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Thursday, March 19, 2015 Montagu Durnsford m Mary Annie Mann Their family, he died 1895

Montagu marries Mary Ann Mann

Following on from the story of Montagu's brother Edward, the boys seemed to work together in different locations in Queensland.

From the Queensland Gazettes while Edward was at Roughlea station with his holding, Montague was at Waterperry.  

Waterperry was part of the Annandale Station not in Nebo but in the SouthWest, owned by Sir Kidman.

Annandale Station most commonly known as Annandale is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in central west Queensland.
The property is located 49 kilometres (30 mi) west Birdsville and 350 kilometres (217 mi) south of Boulia in the Channel Country of Queensland.

The station was the first established in the area when Patrick Drinan took up the run in July 1876. Other properties were settled soon afterward including Kaliduwarry and Glengyle Stations. The station had been named after his families estate, Annandale, in Gladstone.

Bought by Sir Sidey Kidman

Drinan later sold the property to the Collins brothers the following year. The Collins brothers then sold Annandale to Edward Wienholt in 1881, Wienholt was a well-known pastoralist and held properties such as Katandra, Warenda and Saltern Creek. The property was purchased in 1896 by Sidney Kidman, the first property he purchased in Queensland,and who later invested heavily in other properties throughout the channel country.  

When they say Western Queensland, it cannot get much further west!

The ruins of Annandale Station.

We were lucky enough to fly over the Channel Country a couple of years ago when it was in flood, the flow of the water is amazing, first there is nothing and then it just follows and flows into Lake Eyre.  Doesn't happen very often.

Montague was there in 1883, 1185, 1886, in Ipswich in 1888, then Charters Towers, back to Waterperry in 1888, and 1890 in Rockhampton

I tend to think this record relates to the movement of the herds of cattle.

He married Mary Mann in Roma on 5th August 1884. They were married at St Paul's Church of England in Roma.  

Mary did not list her father's name and only knew her mother's name as the surname Mann.  

 Mary was 18 years of age.  Montagu was listed as living in Roma, he was a Leaseholder and aged 23 years.

He had his parents as Montagu Durnsford a carpenter and his mother Margaret McConnell.

The witness were J.J. Coates and Mary Lawney.  Mary had only been in Australia a short while arriving from Ireland.  She married in 1888.

They moved around quite a bit, and managed to have several children.

Pearl Madeline Durnsford   was born 1885 and she died in 1887 in Nebo.  
Charlotte Mary Durnsford   was born 1887  and died in 1900
Maud Miriam Durnsford     was born  1888 and died 1966
Montagu John Durnsford     was born 1890  and died 1915
Ada May Durnsford            was born 1892 and died 1964.

Pearl is buried at Nebo Cemetery     

1885 DURNSFORD, Pearl Madeline born: 18 January.

1887 DURNSFORD, Pearl Madeline died  23 April, aged 2yrs, buried at Fort Cooper South-Broadsound. Headstone.

Montagu was a good horse rider, he often had his horse in the Nebo races.  At that time they were living on St Albans Station and he was the station manager.

Unfortunately he was killed from a kick by a stallion on 19th January, 1895


The children were young, aged 8, 7, 5 and 3.  

Montague died without a will.  His estate was subject to Court proceedings, however it amounted to the sum of less than 900 pounds, and his wife Mary was made responsible for his affairs.  

From the Queensland State Archives: Item ID 742095, Ecclesiastical file of “No 8736 of 1895”

The matter was heard in the Supreme Court of Queensland, in the matter of: In the lands and goods of Montague Hadley Isaacson Durnford, late of Nebo in the Colony of Queensland, Station manager, deceased intestate.

Petition filed 5th September 1895      In the Supreme Court of Queensland   Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction:

In the lands and goods of Montague Hadley Isaacson Durnford, late of Nebo in the Colony of Queensland, Station Manager deceased intestate.
To The Honourable Sir Samuel Walker Griffith Knight Grand Cross of the most distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George The Chief Justice of Queensland, The Honourable George Rogers Harding Esquire, and the Honourable Patrick Real Esquire one of the Justices of Her Majesty’s Supreme Court of Queensland.

