Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Ion Idriess, Sydney Kidman and the Channel Country
Photo: Gordon Smith, Diamantina River
When I was growing up one of my favourite books was Ion Idriess's The Cattle King (1936).
I was reminded of this by Gordon Smith's superb pictorial story (the story starts here) of his journey through outback Australia. Gordon's photos are central, each accompanied by a terse description with supporting links that somehow captures the interest and even romance of the journey.
The Cattle King is the story of Sidney Kidman. Born in 1857, Kidman built a huge pastoral empire. Central to this was the concept of a chain of cattle stations that would allow Kidman to move stock across Australia from property to property as climatic conditions changed. 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.
The Channel Country, the vast area of the country including the Diamantina River (photo) draining into Lake Eyre, was central to Kidman's plans. While Lake Eyre itself is normally a dry salt lake, the Channel Country rivers carry water from the far north of Australia and often have some water even in dry times.
As an aside, I was interested to see that the Australian Dictionary of Biography story was wriiten by Russell Ward. Russell was one of Australia's most famous historians and one of my teachers at the University of New England. He had been a communist and was blacklisted during the cold war. He was offered a job at UNE with my father's support (Dad was then a senior academic there) to the immense benefit of the University.