KIDSTON, William (1849-1919)


KIDSTON, William (1849-1919)
premier of Queensland
was born at Falkirk, Scotland, on 27 August 1849, the third son of an irondresser. Educated at the local school, Kidston was apprenticed at 13 years of age to an ironmoulder. He afterwards attended a technical school at Alloa and studied chemistry privately. In 1882 he went to Australia with his wife and family, and after working at Sydney went to Rockhampton about 1883 and opened a bookseller's shop. He was a Labour candidate for the legislative assembly at Rockhampton in 1893, but was not elected until three years later. In 1899 he became treasurer and postmaster general in the A. Dawson (q.v.) ministry which, however, lasted only a few days. When the Morgan ministry was formed in September 1903 Kidston was placed in charge of the treasury, and when Morgan became president of the council in 1906 Kidston took his place as premier. He was not afraid of work and took the portfolios of premier, treasurer, chief secretary and vice-president of the executive council, but there were three parties in the house, it was difficult to carry on its business effectively, and in November 1907 he resigned when parliament was dissolved. Kidston had finally broken with Labour and was returned as head of a democratic party. Philp (q.v.) carried on for a little while, but eventually made a coalition with Kidston who in February 1908 again became premier and treasurer. In 1909 his government was responsible for the introduction of a university bill which became law, and the university was founded at the end of the year. In February 1911 partly for health reasons Kidston retired from politics and was appointed a member of the Queensland land court. He retired from this position on completing his seventieth year in August 1919, and died on the following 25 October. His wife had predeceased him and he was survived by three sons.
Kidston was a man of forceful personality. He had a hard beginning, but prosperity modified the extreme democratic views he held when he was first in politics. He was a shrewd and capable treasurer, an excellent fighter, able to say "no" when necessary. In his early days he found public-speaking difficult, but developed into a good and even eloquent speaker. He was a good enemy, he could also be a good friend, and was a successful leader of the house, showing as occasion demanded both tact and determination.
The Brisbane Courier, 27 October 1919; C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years; Our First Half-Century, a Review of Queensland Progress.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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