Sando's passing a Channel Country loss

Quintessential Channel Country cattleman, Sandy Kidd, has died


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Windorah's Sandy Kidd pictured as so many remember him. Pictures supplied.

Windorah's Sandy Kidd pictured as so many remember him. Pictures supplied.

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Channel Country legend, Sandy Kidd, passed away in a Brisbane nursing home this week.

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He was the quintessential Channel Country cattleman - generous to a fault, taking no prisoners when a southern politician came to town, a raconteur and a creative cook - these are some of the ways that Sandy Kidd is being remembered this week following the news of his passing.

His love of flying and his dexterity in the cockpit are the stuff of legends.

James Alexander 'Sandy' Kidd, the son of Jim and Mary Kidd, was born in Brisbane on January 21, 1940, but spent the vast majority of his life among the beloved channels he was to call home.

His early homes were at Currawilla and Hammond Downs, which his parents managed, before settling at the family property, Mayfield, now known as Ourdel.

Sandy was sent to Nudgee College in Brisbane for school in 1949 as a nine-year-old, possibly when governesses lost patience with him, returning west when he was 15.

It was at the age of 22 that he got his pilot's licence. His own aeroplane, the instantly recognisable Cessna 172 with the registration KJA, followed in 1962.

For the next 40 years, Sandy piloted his aircraft on countless town and property resupplies, mercy dashes and search and rescues in Queensland's south west, in between aerial mustering work.

Sandy Kidd at the controls of his Cessna 172.

Sandy Kidd at the controls of his Cessna 172.

One of those who owed his life to Sandy's skill and goodwill was Ken Ballinger Snr, who was critically ill with peritonitis during the 1963 floods.

Using his 172's manual flaps to their full extent, Sandy landed on the only sandhill exposed in the floodwaters on Jedburgh Station, south of Yaraka, to take Ken to urgent medical attention.

It was for this work and his endless bounty of goodwill that saw the Channel Country gentleman awarded the British Empire Medal.

"He resupplied Windorah since he had a plane," Barcoo Shire Council mayor Bruce Scott recalled. "He never faltered; you didn't even have to make a call."

And not once did he ask for payment for any of his community service.

It was during the 1963 flood that Sandy saw how cattle caught in the channels responded to an aeroplane overhead, which started him down the aerial mustering path.

He added to his knowledge by mustering in the Northern Territory in the 1970s, recognised by the RAAF when they employed him to teach their pilots how to navigate in featureless country.

Ian Marshall, a Nudgee College schoolmate and the physician who undertook his medical examinations for his pilot's licence, said he didn't know how many lives the meticulous pilot saved.

"He was an official agent for the Civil Aviation Authority. Any pilot lost out there would be in radio contact with air traffic control in Brisbane.

"They'd contact Jim who'd come in on his radio and ask their height, their compass setting, and where the sun was, and he'd tell them where to turn to find the town they needed.

"He just knew that country like the back of his hand."

That deep love was evident in his battle for the Cooper when a group planned to irrigate for cotton at Currareva.

His gravelly voice was the spokesman for the people opposed to the plan, and he felt so strongly about the issue that he stood for state parliament as an independent, giving the sitting Member a run for his money.

"He was so passionate about maintaining the integrity of Channel Country rivers remaining natural, to support the cattle industry and the environment," Bruce Scott said.

"To his credit, he could see what had happened to other river systems that had been over-allocated.

"He didn't pull any punches. He was a bush character who was a natural magnet for people."

His appearance, sometimes going straight from work in the cattleyards to a meeting to advocate for one of his passions, could be deceptive, which urban negotiators discovered to their peril.

His sharp recall of words and events quickly taught them not to take him lightly.

Some have said while he had a rough exterior, he did a whole lot more for the bush that many people in a suit and tie.

The future of the region and its young people were his other strong concern and he was not afraid to tell it like it was for the benefit of kids in the bush.

He invested much of his time in the Priority Country Area Program, fighting for needs such as the troop carriers, and the annual Windorah Sports Camp for his "desert kids", and was a local ICPA member.

He also served on the Barcoo Shire Council, convincing various politicians of the need for bitumen to extend west towards Bedourie.

Mr Scott said Sandy was sorely missed when he reluctantly left the Channel Country eight years ago.

Diagnosed with dementia, he went to live with his son Tom and wife Jane at Tabletop Station at Croydon, while his wife Anne needed medical attention in Brisbane.

Sandy moved to a nursing home in Brisbane in February and had just turned 79 when he passed away.

He is survived by his wife Anne, his sister Margaret Shaw, his children Tom, James Jnr 'Dude', Catherine, Denise and Helen, and 20 grandchildren.

Sandy's funeral will take place next Thursday, March 28 at Ourdel, at 2pm, and will be followed by a get together at the Windorah Community Centre.

There will also be a memorial service at a later date in Brisbane.

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