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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kidd, John (1838–1919)

by Mark Lyons

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

John Kidd (1838-1919), by unknown photographer

John Kidd (1838-1919), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 08262

John Kidd (1838-1919), store-keeper, dairy farmer and politician, was born at Brechin, Forfarshire, Scotland, son of John Kidd, boot manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Souter. He began work at an early age and sporadically attended parish and night schools. In 1857 he migrated to Sydney and set up as a baker. In November 1860 he married Sophie Collier, a native of Aberdeen.

After moving his business to Campbelltown Kidd soon won repute for honesty and tact, and expanded his business into a general store. By the 1870s further success had enabled him to acquire land and he became interested in the supply of milk to Sydney. He was an early champion of Ayrshire cattle and later a director of the Farmers' and Dairymen's Milk Co. Ltd. Increasingly important in the Campbelltown community, he was prominent in the Presbyterian Church and the temperance movement, a member of the local Public School Committee and an enthusiast for the School of Arts. He was appointed a magistrate in 1870.

Drawn by politics Kidd failed to win the seat of Narellan in 1877 but in 1880 was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Camden. Although a supporter of the Parkes-Robertson ministry he aired his practical and independent views on a wide range of subjects and won some distinction for garrulity. About this time he gave up his store and retired to Blair Athol, his large home near Campbelltown. Over-confidence cost him his seat in 1882, but he was re-elected in 1885. He gave attention to the fiscal question and by a circuitous course came to favour protection. Defeated in 1887 he was re-elected in 1889 and in 1891 was appointed postmaster-general in Dibbs's protectionist ministry. Kidd was no bigot but his firm Presbyterianism led him to join the Loyal Orange Institution. Despite friendship with John Davies, admiration for Parkes, and the predilection of the Orange and temperance movement for free trade, Kidd firmly adhered to protection. His scornful denial of any connexion between protection and Catholicism often brought him into conflict with fellow Orangemen. However, it brought rewards: his inclusion in Dibbs's ministry was more a consequence of the premier's desire to counter Orange criticism than from any particular virtue of Kidd. He proved to be a conscientious, unadventurous minister. He was a New South Wales commissioner at the Adelaide and Melbourne Exhibitions. Defeated in the 1895 election, he was returned in 1898 and was minister for mines and agriculture from April 1901 to August 1904 in a Progressive (Protectionist) ministry. An advocate of Federation since 1891, he was an unsuccessful government candidate in the 1901 Senate election, though he polled 43,000 votes. In 1904 Kidd was narrowly defeated and retired from politics. Gazetted honourable in 1904, he continued the business affairs that he acquired during twenty-five years in politics: trustee of the Savings' Bank of New South Wales and a director of the Australian Mutual Fire Insurance Society. Aged 81 he died on 8 April 1919 and was buried in the Presbyterian section of the Campbelltown cemetery. He was survived by two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Ex-M.L.A., Our Present Parliament, What it is Worth (Syd, c1886)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • W. A. Bayley, History of Campbelltown (Campbelltown, 1965)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Aug 1875
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 31 July 1894
  • Campbelltown Herald, 20 July, 3 Aug 1898
  • Bulletin, 20 Apr 1901, 7 Apr 1919
  • J. P. McGuanne, Centenary of Campbelltown (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Mark Lyons, 'Kidd, John (1838–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

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