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Plucky Edna Ayers (née Kidman)

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

From the Kapunda Herald, June 23, 1885.

Miss Isabel Wright, who for some years has been on the regular teaching staff of the Congregational Sunday School, was on Sunday last, at the hands of her fellow teachers, made the recipient of a handsomely bound family Bible, the presentation being suggested by Miss Wright's approaching marriage to Sidney Kidman.

Edna Gwendoline Kidman was the third of Sidney and Isabel Kidman's daughters (Gert, Elma, Edna, Edith), born on 11 June, 1890, at Kapunda SA in a house known as Bald Hill, bought for Isabel by husband Sidney Kidman.

Bald Hills, first home of Sidney and Bel Kidman
Bald Hills House, Kapunda. Built around 1880.
Man with whip and Sidney Kidman SLSA B-59515
The Misses Kidman, daughters of Sir Sydney Kidman who rode hundreds of miles with their father.
Sir Sidney Kidman and unknown man (left)

Sidney Kidman

Sid Kidman, the cattle king of Australia, is a man of medium height, dark complexioned, now tinged with gray, 51 years of age last birthday; active, alert in a deal, drinking nought save tea, smoking no tobacco, and living a quiet life at Kapunda, 45 miles north of Adelaide.

He is a big, strong but not heavy looking, dark complexioned man, with bright eyes, and a humorous mouth, and is said to be gifted with an unfailing instinct in choosing youths and men for employment.

He was born at Black Hill, Fifth Creek, near Adelaide, S.A., on. May 9, 1857, six months after his father died, and, as he was faced early with the necessity of making his own living, his school days were brief, and he was only thirteen years old when he left home to make his way in the world.

Albeit, a millionaire, he was still a plain business man, a specialist in stock, a genius in judgment as regards station values, a careful man to whom waste is abhorrent, and senseless extravagance a cardinal sin.

Sir Sidney Kidman (left) and another man
Sir Sidney Kidman (left)

Mon 27 Oct 1879 Page 2 PUPIL TEACHER’S EXAMINATION. The results of the pupil teacher's examination held in Michaelmas, 1879; .... Isabel Wright, Kapunda Model School.

Kapunda Herald (SA), Tuesday 21 July 1885, page 2:


—On the 30th June, at the residence of the bride's mother, by the Rev. W. S. Fernie, of Rose Park,

Sidney Herbert, fifth son of the late George Kidman, of Bury St. Edmunds, England,

to Isabel Brown, only daughter of the late John Wright, merchant, of Dundee, Scotland, Both of Kapunda.

"Sidney Kidman's family consists of four, three girls — Gertrude, Elma, Edna and the little boy, Walter, and the name of his home is Eringa".

'Eringa' the Kidman home at Kapunda, donated to the Education Department, and converted to a school

Sid and Isabel's fourth child Edith, died in infancy on 10 December 1895, as did their first son, Norman, who died at the age of 16 months on 2 August 1898.

Their second son, Walter, born 26 June 1900, (and potential heir) was watched over carefully, to the point of over-protection.

Kapunda Herald (SA), Friday 12 June 1903, page 3


At a meeting of the Kapunda Benevolent Society last Friday, it was reported that 15s. 6p bad been received from Miss Edna Kidman as the proceeds of a children's bazaar held by her.

'During the winter months the poor of the town are much in need of many comforts.'

The ladies would be pleased to receive assistance, especially gifts of firewood from farmers.

Below: Sir Sidney and Lady Kidman, New South Wales, ca. 1925

Kapunda Herald Friday 6 January 1905, page 5


Mr. Sidney Kidman's Residence Burnt Out. NEARLY EVERYTHING LOST.

About 10.30 on Saturday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Kidman. some of the family, and Mr. A. W. Richardson (manager for Elder, Smith, & Co, Kapunda), were talking in the large hall at "Eringa"— Mr. Kidman's residence.

Mr. Kidman interrupted the conversation, with the remark, "I smell fire."

  • At that moment there was an intuitive glance by the party to the skylight of the hall, where smoke was seen.

  • With the remark "Why, the house is on fire !" Mr. Kidman went outside, followed by the others, and climbed over the verandah and on to the roof.

  • He could see the fire near the skylight, but could not reach it, and even if he could, he could have done nothing, as it would have been impossible to serve him with water in buckets at such a height and there was no fire hose on the premises.

