Sidney Kidman

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Sidney Kidman
Portrait of Sir Sidney Kidman in 1927
Sidney Herbert Kidman

9 May 1857
'Glen Stuart', Fifth Creek near Adelaide, South Australia
Died2 September 1935 (1935-09-03) (aged 78)
Millswood, South Australia, Australia
Resting placeMitcham Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
SpouseIsabel Brown Wright (1862–1948)
ChildrenAnnie Gertrude Kidman (1886–1973)
Elma Thomson Kidman (1887–1970)
Edna Gwendoline Kidman (1890–1975)
Edith Kidman (1893–1895)
Norman Sidney Palethorpe Kidman (1897–1898)
Walter Sidney Palethorpe Kidman (1900–1970)
Parent(s)George Kidman
Elizabeth Mary (Nunn) Kidman
Sidney Kidman (right) and J. R. Chisholm in 1905

Sir Sidney Kidman (9 May 1857 – 2 September 1935), known as Sid Kidman and popularly named "the Cattle King", was an Australian pastoralist and entrepreneur who owned or co-owned large areas of land in Australia in his lifetime.

Early life[edit]

Sidney Kidman was born on 9 May 1857 in Adelaide, in the colony of South Australia, the third son of George Kidman (died December 1857), farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Mary, née Nunn.[1] Kidman was educated at private schools in Norwood and left his home near Adelaide at age 13 with only five shillings and a one-eyed horse aptly named Cyclops that he had bought with his savings. He joined a drover and learned quickly. He then worked as a roustabout and bullock-driver at Poolamacca cattle station,[2] and Mount Gipps Station.[3] and later as a drover, stockman and livestock trader. He made money trading whatever was needed, and supplying services (transport, goods, a butcher shop) to new mining towns springing up in outback New South Wales and South Australia, (including Cobar, Kapunda, Burra and eventually Broken Hill). After he and his brothers worked on the same station, they bought their own.

On 30 June 1885, Kidman married Isabel Brown Wright. They had four children.[1]


Kidman saved money and bought a bullock team, opened a butcher's shop and store at the Cobar copper rush, and made good profits. When he was 21 he inherited £400 from his grandfather's estate and used the money to buy and sell horses and cattle. Kidman was in his middle twenties when he acquired a one-fourteenth share in the BHP mine for 10 bullocks worth about £4 each. He sold his share for £150 less £50 commission and was satisfied with the profit. He had mail contracts on a fairly large scale and in 1886 bought Owen Springs Station. Gradually he extended his holdings until they reached out into Queensland and New South Wales.[citation needed]

In 1895 Kidman, in partnership with his brother Sackville, acquired Cowarie Station.[4]

In 1896, Kidman bought his first property in Queensland, Annandale Station, situated in the Channel Country and described as ideal fattening country for cattle.[5]

In 1899 he acquired Eringa Station in South Australia, Austral Downs (NT), and Carcoory Station.[6]

By 1903, Kidman owned or was a part owner of some 38,000 square miles (98,420 km2) of country ranging from the Carlton Hill Station in Western Australia to Victoria River Downs Station in the Northern Territory and Macumba Station in South Australia, and properties in the channel county of Queensland, including Annandale and Bulloo Downs.[7]

Kidman acquired Diamantina Lakes Station in 1908, paying A£25,000 for the station and all its stock.[8] Later in 1908, he bought the 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) Mount Poole Station in outback New South Wales.[9] The estimated size of Kidman's holdings in 1908 was 50,000 square miles (129,499 km2).[10]

Another large Channel Country property, Durham Downs Station, was bought in 1909.[11] Kidman bought the property along with Tilbaroo, Morney Plains and Durrie Stations in Queensland, Burrawinna on the border and Macumba Station in South Australia as part of his plan of acquiring prime grazing lands along areas that watercourses followed. He borrowed A£50,000 to pay the A£100,000 asking price.[12] Kidman and the company Bovril Australian Estates purchased Carlton Hill Station in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 1909 along with another two stations, one being Northcote and Victoria River Downs in the Northern Territory, for £200,000.[13] Boorara Station was acquired in 1913.[14] Kidman acquired Yancannia Station in far western New South Wales in 1916,[15][16] followed by Corona Station, also in the far west of New South Wales, in 1917.[17]

