From a pamphlet by A. Robinson of Leumeah High School
“Honest John” Kidd was “consistently straight forward and possessed all of the rugged charm of a Scotsman who had come as a youth to a young and almost unknown country and had carved a career for himself by methods of undeviating honesty…” So said the Sydney Morning Herald on his death at Campbelltown on 8th April, 1919.
How did “Honest John” earn his nickname? Why was his death reported in such an important newspaper? What did he have to do with Campbelltown?
Born a son of a cobbler in the small town of Brechin in Scotland, John Kidd began work at an early age . He attended night school to improve his education. Aged 18 years, he then migrated to Sydney on the “Mary Anne” and began a bakery in Sydney. In 1860, three years after arriving in the colony, he married Sophie Collier and moved to Campbelltown.
John Kidd’s reputation for honesty soon won him many customers and he expanded his business into a general store. About this time dairying became important in the district and John Kidd acquired land.
The well-known Blair Athol house was built for him in the 1880’s and on this farm he bred Ayrshire cattle. Later Kidd became a director of the Farmers and Dairymen’s Milk Co Ltd. The equally well known St Andrews farm at Minto was also owned by him.
As a resident of Campbelltown, John Kidd interested himself in all kinds of things. He was very involved in the Presbyterian Church and the local School of Arts. In 1870 he was a appointed a magistrate and served as a chairman of the local Licensing branch. He was a foundation member of the Masonic lodge in Campbelltown and became the first Patron of the Campbelltown Agricultural Society.
In 1876 J.P. Fowler and John kidd provided ninety school pupils with “a bag of sweetmeats and lollies…upon each bag was printed ‘opening of the Public School Campbelltown Jan 11th, 1876’.” John Kidd remained on the school board for the next twenty-five years.
By now, Honest John as he was nicknamed was becoming well known and respected enough to be asked to run as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly of the NSW Parliament. Elected to the seat of Nepean in 1880, he still found time for local affairs. As a member of the steering committee, to form a town council, Honest John saw the first council incorporated in 1881. The population was 688.
Sir George Dibbs, the premiere of NSW, asked Honest John to be the Postmaster General in 1891. In 1901 after being re-elected to the new seat of Camden (defeated in 1895) he became Minister for Mines and Agriculture.
Retiring in 1904, Honest John continued to supervise his farms at Campbelltown until his death at 81 years of age. On hearing of his death, Sir Edmund Barton M.L.A. said “ I always found him to be a loyal colleague and a strictly upright public man.
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Sydney morning herald 9.4.1919
Who’s who in Australia 1906
History of Campbelltown, William Bayley
Historic Homes, Macarthur Development Board