SIR Sidney Kidman is well-known as Australia’s greatest cattle baron but a new children’s book is ensuring his remarkable story lives on for the next generation.
This weekend, 160 years since his birth, King of the Outback will be launched at the Athelstone Community Centre. Adelaide-based author Kristin Weidenbach hopes the “rags to riches” story, with brilliant illustrations by Timothy Ide, will have wide appeal.
“Although the properties have been sold it is still majority Australian-owned and a big part of Australia’s history,” she said.
In less than 600 words the book covers Sir Sidney’s rise from an odd job boy to owning the nation’s largest cattle herd and a vast network of stations stretching from Qld’s Channel Country to northern SA.
“It is an inspiring story of how a boy from a humble background with little education made a successful life for himself and best of all he was from SA.”
“He ran away from home at just 13 years of age and went bush with fifty cents (five shillings) in his pocket and a one-eyed horse.”
Kristin says there is an important message for young readers.
“You don’t have to be the brightest student or have the best report card to achieve things you are passionate about,” she said.
A key scene is Sir Sidney’s 75th birthday rodeo in 1932 – the largest public birthday ever held in Australia for a private citizen.
“From the clippings I found it was an amazing event with more than 50,000 people, about the same as a packed crowd at the footy at Adelaide Oval,” she said.
“Kidman was obviously well liked by his stockmen for them to put the event on, but it became pandemonium when the horses and cattle not used to people took fright.
“There were people climbing trees and even a baby flung out of its mother’s arms which Tim has depicted in his drawings.”
Kristin is excited some of Sir Sidney’s descendants plan to be at the launch, including six-year-old Ethan Hage, and his four-year-old twin sisters Lauren and Pippa, Naracoorte.
Their mother Julia Hage says it is a great story book which depicts Australia’s rich history but the book about their great-great-great-grandfather has special meaning.
“We have had lots of discussion about it and they had a few questions which we have got out the family history books to find the answers,” she said.
King of the Outback will be launched on May 13 from 3-5pm at 1 Maryvale Road, Athelstone – the same road where Sir Sidney grew up.
Writing about the lives of Australian country characters has strong appeal for award-winning author Kristin.
So it was no surprise the story of one of Australia’s greatest pastoral pioneers, Sir Sidney Kidman resonated with her.
“It is a quintessentially Australian story which we need to make sure children continue to know about,” she said.
The immunologist-turned-science writer wrote her first adult non-fiction book in 2003 after seeing hundreds of people line the Birdsville Track to celebrate iconic mailman Tom Kruse.
Her work, Mailman of the Birdsville Track: the story of Tom Kruse became a best-seller.
Kristin also wrote Rock Star: the Story of Reg Sprigg about the geologist who discovered the Cooper Basin oil fields.
He also established one of Australia’s first ecotourism ventures, Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary.
“There are so many really inspiring true stories out there that need sharing,” she said.
“It will keep me going for a long time yet.”
Kristin says it was great to team up again with illustrator Timothy Ide on King of the Outback.
The creative team won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall award in 2013 for their first picture book, Tom the Outback Mailman.
“Tim's artwork is so detailed so I feel very privileged to have him illustrate my work,” she said.
“We are very lucky that we are both from Adelaide so it was a nice collaboration.”
- Details: kristinweidenbach.com