The story of Jimmy Darcy and his horse

The story of Jimmy Darcy and his horse

Date published

11 Mar 2022

As we celebrate the moment the RFDS took flight on its first mission on Flying Doctor Day, we want to share a story that captured the attention of the country, including Flying Doctor founder Reverend John Flynn.

Jimmy Darcy and John Flynn

The death of a little-known outback stockman more than 100 years ago proved the impetus for Reverend John Flynn's vision for an outback aeromedical service.

Kimberley stockman Jimmy Darcy suffered massive internal injuries on 29 July 1917 when his horse fell in a cattle stampede, crushing Jimmy underneath.An 80-kilometre ride in a cart over rough track took Jimmy to the closest settlement, Halls Creek.

Jimmy needed immediate medical attention, but the nearest doctor was more than 2,800 kilometres away in Perth. With only a penknife and some morphine to assist, the local postmaster had to perform emergency surgery by relying on instructions sent by morse code from Perth doctor Joe Holland.

Jimmy Darcy

Although the surgery was a success, Jimmy wasn’t out of the woods. Dr Holland made a mercy dash from Perth to reach Jimmy. 

He boarded a cattle ship that took an agonising week to reach Derby and then spent six days in a Model T Ford held together by leather straps, bumping his way across the desert to save the stockman's life.

Still 40 kilometres from Halls Creek, the car broke down. Dr Holland walked for two hours until he reached the next cattle station. 

He made the final leg on horseback, riding through the night and arriving in town at daybreak to hear the devastating news that Jimmy had died just hours earlier.

Jimmy’s tragic tale highlighted the need for a ‘mantle of safety’ for everyone living in the bush and inspired Reverend John Flynn to start Australia’s first aeromedical service. It took more than a decade for his dream to come to life with, the Flying Doctor setting off on its maiden flight in May 1928.

Darcy's Horse x RFDS

Jimmy Darcy’s horse recently became the inspiration for a sculpture by Western Australian artist Troy Morrison.

The unique artwork includes RFDS aircraft components such as anexhaust pipe and objects synonymous with RFDS history, including a Morse code transmitter.

The spectacular sculpture will be auctioned later this year with funds raised keeping the Flying Doctor in the air. If you would like to know more about the sculpture, please contact Rebecca Maddern (

"If you start something worthwhile, nothing can stop it." – Reverend John Flynn