The Petition of the undersigned Mary Durnford of Nebo in the Colony of Queensland, widow

Humbly Herewith
  1. That Montague Hadley Isaacson Durnford late of Nebo in the Colony of Queensland, Station Manager deceased died at Saint Albans, near Nebo, aforesaid on or about the nineteenth day of  January A.D. 1895 intestate, leaving real and personal estate and effects in Queensland.  (note “real and” has been crossed out).
  2. That the said Montague Hadley Isaacson Durnford died a married man leaving your Petitioner and four children, namely Charlotte Mary Durnford, Maud Marian Durnford, Montague John Durnford and Ada May Durnford being  under the age of twenty one years, the only next of kin of the surviving.
  3. That your Petitioner is the lawful widow of the said deceased and is entitled by law as she believes to a grant of Letters of Administration of all and singular the lands, goods, chattels credits and effects which belonged to the said deceased at the time of his death.
  4. That your Petitioner will faithfully administer the real and personal estate and effects of the said deceased by paying his just debts and distributing the residue of his estate according to law.
  5. That your Petitioner will exhibit an inventory and render an account of her administration whenever required by law so to do.
  6. That the whole of the personal estate and effects of the said deceased does not amount in value to the sum of Three Hundred and Twelve Pounds to the best of your Petitioners knowledge information and belief
  7. That the said deceased was possessed of no real estate whatsoever to the best of your Petitioners knowledge information and belief.
  8. .That due notice of this application has been given in the Queensland Government Gazette, The Brisbane Courier and The Telegraph being papers published in Brisbane in the said Colony and in the Mackay Mercury a paper published at Mackay in the said Colony and circulating in and about the place where the said deceased died and no caveat has been entered against such Letters of Administration of the lands, goods, chattels credits and effects of the above named deceased being granted to your Petitioner and no order to administer has been granted to the Curator of Intestate Estates.

Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays your Honours that Letters of Administration of all and singular the real and personal estate and effects of the above named deceased may be granted to your Petitioner as aforesaid, And your Petitioner will ever pray.        Dated at Brisbane this thirtieth day of June A.D. 1895.

The file then consists  of various letters signed by Mary Durnford, Allan Williams and Francis Brown.

Allan Williams, Grazier of Nebo, and Francis Brown a storekeeper the proposed sureties on behalf of Mary Durnford, the proposed administrative of all and singular the real and personal estate and effects of Montague Hadley Isaacson Durnford late of Nebo aforesaid Station Manager deceased intestate in the final sum of Six Hundred and twenty four pounds for her faith, full administration of the said real and personal estate and effects of the said deceased and I, the said Allan Williams for myself make oath and say that I am after payment of all my just debts well and truly worth in money and effect the sum of Three hundred and twelves pounds and I the said Francis Brown for myself make oath and say that I am after payment of all my just debts well and truly worth in money and effects the sum of Three hundred and twelve pounds.

How times have changed, when Montague died in January 1895,  Allan Williams had only been owner of the property for less than 12 months.  He made a claim on the estate for an enormous sum of money.

These days the death would have been investigated and been as a workplace accident by Workplace Health and Safety , and his widow would have been entitled to a substantial lump sum payment!!!

1895 DURNSFORD, Montague Hadley died aged 33yrs, buried  19 January in Nebo Cemetery.
No headstone  

The cemetery itself is quite apart from the town, on a tree-dappled ridge with well maintained grass, still laid out in the 'family plot' format of yesteryear.

Fort Cooper is located just off the Suttor Developmental Road in east Queensland a distance of about 800km northwest from Brisbane. Fort Cooper is at an elevation of approximately 234m above sea level.  Fort Cooper is on the Noah Creek.


By now followers will realise that Mary Mann is Irish/Chinese.

Before then following the life her parents, and her siblings, perhaps it is time to reflect just how hard a life our great grandparents had in the Bush Towns of Australia in the later 1800s.

Our family ancestry is very diverse, as can be seen by the stories of the past 24 generations.

The Australian family though were never aware of how life was in England, in Australia it was always a struggle.  From droughts to flooding rains, as the words of the poem by Dorethea McKellar.

