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Edkins, Edward Rowland (1871–1939)

from Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld)

When Edward Rowland Huey Edkins died at Longreach private hospital this morning, the West lost one of its pioneers, its best known citizen, a great sportsman and a man who had more to do with shaping the destiny of the Longreach district than any other outstanding citizen of the past 50 years. His death followed a long illness, and although not unexpected, it came as a severe shock to a wide circle of friends in every walk of life. The funeral this afternoon was representative of every public sporting body in Longreach. It moved from St James's Church of England for the Longreach cemetery, and was headed by the Longreach Town Band. The main street, through which the funeral passed, was dotted by silent throngs of people who had gathered to pay tribute to one of the greatest and best loved men of the West.

Edward Rowland Huey Edkins was born at Stanton Harcourt, near Maryborough, Queensland, on January 31, 1871, and was a son of the late Mr. Edward Rowland Edkins, one of the best known pioneers of the great pastoral areas of Central and Northern Queensland. Practically the whole of his life was spent in the pastoral areas of the West; he went to the Gulf country while an infant in arms and except for eight years at school in the south and a temporary residence in Brisbane some years ago, he has been in the West ever since.

After several years in the Gulf country Mr. Edkins' parents decided to move to the central district and went to Mt Cornish, then the premier pastoral property in the State. At that time he was the eldest surviving son; three elder children died in the Gulf as a result of the severe conditions prevailing in that area at that time. When he was seven years of age he was sent to Tasmania as a student at the Launceston Church of England Grammar School and later completed his education at Wesley College, Melbourne.

His entry into the pastoral industry, in which he was to play a big part, was as a jackeroo under the late John Cameron (father of Sir Donald Cameron) at Kensington Downs. After two years as a jackeroo and overseer Mr. Edkins selected Bimbah, then known as the chief outstation of Mt Cornish, and in December, 1889, before the Central Railway came to Ifracombe, he took up residence on the property; it remained his house until his death.

From that early date Mr. Edkins took an active interest in the welfare of the district and devoted himself to its advancement in every way. His interest and enthusiasm of those pioneer days is to-day manifest on every side and there is hardly a public body or sporting body in the district in the foundation of which he did not play a prominent part.

One of his early objectives was the establishment of a hospital in Longreach and it was at his request that his mother opened the first subscription list for the hospital. Out of this humble beginning will evolve the $50,000 base hospital which was completed at Longreach this year. The endeavor to build the hospital was attended with success and the institution grew to one of the most important country hospitals in the State. Although not on the committee of management during the latter part of the hospital's existence under committee control, he was associated with the institution as a trustee and held that office until the formation of the Longreach Hospital Board and the abolition of the trusteeship. Mr. Edkins organised the first meeting which formed the Longreach centre of the Q.A.T.B. and for some years was the chairman of committee. The first meeting of the Longreach Motor Co., Ltd, a company which was to be run on a co-operative basis and which has since developed into the leading country motor business of the State was convened by him.

His character and strength of purpose perhaps got its greatest opportunity during the Great War. He did a vast amount of work in the war period and, as publically claimed by Sir Donald Cameron a few years ago, inaugurated the Patriotic Fund, a movement which spread throughout the Commonwealth and which meant so much to the men who were fighting overseas. It was through his persistency, in the face of severe opposition that Longreach, although sending many thousands of pounds to the city headquarters of the fund, retained several thousands which were administered by the Longreach Patriotic Committee for many years after the war finished.

Mr. Edkins formed the Longreach Club which to-day probably excels any institution of its kind in the State. It was through the formation of this club that he was able to have the Graziers' Conference moved from Barcaldine to Longreach, where it has remained ever since, despite a determined effort a few years back to close the Longreach office of the association, a move which would have been the forerunner of city conferences. He was for many years president of the Graziers' Association of Central and Northern Queensland and president of the old Mitchell Selectors' Association —a body which he successfully urged to join up with the Graziers' Association.

For nearly 36 years he was president of the Longreach Pastoral and Agricultural Society and was responsible in a great measure for the success of the various shows staged by that body.

He was the first chairman of the Longreach Shire Council and took a prominent part in the formation of the shire, which in the early nineties was a part of the Aramac Divisional Board. He was chairman of the council on several occasions and much of the relatively satisfactory position of the council, particularly the water supply account, is due to the policy he adopted.

That he was held high in the esteem of the many employees on his property is evidenced by the lengthy services of many. One man was in the employ of the Edkins' family, first at Mt. Cornish and later at Shirley for over 55 years. Other employees have records of nearly half a century's work with the family. Amongst his other business activities, Mr. Edkins was at one time chairman of directors of Edkins, Marsh and Co., Ltd., proprietors of a chain of wool scours in the Central-West and North-West. At one time the firm conducted a stock and station agency in Longreach and probably sold more stock than any other agency. It is claimed that the firm still holds the record of the greatest number of sheep sold in any one year; that total was over 1,250,000 sheep, with sales of over 500,000 in one month. He was also head of Edkins, Campbell and Co., a firm which controls extensive pastoral properties in the West. The most important holding is Malboona, a property of 120,000 acres in the Corfield district. Other properties are Shirley, in the Torren's Creek district, Dillulah, Raphoe and Bimbah. A high type of wool grown on all properties, a type that enables the firm to obtain the wonderful price of 69½d lb for scoured wool in one year.

While the public life and activities of Mr. Edkins are probably unexcelled in the Commonwealth it is on the sporting side of his life that he has unique records. He always took a keen interest in racing and for nearly 40 years was president of the Longreach Jockey Club, a record that is perhaps unique in the Commonwealth racing world. In 1911 he founded the Longreach Amateur Racing Club and was the president until a few years ago. Since that year he has been patron and members did him the honor of making him a life member of the club. Practically every sport has had his support either as a participant or in practical organisation, but in cricket and tennis he has outstanding records. His association with tennis will be kept alive by the competition for the Edkins' Shield, an Intertown trophy that eventually brought into being the Central Western Tennis Association. For many years he was associated with the Longreach Tennis Club and for a number of years has been patron of the club.

In the realm of the sport of Kings the name of Edkins is not unknown on the principal racecourses of Australia and the 'all brown' colors have been carried to success in Brisbane and Sydney. Mr. Edkins' principal win was the Sydney Cup of 1927 with Plastoon. He has a wonderful racing record and his colors have been seen on practically every racecourse in the State.

Mrs. Edkins, who was Miss Lucy Rule, eldest daughter of the late John Rule, who was part owner of Aramac station in the sixties, and who eventually became chairman of directors of the famous Mt Morgan Mining Co. in its heyday, survives her husband. Their three children, Mr. R. R. Edkins (Malboona), Mrs. B. L. Peterson (Brisbane) and Mrs. E. D. Brown (Longreach) also survive.

Mr. Edkins' life-work was to build up Longreach and the district to the eminence it has attained— as the principal country town of the State and the business and social centre at the greatest tract of merino wool growing country of the world. Fifty years ago he set himself a task and when he closed his eyes in death, he, at least, had the satisfaction of knowing that his efforts had been fruitful. His record of public life is known far beyond the district he loved so well and his memory will be esteemed throughout the whole of the West which knew him so well.

Vale 'R.H.,' a great sportsman and public citizen, and a man the West will be the poorer for by his passing.

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'Edkins, Edward Rowland (1871–1939)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/edkins-edward-rowland-6088/text25974, accessed 21 April 2019.

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