Sidney Kidman

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

9 May 1857
'Glen Stuart', Fifth Creek near Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died2 September 1935 (1935-09-03) (aged 78)
Millswood, South Australia, Australia
Resting placeMitcham Cemetery
Spouse(s)Isabel 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 (left) and J. R. Chisholm photographed holding stock whips in 1905

Sir Sidney Kidman (9 May 1857 – 2 September 1935)[1] was an Australian pastoralist who owned or co-owned large areas of land in Australia in his lifetime.

Early life[edit]

Sidney Kidman was born in Adelaide, 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 5 shillings and a one-eyed horse that he had bought with his savings. He joined a drover, and learned quickly. He worked as a roustabout and bullock-driver at Poolamacca[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). Eventually he and his brothers ended up working on the same station, then bought their own.


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 traded with it successfully in horses and cattle. Kidman was in his middle twenties when he acquired a one-fourteenth share in the Broken Hill Proprietary 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.

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]

The great drought in 1901 was a disaster to him, but the Bank of New South Wales had faith in him and supported him. Within a year he had made £40,000 and began buying on a large scale again.

He moved stock from drought-stricken areas to others and sold in markets where the price was highest. With the help of his detailed knowledge of the country, his energy and bushcraft, he withstood the depression of the 1890s and the great drought of 1902. By the time of World War I, he controlled station country considerably greater in area than England or Tasmania and nearly as great as Victoria.[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 like Annandale and Bulloo Downs.[7]

Diamantina Lakes Station was acquired by Kidman in 1908, he paid A£25,000 for the station and all its stock.[8] Later in 1908 he bought the approximately 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 the 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 the other in Northern Territory called Victoria River Downs for a total of £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, Sidney 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 in 1918[19] along with Elsinora and Thurloo Downs in outback New South Wales from Goldsbrough, Mort and Co.[20] In 1924 Kidman acquired Merty Merty Station in outback South Australia.[21]

He eventually owned or had a large interest in an enormous area of land variously stated to have covered from 85,000 square miles (220,000 km2) to 107,000 square miles (280,000 km2) covering some 68 separate station stocked with about 176,000 head of cattle and 215,000 head of sheep.[22] Before World War I, he was a millionaire and was knighted in the 1921 Birthday Honours for his support of the war effort.

Benefitting from their experience and observation, Kidman had built a vast network of connected stations stretching 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 could grow and fatten the cattle on the remote stations in the north, and bring them down the lines of stations to markets in the south, providing good feed and water on the way to sell them in top condition. Starting from nothing, he built up a huge pastoral business, with over a hundred cattle stations with total area of more than 3% of Australia – allowing him to move his cattle from north to south along the great inland river systems and drought-proofing his empire. He was also an entrepreneur with interests in many other rural industries such as transport.


Kidman died at his home Eringa at 76 Northgate Street, Millswood (now Unley Park) aged 78 on 2 September 1935 following a brief illness. His body was interred at the Mitcham Cemetery the following day in the presence of hundreds of mourners. Some 250 messages of condolence were received and 200 wreaths left[23] and his cortege extended for over 1.5 miles (2.4 km) after leaving his home.[24]


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 carries his name, part of which was historically used by Kidman and his business enterprise as stock routes.[25]

S. Kidman & Co is still the largest private landholder in Australia, although now on a much smaller scale. The entire landholding was placed up for sale in 2015, eleven cattle stations with a total area of over 100,000 square kilometres (38,610 sq mi) with a herd of 155,000 cattle.[26] The total value of the company is estimated at A$360 million with two Chinese companies, Genius Link Asset Management and Shanghai Pengxin, interested in acquiring the company. The sale was eventually blocked by the Australian treasurer, Scott Morrison who cited the national interest clause in the Foreign Investment Act.[27]

In 1992, Kidman's Tree of Knowledge (a tree at Glengyle Station, Bedourie, Shire of Diamantina, Queensland) was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register. Kidman is believed to have camped under the tree while planning his pastoral empire in Queensland.[28]

In 2010 a new estate of some 300 plus allotments was established on the northern edge of Kapunda named 5 Shillings.

In popular culture[edit]

In 1936 a best selling biography of Kidman by Ion Idriess was published entitled The Cattle King.[29]


  1. ^ a b Russel Ward, 'Kidman, Sir Sidney (1857–1935) Archived 21 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 583–585. Retrieved 23 August 2009
  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. 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 (1857–1935). Australian Dictionary Of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. 1983. Archived from the original on 4 February 2019.
  7. ^ "A Cattle King". Wagga Wagga Advertiser. New South Wales. 19 September 1903. p. 6. Retrieved 29 October 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Station purchased". Warwick Examiner and Times. Queensland. 7 December 1908. p. 5. 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. Retrieved 16 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Twenty five years ago". The Morning Bulletin. Rockhampton, Queensland. 1 May 1933. p. 4. Retrieved 30 October 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Items". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 May 1909. p. 7. Retrieved 24 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "Kidman descendents celebrate station centenaries". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  13. ^ "Australian Cattle stations". South Australian Register. Adelaide. 31 March 1909. p. 5. 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. ^ "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. ^ "Pastoralism". Unincorporated Area of New South Wales Heritage Study. River Junction Research. 2006. Archived from the original Check |url= value (help) (PDF) on 15 July 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  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 18 July 2004. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  22. ^ ""Cattle King" dead". The Northern Miner. Charters Towers, Queensland. 3 September 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 2 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  23. ^ "Late Sir Sidney Kidman". The West Australian. Perth. 4 September 1935. p. 14. Retrieved 2 May 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "Where the legend begins". Kidman Way. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  26. ^ Caroline Winter and Brooke Neindorf (10 April 2015). "World's largest cattle station up for sale as country's biggest private landholding goes on the market". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "Kidman's Tree of Knowledge (entry 600462)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  29. ^ "The Cattle King". Albany Advertiser. Albany, Western Australia. 20 April 1936. p. 3. Retrieved 1 September 2013 – via National Library of Australia.

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