Reginald Murray Williams AO, CMG (24 May 1908 – 4 November 2003) was an Australian bushman and entrepreneur who rose from a swagman to a millionaire. Widely known as just 'R.M.', he was born at Belalie North near Jamestown in the Mid North, 200 kilometres north of Adelaide, into a pioneering settler family working and training horses. R.M. had many adventures in Australia's rugged outback as a bushman, and became known for creating an Australian style of bushwear recognised worldwide.
He was married twice, had nine children, and left an enduring contribution to the Australian identity.
At 10 years old, Williams' family moved to Adelaide so that he and his two sisters could attend school there. School did not agree with him and so, at 13, he packed his swag and left for the land he loved. At 18 he started work as a camel driver and spent 3 years trekking through the Australian desert, living with aborigines and learning to survive the harsh conditions. During the great depression, with the lack of work, Williams returned to Adelaide where he met the equally sixteen-year-old Thelma Ena Cummings. They married and returned to the bush, living off the land in the Flinders Ranges. They had six children.
After his marriage broke down in the 1950s, Williams purchased 55 hectares of land at the rear of Yatala Labour Prison South Australia. He constructed a homestead, planted vineyards and thousands of roses, and ran rodeos on the floodplain of Dry Creek. When the land was compulsory acquired during the time of former State Premier Sir Thomas Playford, Williams left South Australia for his Rockybar property in Eidsvold, Queensland, vowing never to return.
He remarried in 1955 to Erica, had three more children, and lived at the beef-breeding Arcadia Valley property in Queensland. In 1985, he co-wrote his autobiography, Beneath whose hand. Williams died in his home on the Darling Downs in Queensland.
Williams learned his leather-working skills from a horseman called Dollar Mick, making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, with his son's illness and the expense of hospital treatment, he was in need of money and began selling his saddles to Sir Sidney Kidman (a wealthy pastoralist). Williams soon had a small factory running in his father's back shed in Adelaide that rapidly expanded. To address financial problems, he became involved with the Nobles Nob gold mine, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.
Williams' most successful products are handcrafted riding boots. Williams' boots were unique when they were introduced to the market, as they consisted of a single piece of leather that was stitched at the rear of the boot (the models that featured an elastic side have been particularly popular). As of 2013, the R.M. Williams Company produces handcrafted riding boots, with the use of 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.
The company brand is a Texas longhorn cattle head.
Following the founding of the R.M. Williams company in 1932, Williams sold the business in 1988 to the old-established South Australian stock and station agents Bennett & Fisher Limited. That business went into receivership in 1993, after banks were concerned about A$16 million of debts.
R.M. Williams Pty Ltd was then placed under the ownership of long-time friend Ken Cowley (who acted in partnership with Australian business mogul Kerry Stokes) who, together with his family, presided over R.M. Williams Ltd for two decades. The company employs 600 people globally, 300 of them are based in South Australia, Australia.
On 26 March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement in which the public was made aware of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. The statement described the sale process as an assessment of "external commercial growth and expansion plans" and the list of potential buyers included Oroton Group, Premier Investments and LVMH. As of March 2013, R.M. Williams Ltd consists of 50 retail stores and 900 stockists, and also exports to 15 countries. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.
The bush businessman has left several legacies:
Other book by RM Williams...
Williams also published the 300+ pages of poetry anthology Saddle for a throne in 1953. The poems of Scottish-Australian bush poet Will H. Ogilvie (1869–1963) struck fondness with Williams who shared the affinity of Ogilvie with horses and the Australian Outback.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to R. M. Williams.|