Graphic: A metal sign featuring cut-out images of two men. Reverend John Flynn, founder of the RFDS, and Jimmy Darcy, the inspiration for Flynn's dream.

Retracing last steps of stockman who inspired Flynn's vision

Date published

31 Aug 2018
Old black and white photograph of an adult man riding a horse in outback Australia. The man is believed to be Jimmy Darcy.

A committed group of fundraisers have followed in the footsteps of Jimmy Darcy – the young stockman whose death in 1917 was the impetus for Reverend John Flynn’s ‘Flying Doctor’ scheme formed in 1928 and known today as the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). 

In early August the group of 20 off-duty RFDS staff and Cheap as Chips employees retraced Jimmy’s final days as part of a 46-kilometre walk culminating in Halls Creek, WA, for a ceremony to unveil new signage at his grave site in the Kimberley town.

“It’s a very humbling feeling to be walking the same route that Jimmy Darcy took 101 years ago in pursuit of urgent medical care,” said Trudi Kluge, Adelaide-based Flight Nurse, RFDS Central Operations, who is taking part in the three-day trek.

“Jimmy could never have imaged that his final days would inspire the establishment of an organisation that today provides life-saving and essential primary health care services to someone in Australia every two minutes.

"I know that the entire team feel very proud to honour his legacy.”

A group of people in blue shirts on outback dirt. They are smiling.

“As a proud RFDS Community Partner, we’re proud to walk together – quite literally – to honour the legacy of Jimmy Darcy who inspired the creation of an organisation which has been saving lives for 90 years,” says Cheap as Chips CEO, Shane Radbone, who is taking part in the three-day trek.

“Along with our customers, we understand the importance of raising funds to enable the RFDS to continue providing its life-saving and essential primary health care services to someone in Australia every two minutes,” says Shane.

Conducting events and collecting donations in the lead up to and along the way, the group have almost reached their fundraising target of $60,000.

Jimmy Darcy was just 29 years old when he suffered serious injury from a fall from his horse while working on Lamboo Station, and was dragged by his brothers on a dray into the nearby town of Halls Creek.

The Halls Creek Postmaster, Fred Tuckett – the only person with basic First Aid knowledge – performed emergency surgery on Jimmy with only a sharpened pen-knife and some morphine under instruction via morse code from Dr Holland almost 3,000km away in Perth. 

The seven-hour operation on his ruptured bladder was a success, but Jimmy’s condition did not improve. Dr Holland made the two-week journey from Perth by a combination of cattle boat, car and horse buggy, but he was 24 hours too late to save Jimmy. He had died of malaria.

Jimmy’s death – which attracted national headlines – was thankfully not in vain, providing the impetus for Reverend John Flynn’s vision for an outback aeromedical service which he founded in 1928 with a bequest from industrialist Hugh Victor McKay.