My Country
The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar

Montagu and Edward were drovers, leaseholders, bullock driver, mail men, and accomplished in, no doubt every aspect of country life as it was in those days. From what little can be found, it seems that they worked well together.  

Unfortunately both died in accidents involving those animals that provided them with their work and their enjoyment.

Both left young families.  Both wives remarried, not always for the best as we follow the life of Mary.

Hopefully Sarah Durnsford (Hewitt) had a happier union with her second husband Otto Godiksen.  He was from Denmark and was working in 1908 as a scalper on Wemblebank station then as a labourer in Nebo in 1913, where he must have met Sarah.

She had been left with 6 young children when Edward was killed. She married Otto in 1913

As dingos and other animals were pests, there was a bounty paid for their scalps by the Government.

While researching the stories of Mary's nieces and nephews, it became very apparent that they also experienced severe hardships in finding employment, and raising their children.  Nearly all were employed in one of the pastoral trades.



After the Canoona rush in 1858 and 1859, the tide of pastoral run hunting set in; the route northwards followed by stock going out to occupy new country led by Princhester and through Marlborough. Here the route turned off westwards towards the Peak Downs, and extended still further to the interior where the Barcoo, Thomson, and Alice Rivers flowed into a mysterious land. The northern road led on to Broad Sound, where Connor’s Range had to be passed; this spur of the main coast range comes close in to the coast. Overlanders could not avoid crossing it, and this was an undertaking. It was reckoned to be two miles from the first rise to the summit, and to get drays and stock across sometimes took several days, as they had to unload some of their goods at the steep pinches and return empty for the balance of the loading.

 The road was in a state of nature, and wound round gullies and sidings through the forest trees that grew on the steep sides of the mountain; many a curse was wasted on its stony, dusty inclines ere the long looked for summit was reached. After crossing the range, the first settlement in those early days, about 1860, was Lotus Creek station. From Lotus Creek the road led on to Fort Cooper station, considered one of the best coast stations then discovered. As early as 1863, Nebo Creek, west of Mackay, was made a recruiting centre, where stores could be obtained from a firm named Kemmis and Bovey. Passing along Funnel Creek, still going northwards, the head of the Bowen River was reached.

The Bowen River country was soon occupied with runs and stock from the south, passing along the coast route that led by Rockhampton, Marlborough, and Nebo. The roads were lined with flocks and herds of those entering on the pioneering work of the North of Queensland, and business men were following in the wake of the early stock settlers to commence a trade wherever an opportunity offered.

The settlement was bona fide and genuine; men with means, energy and experience were entering on it with great enthusiasm and high hopes of the future of the new country. The wave of occupation passed on to the Burdekin River, causing a great demand for sheep and cattle for the purpose of stocking new country in the north and west. The requirements of this great augmentation of the stock northwards led to the opening of Bowen or Port Denison as a port of shipment for supplies.

The discovery and opening of Port Denison will be treated of elsewhere; its opening to commerce was a boon to those who were occupying the country immediately at the rear of the port. Many overlanders took advantage of the port by shearing or lambing their sheep wherever a chance offered, and after obtaining supplies for the road, were prepared to extend their search for new country still further away. The Bowen River country is very interesting and its scenery most picturesque; it has first-class grazing qualities, small open plains, with patches of brigalow scrub scattered over black-soil country. Sandstone ranges bound the creeks on the coast side, whence they come down to the main stream.

 The river is a fine stream, with long and deep reaches, in which are found alligators of large size that have come up from the Burdekin River. Among the early settlers to take up country was Mr. J. G. Macdonald, afterwards an early pioneer in the Gulf country, though not a resident there. He took up, in conjunction with others, a large area of country in the Bowen district, afterwards known as Dalrymple, Inkermann, Strathbogie, and Ravenswood.

 His residence at Adelaide Point was at one period the show place of the North, where Mrs. Macdonald (after whom Adelaide Point was named) dispensed hospitality with a kindly grace which won all hearts. Of all this, nothing now remains but a memory. The house is gone; Mr. Macdonald is dead, and the family dispersed. Carpentaria Downs was also taken up by J. G. Macdonald, on the head of the Einasleigh River, for a long time the outside settlement.