In 1916, Kidman invested in Glenroy Station with the owners at the time, Reginald Spong and Jabez Orchard, forming the Glenroy Pastoral Company.[18] He acquired the Urisino station in 1913[15][19] along with Elsinora and Thurloo Downs in outback New South Wales from Goldsbrough Mort & Co.[20] In 1924, Kidman acquired Merty Merty Station in outback South Australia.[21]

By the time World War I broke out, Kidman was a millionaire. He was knighted in the 1921 Birthday Honours for his support of the war effort.[citation needed]

Kidman's entrepreneurial initiatives extended to many other rural industries. Probably his only unsuccessful business venture was the Kidman & Mayoh shipyard, which he established with engineer brothers Arthur and Joseph Mayoh in the Sydney suburb of Putney when the Commonwealth Government called for 24 wooden ships to be built by various companies for the war effort. The company employed hundreds of men to fell and square heavy timber on the north coast of New South Wales. With labour in short supply, "bush carpenters" went from the north coast to work in the shipyard, assisting the skilled shipwrights. However, on cessation of hostilities the government reduced Kidman & Mayoh's contract from six to two. Early in 1920 the Australian trading company, Burns Philp, made an offer to the government to buy the two ships. However, the first ship – reported as "the largest wooden ship ever built in Australia" – was damaged on launching and failed to receive its necessary first-class certification. A saga of litigation followed, and the vessels, one stripped of usable timber, were burned in 1923. Kidman lost many thousands of pounds, but was reported to have said that his biggest regret was that the work of the superb axemen of the north coast forests, with their enthusiasm, craftsmanship and loyalty, all went for nothing.[22]

By then known as "the Cattle King",[22] Kidman retired in 1927.[1]

At the time of his death in 1935, Kidman owned, or had a large interest in, land variously stated to have covered from 85,000 square miles (220,000 km2) to 107,000 square miles (280,000 km2), the latter figure equating to 3.7 per cent of the area of Australia's mainland. On 68 separate stations were stocked about 176,000 head of cattle and 215,000 head of sheep.[23] They comprised a vast network from both the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Fitzroy River in Western Australia down into South Australia near the Flinders Ranges and also across New South Wales. He was well served by his vision of drought-proofing his empire through growing and fattening cattle on the remote stations in the north and bringing them down the lines of stations along the great inland river systems to markets in the south, providing good feed and water on the way to sell them in top condition.[1]


Kidman was most at home around the campfire but comfortable with civic leaders. He animated extraordinary loyalty from his employees; working for Kidman was a "sort of badge of pride".[24]


Following a brief illness, Sidney Kidman died at his home at 76 Northgate Street, Millswood (now Unley Park), aged 78, on 2 September 1935. His body was interred at the Mitcham Cemetery in the presence of hundreds of mourners;[25] his cortege extended for more than 1.5 miles (2.4 km).[26] He left most of his £300,000 estate to his family and to charities.[1]


Kidman donated his home in Kapunda, which he acquired around 1900 and called Eringa after Eringa Station, to the Education Department in 1921. It was used as the administration building for the Kapunda High School, later heritage-listed, and extensively renovated in 2011–12.[27] The building was gutted by fire on the night of 29 March 2022, with extensive damage to the roof.[28]

The Adelaide suburb of Kidman Park was named in his honour. The Kidman Way, a rural road in the western region of New South Wales, part of which was historically used by Kidman and his business enterprise as stock routes, carries his name.[29]

S. Kidman & Co is still the largest private landholder in Australia, although on a much smaller scale. The entire landholding was placed up for sale in 2015: eleven cattle stations covering more than 100,000 square kilometres (38,610 sq mi) and a herd of 155,000 cattle.[30] The total value of the company was estimated at A$360 million. Two Chinese companies, Genius Link Asset Management and Shanghai Pengxin, sought to acquire the company, but the sale was eventually blocked by the Treasurer of Australia, Scott Morrison who cited the national interest clause in the Foreign Investment Act.[31] In 2016, the company was purchased by Hancock Prospecting (67%) and Shanghai CRED (33%).[32][33]

