson, to give him a hand.
The next day a similar pooling of labour enabled Harleigh Hanrahan to drench and wig his sheep.
Barney Casey's branding of calves brought the same neighbourly gang on to the job.
The ex-Servicemen have set up a special fire-fighting squad to guard against their most-feared enemy, the bushfire. Fred Davis and Harleigh Hanrahan made fire-beaters for the squad.
Ellerslie is situated between Wagga and Tumut. It is about 2,000 feet above sea-level, is watered by permanent creeks, and has an average rainfall of 28 inches.
Under the Government's scheme the ex-Service settler pays no rent for the first 12 months and receives a living allowance.
The rental charged after 12 months is based upon 21 per cent, of the unimproved capital value of the land.
The highest rent paid by the settlers at Ellerslie on this basis is £191. and the lowest £102; the size and value of the 29 blocks varies.
The ex-Serviceman holds the lease in perpetuity; he can sell the lease after 10 years.
The 25 ex-Servicemen who have already taken over their blocks are delighted with their properties. Many are making good progress with sheep and cattle and with fencing and housing.
Some are earning income already from the agistment of cattle which come from drought-affected parts further west.
When I told Harleigh Hanrahan I would like to spend a week with him to see how the new settlers were faring, he told me that conditions were rough and that I would have to bring my own bed.
I compromised by buying an American-type hammock, which I thought I might string up between a couple of trees on the property.
When I arrived, however, I found that the area had been so thinned of trees years ago that the only suitable one left was on the bank of the creek, and it was the tree in which the fowls roosted at night to get away from the foxes.
My sleeping with the fowls appealed to the sense of humour of Hanrahan and his friend, Fred Davis, who had nicely set up former army hospital beds in a hut on Davis's block that was once the boundary riders hut on Ellerslie proper.
This hut is equipped with a huge fireplace, at which Fred Davis exercised his cooking skill. He even turned on a baked dinner, complete with vegetables, in my honour.
Davis is the centre of activity of the settlers, because he is the only one with the telephone.
He is thus the news-gatherer and chief message taker of the area. He has been known to drive his brand new truck 10 miles to deliver an important message.
Davis got the idea of running fowls because he believed fresh eggs would be a welcome addition to the diet.
They are probably among the least cooped up fowls in the State, as they have no restraint on their activities except the boundary fences of the 20 acre paddock in which the hut is situated. Yet they never wander and each night at dusk they hasten to their safe position in the tree.
Davis is fortunate because his wife and two children are living temporarily in the township of Adelong and spend such time with him as school routine permits.
Others, after years in the Services, are still facing separation from their wives and families until their homes are built on their blocks.
Eric Corbett has tackled the housing problem by shifting a hut from the main homestead site to his block.
Gordon Smith has his wife and small baby with him in a concrete brick garage which he built.
Reg Edwards and Len Greer are living under canvas. Others are living in shearers huts adjoining the woolshed.
Former light-horseman Jack Dixon is Iea\ing his wife and family of five in an adjoining town while he "baches" at the woolshed.
Harry Humphreys and his wife and small daughter are living in a shearers hut near the woolshed, as are Mr and Mrs Jim O'Donnell and their two young daughters.
Some of the settlers have had plans drawn by architects and are placing contracts with builders for homes that will make life in the country as comfortable as possible for their wives, who, in some cases, are city bred.
These homes will be mostly well appointed weatherboard houses. The scarcity of corrugated iron for roofing is a problem which has to be overcome.
Jack Nyland, a bachelor, was the fortunate man to draw the original homestead site of "Ellerslie" on his original block, so for him at least the housing problem does not exist.
The rabbit plague is practically unknown at "Ellerslie," because of the efficient management of the estate in the past. A splendid sys- tem of rabbit-proof fences round the estate, supplemented by an effective programme of trapping and digging out inside the fences, has resulted in almost rabbit-free country.
Large numbers of foxes have also helped to keep the rabbits down.
A former overseer of ''Ellerslie." Hughie Ferguson, is now employed by the Lands Department to assist the settlers in their problems. His wide knowledge of methods which have been successful on the area in past years is being a big help to the ex-Servicemen.
One of the, immediate problems facing the settlers is erection of fences on the limits of their blocks. As it is. sheep and cattle often stray into a neighbour's block. An honour system operates and the strays are being constantly returned to their rightful owners.
The Government has laid down a policy under which pasture protection is ensured and erosion minimised.
Advances are made by the Government to enable the settler to purchase stock up to a specified amount for each block. Similar advances are made for home buildings (£1,500). outbuildings or sheds (£400), a motor vehicle (£700), and fencing.
The townspeople of Adelong, which is 11 miles away, have taken the ex-Servicemen into the fold. The Adelong Returned Servicemen's Association organised a special welcome to make the new settlers feel at home.
The N.S.W. Minister for Lands, the Hon. W. F. Sheahan, came from Sydney for this function.
Experienced landholders in the district are taking a keen interest in the welfare of the ex-Servicemen.
Everyone concerned praises the scheme, which is settling the men on first-class properly, and providing the help necessary to get them started.