Bush cooks are of every shade of colour, complexion, and social standing, from the foreign count who has been expatriated for political leanings, to the squalid shuffling Chinese, or the wily, treacherous Cingalee. Hut keeper was the term employed in the olden days when two shepherds had each a flock of sheep folded for the night inside a yard made of movable hurdles, and a hut keeper was joined to them to do a bit of cooking, as well as to shift one set of hurdles each day. He was supposed also to watch at night against native dogs, strychnine not being so much in use then to reduce the numbers of these pests. They were men of dirty, lazy habits; their cooking was fearful, consisting simply of boiling a bit of beef or mutton, making a damper, and rinsing out a tin pannikin. 

Greasy-looking, growling, and drunken they were, with scarcely energy enough to fetch a little wood or water; to wash their clothes was an unheard-of thing. Those who cook for drovers on the road have to be more alert; a good man on the road is a great consideration, and it is no sinecure to cater for a party while travelling with stock. The cook is exempt from watching, as he has to be up during the night to get breakfast ready by daylight for the men to start on with their cattle. Some good cooks will provide hot suppers for the men in all weathers. 

The shearers’ cook is quite another variety. He is often a boss man employs one or two others under him, and gets top wages, but he has to be up to the mark, for our shearer is a fine specimen of an inflated growler, and will have nothing but of the best, and up to time, tea and cake between meals, duff and all the luxuries for dinner; in any case he comes in for a full share of the shearer’s arrogance and abuse. 

Station cooks comprise all sorts, good, bad, and indifferent, clean and unclean; but one who can make real good bread is a rarity, and all are self-taught. They frequently get good wages, but soon become lazy and dirty, and often a Chinaman has to be put on to do the kitchen cooking. About the towns it is notorious that European cooks cannot be relied on for any time on account of their drinking habits, and once again the Chinaman has to be resorted to.


This class of labourer has been very much in evidence of late years in Queensland on account of the numerous strikes that have taken place, brought about by them or their leaders, although it is the best paid of all unskilled work in the colony.

The Shearers’ Union attempted to rule all labour and labour interests throughout the whole colony, and succeeded for a long time in keeping things in a very disorganised state. There is nothing in shearing that any man could not master in a few days, although the work may be laborious when long continued.

The money earned is out of all proportion to what other classes of labour receive, nevertheless the shearer is the most discontented and turbulent of all classes, and very decidedly aggressive.

He can earn in a few months enough to keep him for the rest of the year without work, he is gregarious in his habits, and travels about in mounted groups, generally armed. He may be said to be a flash man, given to gambling, dicing, and other sports, and a good deal of his money is spent at roadside shanties.

When at work, however, he is sober and industrious, as most of them are desirous of making a good tally at the end of the shearing, and the rules of the shed forbid any latitude for loafing or mischief. Shearing by machine instead of by hand will tend to modify the aspects of the work, and allow more men to learn the art. Shearers travel from shed to shed during the season, and sometimes earn from four to six pounds a week.

They live on the best that can be got. Instances are common of men shearing over two hundred sheep per day for days running. Amongst the shearers will be found many respectable men, who have homes or selections of their own on which their families reside, and who travel round a few large sheds to earn enough money to carry on with and support their homes.


The man of strong body, and of stronger language, the old “bull-puncher,” is going out. He was an institution of early days when the pole-dray was in vogue, a fearful kind of vehicle that tipped up going out of a steep creek with a load on, and going down would bear on the polers fit to break their necks. The four-wheeled waggon has for a long time superseded the old bullock-killing dray, but the driver remains much the same. Instead of driving ten bullocks in a pole-dray, he yokes up eighteen or twenty to a waggon and draws instead of three and a half tons, about seven or eight tons.

His whip is a terrible long plaited thong with a strip of green hide attached, and a handle like a flail, with it he wakes the echoes and his oxen at the same time. The crack of the whip is accompanied by a voice as deep and hoarse as the bellow of one of his own long-suffering yoked-up slaves, and his lurid language makes even his bullocks shudder. To see the “bullocky” at his best is only given to those who travel with him for a whole trip, and observe his style of getting out of difficulties that would dishearten many another man.