Mr. Kidman's Narrow Escape

The wind blew with terrific force over the house, and Mr. Kidman had a narrow escape of going backwards over the roof, only saving himself, metaphorically, by the "'skin of his


Edna Raises the Alarm

It was evident there was no time to lose and Miss Edna Kidman mounted her bicycle and made with all speed to the fire brigade station (which she reached at 10.50 a.m.), whilst the others made an effort to save some of the contents of the house

  • Ceilings rapidly caved in, and it soon became dangerous to continue the attempt at salvage.

  • It was but the space of a few minutes when Mr. Kidman saw the hopelessness of saving more than the dining-room furniture, a small portion of Mrs Kidman's wardrobe, and some of her jewellery.

  • As for himself, he had nothing but what he stood up in, and the children were no better off.

Eringa, the Kidman home at Kapunda
(burnt down and rebuilt bigger)

The home was burnt down in 1905 - these pictures were taken after restoration, and presumably the latter after the snowstorm on 29 July 1909.


In the meantime Kidman began to extend his stations in three States, stretching from Kapunda to Cunnamulla, in Queensland, and from the MacDonnell Ranges to Innamincka. Altogether he owned and controlled stations aggregating about 60,000 square miles.

At one time he owned Norley, Bulloo Downs, and Durham Downe, in the south-west corner of Queensland, and other holdings extending to the Gulf.

He worked on the principle that for security in event of drought it was necessary to have a string of stations from the Gulf and Northern Territory to the settled districts of the continent.

For that reason he became associated with the Bovril Australian Estates, of which he was a director, owning among other properties, Victoria River Downs, the largest cattle station in the world, and other properties in the Territory and Central Australia.

The chief property of the company is the great Victoria Downs run, in the Northern Territory. This is the largest cattle run in Australia, covering 12,500 square miles.

It is said to be the largest cattle run in the world, and its carrying capacity has been proved to be at least 160,000 head of cattle, and 25,000 calves were branded in one year.


In 1921 he was knighted for his services to Australia, and particularly for the part he played in the Great War. Essentially a generous man, he gave thousands to patriotic funds of different kinds, also to the Australian Inland Mission, and was the first to respond to an appeal from Australians for battle planes for the Western Front.

He presented a battle plane costing £2700 to the British Government for use on the Western Front during the late war, and only quite recently he made a present of half of one of his stations to the Salvation Army.

Edna's mother Isabel, known as Bel, of Scottish descent, was unemotional and a little heavy, not known to be cuddly or lovable, and 'appreciated her children more when they were grown, toilet-trained, at school, and able to converse intelligently'.

As Edna's father Sidney Kidman was tall, Bel was tiny and round, by comparison.

"She didn't like looking after kids; she would have preferred to have done a hard day's ironing."

But Bel and Sidney were a devoted couple, and she was his best mate for the next fifty years. "

Long Overseas Visit

Friday 3 April 1908:

Mr Kidman and the family- would leave for England on Saturday, but it was not his wish to leave South Australia. He would rather be out in the bush, where he was always happy, whether he had 5/ or £5 in his pocket.

In 1908 Mr Kidman, as he was then, made his first trip to England, taking with him his wife, son, and three daughters. They visited Scotland, which Mrs Kidman enjoyed very much, "as I had some relations there, and of course, they remembered me, although 1 did not remember them; and while we were there the weather was delightful." (Kapunda Herald (SA), Friday 16 September 1910)

"Another time we went to Suffolk, where Mr. Kidman's people all came from, he has some cousins, and we made their acquaintance, and they showed us all the places of Interest, and where Mr. Kidman's mother was born, and lived.

I was very glad Sid had found some of his friends; he knew where his mother's people came from, but did not know anything about his father's, but when they saw our name in the papers here arriving from Australia, they looked us up, and we liked them very much.

Cousin Lady Agatha Thorneycroft, reputed by Thomas Hardy, to be the most beautiful woman in England.

"One of the cousins was Lady Thorneycroft; Sir John Thorneycroft is a foremost engineer, and constructed the fastest torpedo boat that has been built; they are building us a motor car like one that they have." They then visited Belgium and Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Switzerland, then back to Wales."

"You will be surprised to hear that we are leaving Elma and Edna at schooI for a year in France."

(Mon 22 Mar 1909 Page 2 A Letter From Mrs. Kidman).

The first we hear of Edna is of her animals exhibited at the Kapunda Show, Sat 17 Oct 1903:

In the ponies the first prize in the child's class was won by a handsome pony ridden by Miss Edna Kidman, who also won first prize for a child's pony, under 13 hands, and for a cat.

