A race for land

The file for the Chevy Chase Pastoral Development Lease is a favourite for its humour, its exposure of staff activity in a government office and its revelation of unrealistic and changing land values.

On 6 March 1939, a ballot was held in Barcaldine to determine the successful applicant for the lease. Five men applied for the 78 square mile holding on the eastern slopes on the Great Dividing Range. They were Thomas Sleeman, Donald Mackay, William Scafe, William Kirby and William Shannon. The holding was opened at 3/4d per square mile.

Oak Street, Barcaldine, March 1938
Oak Street, Barcaldine, March 1938

The following verse was written in pencil below the information about the ballot sent to the Land Administration Board by L. Siemon, the Land Commissioner based in Barcaldine. It was penned by an unnamed officer who noted the over-enthusiasm of the bidders:

Chevy Chase Cup
Five starters lined at the barrier and when starter Larry Siemon released the tapes Kirby was badly left and took no part in the race.
At the 10/- post Sleeman had a bad attack of the jitters and dropped back to last. 1/6D further on Mackay got his tongue over the bit and turned dumb.
Scafe and Shannon continue merrily until the 17/- post.
Shannon forged to the front and won by a tray bit.

Within two years William Shannon had surrendered the holding. By then, reality had returned to the valuing of this land, so when it was opened again in January 1942 at 5/- a square mile, William Scafe out bid Nita Mackay and William Sutton at 6/- per square mile.

Janice Cooper

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1 Response

  1. Anonymous

    500 acres at queen mary falls went for 8000 pounds in 1950,once cleared became a very productive farm and was the begining of wickham farms

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