The name RM Williams is synonymous with quality Australian-made boots, belts and hats. But have you ever given any thought to the man behind the iconic brand? Reginald Murray Williams’ legacy is far more than a fashion label. It’s a tale of a family with pioneering spirit, who conquered the harsh Australian outback in a time before mechanisation.
RM was born in South Australia in 1908. His father was a horseman, who moved the family to Adelaide so his children could get an education. But RM longed for the bush. At age 15 he rolled up his swag and left home to work as a camel driver, stockman, labourer and lime burner, among other things. In the Depression, he returned to Adelaide to find work and start a family.
Having learned leather working skills from a passing horseman known as ‘Dollar Mick’ in the Flinders Ranges, RM started producing leather goods. The first piece he sold was a pack saddle. In 1932, the RM Williams company was established.
Looking for a challenge and missing the outback, in the early 1950s RM bought a rundown property along the Auburn River in Queensland’s North Burnett. RM died at age 95 in 2003, but his connection to Eidsvold is still apparent today. Reminders of his tenure can be seen in the small community’s various stone buildings. Friendly locals are all too happy to share their stories of RM. A great source of pride for RM, his beloved quiet bush property ‘Rockybar’, just outside Eidsvold, is his final resting place.
If you want to know more about RM’s legacy and Australian bush heritage, the RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre is a must-do on any trip to the Burnett. Admire indigenous artifacts, be inspired by bush poetry or try your hand in a leathercraft workshop. There is also an art gallery, exhibiting works from talented local and travelling artists. The Centre is only a short walk to town and offers a pet-friendly self-contained RV and camping stop for a small nightly fee.
Stick around for the free Son et Lumiere outdoor light and sound show, under the stars, which plays at 7pm and 8pm every night. Local story tellers, poets and drovers share interesting stories of RM Williams and life in the outback. The moving show is projected onto a customised steel sculpture called the ‘Language of the Land’. It’s a powerful and fitting tribute to the Traditional Owners, pioneering drovers and modern-day farmers who have, and continue to, preserve the bush and our Australian heritage.