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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

R. M. Williams

1982 (printed 2005)
John Elliott

type C photograph on paper (sheet: 50.7 cm x 63.0 cm, image: 33.1 cm x 50.2 cm)
Image not available (NC)

RM (Reginald Murray) Williams AO CBE (1908-2003), saddlery, boot and clothing manufacturer, miner and author, moved to Adelaide from his birthplace near the Flinders Rangers when he was 10. At 15 he left his family to build a stone water tank in the desert before becoming a camelboy for the missionary William Wade. Travelling with Wade he learned bushcraft including leather plaiting from drovers and Aboriginal people living traditionally. Later, while building wells in South Australia's Gammon Ranges, he learned saddlemaking from George Smith, known as Dollar Mick, a self taught itinerant saddler. 'RM' set up his first factory at the back of the family home in Prospect, SA in 1932, making boots and pack saddles for cattle king Sir Sidney Kidman. The Prospect premises were to serve him until the early 1950s, when he opened a separate showroom for his wares. As his business struggled with debt, he bought a gold mine near Tennant Creek, Nobles Nob, which became one of the richest small mines in Australia. In the early 1950s, finding prosperity stressful, he relocated to Rockbar, a cattle station. Over the following decades, as he acquired more and more property, his company diversified into bush equipment, trousers and shirts. In 1972 RM Williams established a new bootmaking factory at Salisbury, SA, to which the clothing, leather and administrative arms of the company gradually moved. Combined national and international sales of RM Williams products now top $50 million a year; skilfully marketed, items from the clothing range have come to comprise a kind of unofficial Australian men's national dress. Its original premises in Prospect are now the RM Williams Outback Heritage Museum. Williams was a founder of the Australian Roughriders Association and helped form Longreach's Stockman's Hall of Fame in 1988. Editor of Hoofs and Horns in the 1950s, his books include Practical Skin Tanning and Fur Dressing (194-), Bushman's Handcrafts (1943), the autobiography Beneath Whose Hand (1984), and I Once Met a Man: True stories from one of Australia's greatest folk heroes (1989).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2005

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

John Elliott (age 31 in 1982)

R. M. Williams AO CMG (age 74 in 1982)

Subject professions

Business, trades and industry

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

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Thousand mile stare

Magazine article by Simon Elliott, 2004

John Elliott talks about his photographic portrait practice, including his iconic image of Slim Dusty arm-in-arm with Dame Edna Everage.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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