 He is full of resource, and not lacking in energy, and when his team is bogged in a creek in a seemingly hopeless mess, and beyond all appearance of ever being extricated, after exhausting his ample stock of dire profanity, he proceeds in a methodical manner to dig under his wheels and corduroy the track with branches and limbs of trees, weeds out his jibbing bullocks, and with renewed energy and awful voice, he calls on his patient and weary team for a big effort, and out they walk with their load on to the bank.

The “bullocky” was a great factor in the early days of settlement, where there were no roads and loading had to be dragged over mountains and through steep creeks and over all obstacles. His bodily strength, great experience, and energy, came in to help in no small degree to keep settlement alive. The arrival of the bullock teams was quite an event, perhaps after being months on the road, and when all supplies had run short—not that the fact of supplies being short on the station would induce them to hasten their progress, for no bullock driver was ever known to hurry or go out of his slow, crawling pace for any inducement whatever.


The “bullocky” could drink rum in buckets, and was always given to use his fists. Take him all round, he was about as rough a specimen of a bush artist as could be found; but he was hospitable in his camp; it was always “Come and have a pot of tea, mate,” to any traveller. The quicker-moving horse teams and the railways, are elbowing the bullock driver out into the never-never, where there are still opportunities for his special faculties, and it is not often that bullock teams, with their wood and iron yokes, and dusty, hairy drivers, are seen on any roads coming into railway stations.

 To ask a bullock driver where he got his beef from was not always a safe or prudent question; it was looked upon as a piece of wanton impertinence that would require suppression. After putting down so much on the debit side, something should be said to the credit of the carrier. He must have been hard-working and thrifty to have acquired the necessary capital to purchase his waggon and team. Physically, he must be exceptionally strong to stand the life he leads.

Mentally, he must be full of resource to overcome the obstacles he meets with on unformed and often uncleared roads. Morally, he must be passing honest, for he often carries loads of great value, for the safety of which he alone is responsible for weeks and often months. These men take up the work of distributing goods where the railways end. Their duties are arduous and responsible, and they deserve more consideration than they generally receive.


He knew of every drover’s way, From Normanton to Bourke; From far Port Darwin’s ample bay, Right through to Muswellbrook. The desert plains he knew full well, Where duststorms blind the eye; And oft he had come from Camooweal, Drivin’ stock to Narrabri.

Clancy of the Overflow Banjo Patterson
What story about a drover in Australia would be complete
without one of the world's best known drovers, along
with another well known Kidman, unrelated..

The life of a drover, under the most favourable circumstances, is the reverse of a pleasant one, but like all nomadic occupations, it has a fascination for many bushmen. The drover would appear to be regarded as the common enemy of every owner or superintendent through whose run he passes, although in many cases it is a fact that roads are fenced off so that a drover cannot leave them without breaking down the fences. In many instances the only permanent water on the stock routes has been fenced in by the owner of the run. The principal wealth of Australia is stock, and these, both sheep and cattle, to be marketed need bringing down to some seaport or market, either as stores or fats. Sometimes long distances are travelled, from one end of Australia to the other, the journey occupying months.

At starting, the stock are counted and handed over to the charge of a competent drover, who delivers them at the end of the journey, and is paid either by contract at so much per head, with an allowance for losses, or else by weekly wages, the owner finding the whole plant and money. Overlanding is a constant source of anxiety from start to finish of the journey. The varying items, such as floods, droughts, disease, incompetent hands, lost stock, and the surveillance from the owners of runs through which they pass, make up the daily routine of a drover’s life.

Stormy nights, when cattle become very restless, keep the drover awake and anxious. His duties are of a responsible nature, and he requires a good deal of tact and patience to manage his men properly, for he may have over a dozen employed with him on a droving job. With sheep the anxiety is not so great as with cattle or horses, as sheep are much easier to manage.