In 1992, Kidman's Tree of Knowledge, at Glengyle Station, Bedourie, Queensland, was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Kidman is believed to have camped under the tree while planning his pastoral empire in Queensland.[34]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1936, a biography of Kidman titled The Cattle King, by Ion Idriess, was published; it became a best-seller.[35]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ward, Russel (1983). "Sir Sidney Kidman (1857–1935)". Kidman, Sir Sidney (1857–1935). Australian National University. Retrieved 25 October 2021. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  2. ^ "Unincorporated Area of NSW Heritage Study" (PDF). River Junction Research. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 12 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Mount Gipps Station, Cradle of Broken Hill". The Land. Sydney. 15 September 1933. p. 3. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "SA Memory – Kidman, Sidney 1857–1935". Government of South Australia. 10 April 2007. Archived from the original on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  5. ^ Evan McHugh (2011). Birdsville: My Year in the Back of Beyond. ISBN 9781459621374.
  6. ^ "Kidman, Sir Sidney South Australian History". Flinders Ranges Research. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  7. ^ "A Cattle King". Wagga Wagga Advertiser. Wagga Wagga. 19 September 1903. p. 6. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 29 October 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Station purchased". Warwick Examiner & Times. Queensland. 7 December 1908. p. 5. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Australia's cattle king". Western Herald. Bourke, New South Wales. 9 September 1908. p. 4. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 16 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Twenty five years ago". The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Queensland. 1 May 1933. p. 4. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Items". Sydney Morning Herald. 26 May 1909. p. 7. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Kidman descendents celebrate station centenaries". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 20 September 2011. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Australian Cattle stations". South Australian Register. Adelaide. 31 March 1909. p. 5. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 5 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Boorara Station – History of Boorara". 2008. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Unincorporated Area of New South Wales study – Pastoralism" (PDF). 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 May 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
  16. ^ "Hero or despoiler? Kidman reappraised". The Canberra Times. 5 March 1988. p. 10. Retrieved 11 June 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "Fowlers Gap arid zone research station". University of New South Wales. 15 February 2013. Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  18. ^ "Register of Heritage Places – Assessment Documentation". Heritage Council of Western Australia. 17 November 2006. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Heritage | Urisino". Archived from the original on 20 January 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  20. ^ "Wanaaring Whispers". Western Herald. Bourke, New South Wales. 27 July 1918. p. 2. Retrieved 21 September 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  21. ^ Lyn Leader-Elliott and Iris Iwanicki (December 2002). "Heritage of the Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks" (PDF). Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2004. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  22. ^ a b "Kidman and Mayoh Shipyard". City of Ryde. Archived from the original on 14 January 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  23. ^ ""Cattle King" dead". The Northern Miner. Charters Towers, Queensland. 3 September 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 2 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ Back, Alexandra; Clift, Julie; von Hörchner, Cherie (30 March 2015). "Sir Sidney Kidman stars in new photographic exhibition". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  25. ^ "Late Sir Sidney Kidman". The West Australian. Perth. 4 September 1935. p. 14. Retrieved 2 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  26. ^ "Large Crowd Attend Funeral of Sir Sidney Kidman". The Barrier Miner. Broken Hill, New South Wales. 10 September 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 2 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  27. ^ "Kapunda High School Website". Kapunda High School Website. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  28. ^ Pestrin, Stacey (30 March 2022). "Fire destroys former home of 'Cattle King' Sir Sidney Kidman at Kapunda High School". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  29. ^ "Where the legend begins". Kidman Way. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  30. ^ Winter, Caroline; Neindorf, Brooke (10 April 2015). "World's largest cattle station up for sale as country's biggest private landholding goes on the market". ABC News. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  31. ^ Peter Hartcher, James Massola and Jared Lynch (20 November 2015). "Kidman cattle stations: Andrew Robb criticises Scott Morrison's 'political' decision to block sale". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 20 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  32. ^ S Kidman & Co: Gina Reinhart, Shanghai CRED make joint bid for cattle empire ABC News 10 October 2016
  33. ^ S Kidman and Co: Scott Morrison approves sale of cattle empire to Gina Rinehart, Chinese company ABC News 9 December 2016
  34. ^ "Kidman's Tree of Knowledge (entry 600462)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  35. ^ "The Cattle King". Albany Advertiser. Albany, Western Australia. 20 April 1936. p. 3. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.

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