RM (Reginald Murray) Williams was born on 24 May 1908 at
Belalie North, which is near Jamestown in the Mid North
of South Australia, the son of Joseph Hotspur Murray and
Fanny Williams nee Mitchell. In his childhood he experienced
the life of a rural family that was to impact on him in
later life. At the end of World War 1 the family moved to
Adelaide so that young Reginald and his two sisters (Effie
and Daisy)could receive an education. School did not agree
with him and at 15 he packed a swag, went bush and spent
a number of years in the desert country living an almost
nomadic life as a cameleer for a missionary working amongst
the indigenous people. He also spent time in the Western
Australian Gold Fields, as a stockman on Northern Territory
Cattle Stations, and as a limeburner.
He married Thelma Ena Cummings at the Adelaide Registry
Office on 25 May 1929. During the Depression they set up
camp in the remote Gammon Ranges of South Australia. RM
met an itinerant saddler called Dollar Mick, who
passed on his skills. He began to craft boots and saddles
that were in demand on surrounding stations.
1932, with the added expense of a son's illness Williams
began selling his saddles to Sir Sidney Kidman. Williams
soon had a small factory running in his father's back shed
in Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect that
rapidly expanded making bridles, pack saddles, riding boots
and eventually many other products used by bushmen including
clothing. This business eventually developed into a huge
enterprise with outlets around the world.
The family tired of city life and settled in the Flinders
Ranges. The marriage, which produced six children, broke
up in the early 1950s and RM purchased land in Dry Creek
not far from the Yatala Prison where he grew vines and roses
and conducted periodic rodeos. The government compulsorily
acquired this property and RM left South Australia vowing
never to return.
Williams made a second fortune when he purchased a potential
gold mine called Nobles Nob, near Tennant Creek
in the Northern Territory from a widow.
He settled in Queensland and married Erica Nunn in 1955
and had three more children.
Williams was a member of Australian Stockman’s Hall
of Fame. He founded the Australian Roughriders Association
and was a founding member of the Equestrian Federation of
Australia. He led a committee which initiated and planned
the Bicentennial National Trail, the longest marked multi-use
trail in the world, stretching 5330 kilometres from Cooktown,
Queensland, through New South Wales to Healesville, Victoria.
He founded the famous horse endurance race, named after
Tom Quilty. RM Williams received recognition for these works
with a CMG in 1985 and an AO in 1992. He died in Toowoomba
on 4 November 2003.