The law provides that unless detained by flood, stock shall be driven not less than six miles every twenty-four hours. In most instances this distance is exceeded, but should the drover fail to travel the prescribed distance, through any accident, the owner or manager of the run turns up at the camp and gives the drover the option of either moving his stock on the proper distance, if it is only one mile ahead, or of appearing at the nearest police court, perhaps a hundred miles away, to answer an information for a breach of the Pastoral Leases Act or the Crown Lands Act.

Although, perhaps only a nominal fine may be imposed, the vexatious delay, loss, and inconvenience of attending at the court, induce the drover to avoid any needless infringements of the Act. Some managers of runs are ever ready to pounce on any unfortunate drover who may deviate a few yards from the regulated half mile on each side of the road, and then it will be so arranged that the drover will not get a summons until he is a hundred miles away from where the offence was committed, when he has to leave his stock in the hands of the men, while he returns to answer the trivial charge; he is always fined, as he cannot well defend his case, and he is anxious to return to his duties.

As a rule, the drovers in Queensland are a trustworthy and respectable class of men—of course there are exceptions, but these are soon found out. Cases have come to light where cattle sold on the road have been returned as knocked up lame, or dead from pleuro, and grog has been entered in the accounts as stores supplied.

The owner is a good deal at the mercy of the drover after the latter has taken charge of the stock, as he has then very little control over them until they reach their destination. Some drovers have a plant of their own, twenty or thirty good horses, a dray or waggonette, and saddles, and make contracts to shift cattle or sheep at so much per head, paying their own men, and finding everything.

The wages of drovers are always high, but not too high when the care and constant work are taken into consideration. Sundays and week days alike, rain or fine, grass or no grass, whatever turns up, it all means that the drover, or man in charge has to be on hand and see to things himself. The life is monotonous, wearying and fatiguing in the extreme.

Man and boss alike have to rise before dawn, roll up blankets or swag, get breakfast, catch horses, and move the cattle off the night camp as soon as it is light, then ride all day with them, keep them moving slowly along feeding on any grass to be found, watering them when a chance offers, carrying a bit of lunch on the saddle, and a quart pot to boil some tea in.


After the day’s journey is over, the cattle have to be rounded up on the camp at sundown and then each takes his turn at watching during the night, which means three hours solitary riding round in the darkness, turning in any cattle inclined to stray out from the camp, and keeping up one’s spirits by calculating how long the trip will last.

When the weather is fine, the life is bearable, if monotonous, but when it rains, especially in cold rain and wind, the pleasures of droving are limited; with wet ground to lie on, wet clothes to ride in, and scarcely fire enough to cook at, with stock restless and troublesome at night, the drover will sometimes think longingly of the home and the comforts he once despised.

Still, droving is a popular calling, and men have followed it constantly for years, procuring a long droving job during the season, and spelling their horses when work is scarce.

More provision should be made for regular stock routes throughout the country, and the area of these should not be included in the runs on which lessees have to pay rent, as the case is now. The drover’s calling is a necessary one, and he should have more protection and greater facilities for getting his stock to market, and not a continual fight for the rights of the road as he has now.

“In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy, Gone a-droving down the Cooper, where the western drovers go; As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing, For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.”


The story of Sir Sidney Kidman and his rise from stockman to owning so much of Australia is of interest.  It is not until you take an outback tour, that you can appreciate the size of this country, the conditions they worked under, nor the obtacles they hd to contend with.  

Sidney Kidman

    From a humble background as a stockman, Sidney Kidman (1857-1935) went on to own, control, or have a financial interest in more pastoral land than anyone else in modern history. He was known in Australia and throughout the world as "The Cattle King."

When Australia had few railways and fewer telegraphs and when there was no such thing as wireless, motor transport, or airplanes, Sidney Kidman started to build and steadily added to two big chains of stations that stretched almost the length and breadth of Australia. With the aid of his phenomenal memory and his intensive knowledge of the geography of the bush, plus a small army of dedicated men, Kidman controlled the movement of great herds of cattle hundreds of miles apart and sent stock from his semi-arid lands in an evenly flowing stream to markets. Kidman used more than 150 stations covering more than 160,000 square miles of country (an area larger than the state of California).

