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Kennedy, Alexander (1837–1936)

by Hudson Fysh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Alexander Kennedy (1837-1936), pastoralist, was born on 11 November 1837 at Dunkeld, Scotland, son of John Kennedy, land steward, and his wife Christina, née Duff. While employed in Scottish pastoral pursuits he was attracted at 23 by the Queensland migrant scheme. He sailed from the Clyde in the Persia and arrived at Gladstone on 16 November 1861. His first post was at Rio on the Dawson, a sheep run leased by Peter MacIntosh. He then took charge at Wealwandangie on the Comet River where Kanakas were largely employed as station hands, but after the station was foreclosed during a depression in the wool industry, Kennedy returned to Rockhampton and bought 1400 acres 9567 ha) which he named Cuena, and where he grew sugar. There in August 1871 he married Marion Murray. Cuena proved unsuitable for sugar-growing and the property was sold. Kennedy became manager of Lorne, near Tambo, another MacIntosh sheep property, where on 4 November 1873 their son John Peter was born, one of the first white children born on the Barcoo and without benefit of a doctor.

When Lorne was sold Kennedy bought Emmett, a small near-by property, but soon sold it and returned to Rockhampton. With a vision of unoccupied lands beyond the far western horizon he made two exploration trips on horseback. In 1878 he and his associates, James White Powell and Robert Currie, backed by a loan of £12,000 at 10 per cent interest from the Queensland National Bank, took up 398,400 acres (161,228 ha) on Sulieman Creek south of Cloncurry; the property became known as Buckingham Downs. Kennedy with his family and cattle trekked some 700 miles (1127 km) from Rockhampton and lived in a tent till a small hut was built. In the next years Kennedy and Powell took up land as far west as Calton Hills and stocked it with cattle and horses. Trouble was experienced with the Aboriginals, the warlike Kalkadoons, and in 1884 Powell was killed by them on Calton Hills. In 1888 Kennedy with Roger Hale Sheaffe as his partner worked the properties of Devoncourt, Bushy Park, Parkside and Calton Hills, depasturing 16,930 cattle and 520 horses. By 1892 the number of cattle estimated for mortgage had risen to 27,349, and at their peak these properties later carried over 50,000 cattle running on holdings which covered an area of over 1200 sq. miles (3108 km²). In 1879 300 bullocks had been overlanded to the Adelaide market where they brought £11 a head. About 1880 he sent 1000 head to Wodonga in Victoria but after paying the border tax of £1 a head they brought only £3 a head. In 1892 another 1000 went to the Townsville meatworks and 1000 to Wodonga.

In 1885 Kennedy became a member of Cloncurry's first council. For years his headquarters were at Devoncourt and then at Bushy Park. His association with the prolific mineral area of the Cloncurry and Mount Isa district began in 1897 when the Duchess copper lode was discovered by his son Jack; it was sold in 1906-07 for £15,000 to the Hampden-Cloncurry Copper Mines Ltd. In 1928 when the company's smelters were sold, the mine had produced £2 million worth of copper.

In 1908 Kennedy and his wife visited Scotland. On their return they settled at Cloncurry, then at Bushy Park and finally at Brisbane in 1919. In old age he became interested in aviation. He was an original provisional director of Qantas and was one of the guarantors for the young company's account. At 87 Kennedy was issued with the Qantas No.1 ticket, and on 3 November 1922 flew from Longreach to Cloncurry, the first passenger to fly in a regular airline in eastern Australia. He died in Brisbane on 12 April 1936 and his wife died later that same year aged 89. Kennedy's ashes, together with the story of his life, were deposited in his memorial at Devoncourt.

Select Bibliography

  • W. H. Fysh, Taming the North (Syd, 1950)
  • G. Blainey, Mines in the Spinifex (Syd, 1960)
  • Graziers' Review, 16 Mar 1922
  • LAN/N 30-33, 44-46, 138, SCT/CD 42, 52 (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

Hudson Fysh, 'Kennedy, Alexander (1837–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kennedy-alexander-3942/text6207, published in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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