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His landholdings were bigger than England

He was known as the cattle king of Queensland and his life was immortalised in the book of the same name, The Cattle King by Ion Idriess, which became a best seller.


In 1857 Sidney Kidman was born in Adelaide, the third son of George Kidman, a farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Mary (nee Nunn). Sadly his father died when he was only nine months old.


Sidney Kidman.


After an education at private schools in Norwood, a suburb of Adelaide, Sidney left home at 13 years old with only five shillings and a one-eyed horse that he had bought out of his own savings. He started as a roustabout with a landless bushman named George Raines, who let his stock roam, squatting on unfenced runs to find good feed.


Sidney would share a dug-out in the bank of a dry creek with an Aboriginal man known as Billy to the whites. He saw the older man as a friend and equal and learnt tracking and other bush skills from him. From roustabout Sidney became a bullock driver then progressed to drover, stockman and livestock trader.


He was able to make money supplying services, such as transport and goods, to new mining towns being established in New South Wales and South Australia. Places such as Broken Hill in NSW benefited from his business.


He married Isabel Brown Wright in 1885 and they went on to have four children. As his family grew he saved his money and opened a butcher's shop and store during the Cobar copper rush, making a good living.


In 1886 he bought his first station, Owen Springs and extended his holdings throughout NSW and Queensland. He would continue to grow his assets so much so that by 1908 Sidney Kidman would own 129,499km2 of property.

His property accumulation didn't stop there. He had effectively bought chains of stations stretching in nearly continuous lines from tropical country around the Gulf of Carpentaria, south through western Queensland to Broken Hill and across to South Australia within easy droving distance of Adelaide. He continued along the Overland Telegraph line from the Fitzroy River and Victoria River Downs in the north to Wilpena station in the Flinders Ranges. By the start of World War One he controlled station country greater in area than England or Tasmania.


Sidney Kidman's grace in Mitcham general cemetery. Courtesy Findagrave


Sidney was generous with his wealth, giving fighter aeroplanes and other gifts to the armed forces during the war. In the 1920s he gave 1000 pounds and a half share in one of his cattle-stations to the Salvation Army. He provided a district high school to the South Australian government by donating his country home Kapunda in 1921. He was knighted the next day.


He retired in 1927 and died on 2 September 1935. He was buried in Mitcham general cemetery. Sidney's estate of 300,000 pounds went to his family, although a good chunk went to charities.


References

  • 'Sidney Kidman', Wikipedia, accessed 2nd January, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidney_Kidman

  • Russel Ward, 'Kidman, Sir Sidney (1857–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kidman-sir-sidney-6948/text12065, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 10 January 2023.



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