Walcha history: Luck of the draw for Orandumby Homestead

Orandumby Homestead in 1981: The homestead was built for John Fletcher in the 1860s.
Orandumby Homestead in 1981: The homestead was built for John Fletcher in the 1860s.

Brothers George and William Partridge, veterans of World War 1, gained adjacent soldier settlement blocks on the Port Stephens Road early in the 1920s.

These blocks were subdivided from Orandumby Station and became Miltiades and Orita respectively.

During 1946, the remaining 21,000-acre Orandumby Station was purchased from the ANZ Land Company for soldier settlement and divided into 14 blocks ranging from 1130 acres to 1987 acres.

... it appears that the hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world, as he chose the Orandumby block.”

These properties would be occupied on a perpetual lease at an annual rental of 2.5 per cent of assessed value, but with an option for future conversion to unrestricted freehold. The settler also had to pay for existing structural improvements, such as buildings, yards and fences.

A living allowance was available for the first 12 months and finance was available for livestock, plant and improvements.

Applications from qualified ex-service men and women had to be lodged before April 11, 1947. Of the 1031 applications received, 802 were not considered to be of sufficient merit, with the remaining 229 put to a ballot held the Walcha Court House on April 18.

The 14 successful applicants were Robert Bishop, Russell Blaxland, Robert Bourke, Gordon Boydell, Mervyn Brazel (St Leonards Creek), Ted Brazel (Walcha Road), Alex Dunbar, Max Eipper, Elwyn Green (Walcha), Allan Griffin, Ernie McPhee (Glen Morrison), David McHattan, Daniel Shepherd and Robert Wisken.

Robert Bourke of North Bondi drew the 1670-acre homestead block and, as luck would have it, he also drew a 51,700-acre block at Wilcannia in a ballot held at Cobar some three weeks later.

The Barrier Miner of July 4, 1947, said: “The Lands Department officer believed the Wilcannia block to be better but the Orandumby block had a home on it and the other didn’t. Mr Bourke is a married man and it appears that the hand that rocks the cradle still rules the world, as he chose the Orandumby block.”

No doubt the Bourke family were astonished by the size and quality of their new Georgian style two-storey home at Orandumby with its Flemish bond brickwork, cedar joinery, dormer windows on the upstairs bedrooms and single storey wings at the rear of the building.

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