Kidman was born on May 9, 1857, in Adelaide, South Australia, the fifth son of George and Elizabeth Mary Kidman. His father died when he was 14 months old. In 1870, when Sidney was 13, he ran away from home to join his older brothers George, Frederick, Thomas, and Sackville, who were working as stockmen and drovers in the Barrier region of New South Wales (now Broken Hill).

He was given a job with Harry Raines, a nomadic herdsman who squatted with cattle where he found good feed. Raines was forced to move on when Abe Wallace arrived to take up the land legally, and Kidman found a job at Mount Gipps station in the area as a stockhand at 10 shillings a week. When he asked for a raise in pay in 1873 he was fired. He later claimed it was the best thing that ever happened to him in his life because it forced him to become an independent operator. Kidman never worked for another boss again.

Taking on Many Businesses

In 1875 he set up as a butcher in the canvas town of Cobar, New South Wales, where copper had been found and made money selling meat to miners from his boughshed butcher's shop. Seeing the money that could be made from transport, he acquired drays to cart provisions (flour, tea, sugar, jam, and soap) to the miners. The drays were also used to cart copper ore to the river ports of Wilcannia and Bourke. When gold was found in the Mount Browne area of New South Wales in 1881, Kidman was again in early providing rations and transport for the miners. He set up the first ration store in Tibooburra.

In 1878 he inherited 400 pounds from his grandfather. He used it to increase his dealing and trading, especially with horses. For a while he had a partnership with Bill Emmett (also known as Hammett) in Wilcannia and made frequent trips to Adelaide buying and selling horses and droving cattle.

He seized every opportunity and tried to make it a profitable one. In 1884 he secured a one-fourteenth share in the Broken Hill Mining Company for 60 pounds, selling it soon after at a profit of 40 pounds. Had he held onto it, his profit would have extended to many millions of pounds.

In 1885 he married a schoolteacher, Isabel Brown Wright, at Kapunda, South Australia. They had six children—Gertie, Elma, Edna (Edith and Norman, who died in infancy), and Walter.

Kidman joined his brother Sackville in a butchering business partnership at Broken Hill to accommodate the miners; the business extended into coaching in the late 1880s when the Kidman brothers' coaching business became second only to that of Cobb and Co. The coaches ran throughout New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia, and also in Western Australia in the 1890s when another gold rush broke out.
Buying Land in the Bush

The 1890s was a time of major business recession, and many pastoral land holders were forced to give up their land. The Kidman brothers were in a sound financial position to buy up suitable large tracts of land on which they had had their eyes for some time. Their lust for land was not without purpose.

They sought no land near the coast or in the more reliable rainfall areas but the semi-arid lands of remote country. Sidney Kidman had realized that land where little or no rain fell could still be worked profitably where it incorporated rivers that rolled down from the north. After monsoon rains, the rivers burst their banks in south-western Queensland, providing untold miles of flood plain country which quickly responded with good fattening pasture for stock.

 He sought to buy such country and link it together in a vast chain of stations from the Gulf of Carpentaria south through western Queensland to Broken Hill and then into South Australia towards Adelaide. The chain would be watered by Cooper Creek and the Georgina and Diamantina rivers, which even when not in flood contained many good, permanent water holes.

 He also concentrated on a second chain of stations that ran from the Fitzroy River and Victoria River Downs in the Northern Territory to the Macdonnell Ranges, to the Oodnadatta area of South Australia, and down to the Flinders Ranges. The major chain was the north-south chain and the auxiliary chain, the central-South Australian chain. The aim of the strategy was to make the chains drought-proof or drought-resistant and to keep stock on the move where good feed prevailed and to stage them continually towards a market.

In 1895 the Kidmans bought their first station, Cowarie, in South Australia, and the following year, Owen Springs in the Northern Territory. Owen Springs was bought mainly for the 4,000 horses on the 600 square mile run that could be used for the coaching business. By 1899 the brothers had a further 14 stations amounting to some 11,000 square miles when Sackville died, and Sidney continued to buy up more solidly than ever. Victoria River Downs, some 12,500 square miles, was added, and when the turn of the century drought struck with great severity Kidman sustained stock losses of between 500,000 pounds and 700,000 pounds because his chains were still in fledgling formation.