Then, in September 1910, Mr. Kidman's daughters, Gertie and Edna, accompanied him on a memorable journey through central Australia in September, 1910, journeying on horseback, from their home at Kapunda, S.A., to Cunnamulla, in Queensland, a distance of 1000 miles, and more than half of this distance lay through the properties that Mr. Sidney Kidman owned.

Then "Miss Kidman, and Miss Edna Kidman returned to Kapunda from their overland trip in time for the opening of the Kidman's Kapunda horse sale last week. The travellers had a splendid time on their journey from Farina to Brisbane, via Thargomindah and Charleville, and enjoy the best of health."

Gertie and Edna Kidman, upon arriving in Brisbane

Two of the daughters, Gertrude and Edna, before their marriage, rode with him from Adelaide to stations in Western Queensland, and caused much interest as they rode up Queen Street one summer afternoon (about 25 years ago). Both Misses Kidman had cameras, and they secured a fine selection of photographs along the route.

Shortly after their return the daughters were married:

  • Miss Elma Kidman became Mrs Sidney Reid,

  • Miss Edna Kidman was married to Mr Sidney H. Ayres, and

  • Miss Gertrude Kidman to Lieutenant Clover, of H.M.A.S. Protector.

  • His son, Walter, who has carried on the business for several years, was educated in England, but had to serve his apprenticeship and win his spurs on his father's stations.

Kapunda Herald (SA)

Fri 26 Jul 1912 Page 5 Family Notices

Society Wedding: AYERS—KIDMAN

On the 10th July, at the North Adelaide Congregational Church, Sidney Hurtle, eldest son of Mrs. H. L. Ayers, East Terrace, Adelaide, to Edna Gwendoline, youngest daughter of Mr. Sidney Kidman, of Kapunda.

There was a large gathering of guests at the Congregational Church North Adelaide, on Wednesday, July 10, on the occasion of the marriage of Sidney Hurtle Ayers, son of the late Harry Ayers and Mrs. H. Ayers, of "Dimora," East Terrace, Adelaide, and Edna Gwendoline, youngest daughter of Sidney Kidman, of "Eringa," Kapunda.

The interior of the Church was decorated with handsome palms grouped together and connected by strands of white satin ribbon tied in artistic bows. A wedding bell was suspended in the centre, and archways of fern spanned the aisles. The Rev. A. G. Fry, of Kapunda, conducted the service, and Mr F. Bevan, of the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, played ''The Voice that Breathed O'er Eden" as the bride reached the chancel.

While waiting for the bridal party to return from the vestry, Miss Daisy Gove, of Melbourne, sang with great taste D'Hardelot's "Because," with organ accompaniment. The bride was given away by her father ('Cattle King', Sir Sidney Kidman), and looked particularly graceful in her bridal gown of ivory satin trimmed with beautiful Honiton lace, the gift of Lady Thorneycroft. Agatha is often cited as one of the inspirations for Thomas' Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbevilles.

  • The court train of satin was attached to the shoulders by a string of pearls and was lined with chiffon.

  • Her tulle veil was arranged to form a cap encircled by a wreath of orange blossom, and she carried a bouquet of hot-house flowers.

  • The bridegroom's gift was a diamond pendant.

Miss Gertrude Kidman, sister of the bride, was the only bridesmaid.

  • She wore a smart frock of periwinkle-blue taffetas covered with ninon of the same shade, and a smart taffetas coat of the same shade.

  • The short skirt was trimmed at the hem with a ruche of silk, and a peter-pan collar of dainty lace, was worn on the bodice which was made with rounded basques edged with a gathered ruche.

  • As a head-dress she wore Grecian bands of blue velvet, and at one side an ostrich feather of the same hue.

  • The bridegroom presented her with sapphire and diamond earrings.

After the ceremony the guests drove to 'Holmfield' (the home of George Dutton Green, South Terrace, Adelaide) where a large reception was held by Mr and Mrs Sidney Kidman (Australia's wealthiest man).

  • Later in the afternoon the bride and bridegroom left for Clare, the bride travelling in a costume of cream cloth, black, velvet hat trimmed with oriental flowers and muff to match.

New Home - Warenda, Donnybrook, Clare

Upon their return, Sidney Ayers commissioned his friend and prominent architect Kenneth Milne to build their matrimonial home in Donnybrook, Clare, "Warenda"

(Residence for S.H. Ayers Esq. Clare, constructed in 1912, 1919, 1921, 1934).