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RM: 95 remarkable years

R.M.Williams, the bushman whose name has become an international brand, has just turned 95. His life is a story of adventure and remarkable achievement unmatched in Australia in the 20th century. Despite his success, RM rejected fame and fortune at the peak of his career, opting instead for a life in the bush where he says be belongs.

By Paul Myers

RM WilliamsWhenever we see or hear the name R.M.Williams, our thoughts immediately turn to the boots and clothing for which Reginald Murray Williams, and the company he forged, became Australian icons. But there always has been much more to RM than bush clobber. This remarkable Australian has also been an explorer, pastoralist, horseman, stockman, stonemason, leather craftsman, goldminer, well-sinker, author, businessman and historian - excelling at all, and more.

It is his adaptability - combined with unbridled determination, self-belief and faith in others - that stands RM out from the pack. Most people would have given up - or died - attempting some of RM's pursuits, especially during his time roaming the western desert with Bill Wade, an evangelist seeking to convert Aborigines to Christianity; most would not have the perseverance to succeed, let alone excel, at the seemingly impossible expeditions and projects he tackled; few who have tasted fame and fortune are able to discard the trappings for a simple life as did RM at the peak of his success; and many people who are practically skilled are not intellectually talented. Except the man who has become known worldwide as 'RM' and who is, surely, Australia's premier son of the soil.

He can, it seems, make just about anything, a talent he inherited from his father and which is today aptly demonstrated by his own sons. "From the earliest days when I had stood beside the bellows in my father's smithy, I had always been interested in making things with my hands," he says in his autobiography Beneath Whose Hand. Even as he approached his 95th birthday on May 24, RM was still occasionally pottering in the workshop on his Darling Downs property where, for years, he has made saddle dressing, quart pots, cow bells, spurs, leather goods and other traditional bush products.

Exquisite handiwork, especially with stone and leather, is one thing. But for someone who received little formal education (he left school at 14 - by his own admission, bottom of the class) he is well-read, articulate and, as he has demonstrated in several books, a gifted and compelling writer. He says the little schooling he had at least taught him "that the information to solve any problem can be found somewhere".

Full story: Issue 29, Jun-Jul 03

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R.M. Williams Summer 2004/5 Catalogue

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