KIDMAN, Sir Sidney (1857-1935)


KIDMAN, Sir Sidney (1857-1935)
pastoralist
was born near Adelaide on 9 May 1857. He was educated at private schools at Norwood, and at 13 years of age bought a one-eyed horse for £2 10s., and set out for New South Wales with only five shillings in his pocket. His father had died when he was only six months old. He obtained work on Mount Gipps station near the site of Broken Hill at ten shillings a week, and two years later went to Poolamacca station at £1 a week. He saved and bought a bullock team, and opening a butcher's shop and store at the Cobar copper rush, made good profits. When he was 21 he inherited £400 from his grandfather's estate and traded with it successfully in horses and cattle. He 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. 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 largely again. He eventually owned or had a large interest in an enormous area of land variously stated to have covered from 85,000 to 107,000 square miles. Before the 1914-18 war he was a millionaire, and during the war he presented a number of armoured planes to the empire and with his wife did much war work. In 1921 he gave his country home, Eringa, near Kapunda, to the education department for a high school, and coming to Adelaide left much of the management of his interests to his son and a son-in-law. In 1925 the yearly amount spent in wages on his stations was £61,316, on rations £23,427, and the railage paid to the South Australian railways department cost an additional £58,581. He made heavy losses in the 1927-30 drought, and again in the Queensland drought which broke in June 1935. Largely on account of this his estate was sworn at only a little more than £300,000; but Kidman was used to the ups and downs of the pastoral business and had he lived a few more years he would probably have been a millionaire again. He died at Adelaide on 2 September 1935. He married in 1885 Isabel Brown Wright who survived him with a son and three daughters. He was knighted in 1921.
Kidman was tall and good looking, a shrewd bargainer, but always just and considerate to the men of the outback with whom he dealt and to his employees, many of whom spent almost a lifetime with him. He did many individual acts of kindness, was interested in the Salvation Army and kindred institutions, and led a simple unpretentious home life. Late in life he did some horseracing and owned the Fulham Park stud near Adelaide.
The Advertiser, Adelaide, 3 September 1935; The Argus, Melbourne, 3 September 1935; Ion L. Illness, The Cattle King.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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