In 1900 Kidman started his horse sales at Kapunda, South Australia, where as many as 2,000 horses from his stations were sold annually until 1935. The annual sales often went on for a fortnight and were said to be the biggest held in the world. By 1908, when Kidman made his first visit to England, he had 50,000 square miles of country and was acknowledged as the largest land holder in the British Empire; the United States could produce no one to trump him and called him the biggest pastoral landholder in the world.

In World War I his name became a by-word for generosity as he gave fighter planes, ambulances, shipments of beef and wool, and horses to be used in the Middle East to the war effort. He gave at a time when he was financially stressed by another drought and his stock losses amounted to more than 1 million pounds from his now much-strengthened chains, which stood at more than 100,000 square miles. He was knighted in 1921 for his war-time efforts.

The Man and His Legacy

He continued to buy up land in the 1920s, holding about 130,000 square miles of country in four states and the Northern Territory at the time of his retirement in 1927 when other members of his family assumed control of the day-to-day running of the business. He was again hit badly by the 1926-1930 drought, when his losses tallied 1.5 million pounds.

In 1932 when he turned 75 he was given a "public" birthday party by his station managers and stockmen in the form of a rodeo put on in Adelaide. Some 50,000 people broke down walls and fences to gain entry, and the party made headlines around Australia and overseas. When he died on September 1, 1935, at the age of 78, his death drew wide coverage throughout the world; he was the best known Australian internationally at the time.

He surprised people by leaving so little money—only 300,000 pounds, mainly to his family, but with generous bequests to charities. In order to avoid both state and federal income tax and state and federal death duties, his empire had been restructured in the 1920s to escape the clutches of the tax man.

He was a controversial figure in his day. Many people resented the fact that he had climbed to success on the financial misfortunes of others and condemned him for holding so much land. He was also accused of either "abusing" his land or of not improving it with fences and additional water, and he faced several commissions of inquiry to give evidence into matters relating to beef and land monopolies and pastoral mismanagement. He always emerged unscathed, in part because of his constant claim that he would sell off or hand back any of his land to anyone or any government who would either take it on or do a better job.

Much of the condemnation that came his way resulted from pure jealousy. The men who worked for him—and there were hundreds of them—regarded him with a mysterious and even savage loyalty. His managers, stockmen, and drovers were men of superior calibre—they were the experts of the day, and one of the reasons for his great pastoral success was his ability to select and retain men who were top notch in their field.

One of his earliest friends as a 14-year-old boy was an aboriginal, Billy, during the time he spent with the nomad herdsman Harry Raines. They worked together, and Billy was instrumental in teaching Kidman the bush knowledge that gave him an edge on many others of his time. Kidman admired the aboriginals who lived and worked on his stations and always saw that they were well-treated.

He did not live on any of his outback holdings, but at first at Kapunda and then at Unley Park, Adelaide. However, he made frequent inspections of his places—first on horseback, then by buggy with his wife at his side, and later by motor car—to see how his chain strategy was working. He considered visits a "must" during drought times. His men—and the aboriginals—were always pleased to see him. The aboriginals called him "Big fella Kidman, King of all Adelaide." They often insisted they would make rain for him if he gave them "wheelbarrows" (buggies), trousers, shirts, blankets, tobacco, jam, and other goods for their special efforts. Kidman was always happy to oblige.

A bitter family split and the refusal by Kidman to allow the New South Wales Western Lands' Commission to take back portions of his holdings in western New South Wales for soldier settlement led to the disintegration of his vast empire soon after his death. The Western Lands' Commission did resume many holdings as the leases expired and cut them into smaller places. It did not prove to be a wise move, since many smaller places overstocked to make money and were reduced to dustbowls.

Kidman's interests after his death were managed by his son, Walter, until his death in 1970 and then by Kidman's grandson, John Ayers, Sr., until his death in 1981. They were later managed by his great-grandson, John Ayers, Jr., and even today they are not inconsiderable—amounting to more than 45,000 square miles, about one-third of what Kidman once owned.

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