Skip to comments.Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda Not Worth a Quid
Posted on 02/15/2014 11:42:37 AM PST by nickcarraway
Banjo Paterson achieved enduring fame with his ballads of bushmen, pioneers and workers. With celebrations taking place to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth, Keiren McLeonard explains why the poet never earned a cent from his most famous creation.
A century and a half after his birth, Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson is Australia's most beloved bard.
'Waltzing Matilda' echoes around the country and around the world when Australians come together.
But Paterson once confided to Queensland author and bushman Henry Lamond that he sold the rights to Waltzing Matilda 'for only a few bob'.
He goes straight to the core of the Australian ego. Banjo hated sentimentality. He hated emotional poems. He liked the man who stood on his own feetand that of course is the test of a man.
'I think about 15 shillings was all it ever brought me,' Banjo told Lamond.
When the poet died almost 50 years after writing the song, he still hadn't seen his creation, with its whimsical and dreamy tune, become a national hit.
In a poignant quirk of fate, his son, Hugh, witnessed its growing popularity when he went off to fight in the second world war.
'After his lifetime it really took on,' recalled Hugh. 'It started to take on very well during the second [world] war.'
'We were marching to it over in the Middle East. It was a very popular marching tune.'
The recollections have resurfaced from the ABC Radio archives in a remarkable but forgotten 50 year-old recording that features Hugh and Banjo's newspaper colleagues: crime writer Vince Kelly, cartoonist and illustrator Hal Gye and artist, sculptor and writer Norman Lindsay.
The recording has come to light as RN's Bush Telegraph travels to Orange, NSW, for a special broadcast from a cottage on the property Paterson was born on in 1864, 'Narrambla'.
Orange's oldest residence, Emmaville Cottage had fallen into disrepair before being restored by the local Rotary club.
Speculation is rife about whether the cottage is the skeleton of the original Narrambla homestead the poet was born in. But then, speculation and Paterson go hand in hand.
Original score of the song Waltzing Matilda IMAGE: .'WALTZING MATILDA' WAS NOT WORTH A QUID. (LANDLINE) Emmaville cottage 1 IMAGE: EMMAVILLE COTTAGE, BEFORE THE MAKEOVER. (ORANGE ROTARY CLUB) The balladeer helped create a sense of the Australian character after years observing and writing about bushmen, workers, pioneers and troops sent to conflicts he covered as a war correspondent.
Norman Lindsay could see in Banjo's 'rude' verses a clear reason for his national popularity.
'He goes straight to the core of the Australian ego,' Lindsay reflected in 1964. 'Banjo hated sentimentality. He hated emotional poems. He liked the man who stood on his own feetand that of course is the test of a man.'
'I think Banjo hit the very core of the Australian ego, the keynote to all his stuff, because it is hard, it's resolute. There's no pandering to self pity.'
'We often discussed the bush and country people,' continued Lindsay. 'He believed that isolation in the bush makes individuals of men.'
'Banjo did not like the city type in general.'
Emmaville cottage restored IMAGE: EMMAVILLE COTTAGE RESTORED (ORANGE ROTARY CLUB) Hugh Paterson insisted all the characters his father created were not based on individuals, but were composites of bushmen he met and old bush stories.
But bushman Bill Lewis, 90 years old when the ABC recording was made in 1964, insists he was Mulga Bill and Banjo was inspired by his shift from horse to bicycle.
'I met him on many occasions,' said Lewis. 'A real good smart all-round man.'
'Any part of the Territory or the back country of NSW, Mulga Bill's only gotta be mentioned. I'm well known everywhere.'
In a final reflection on his friend, Lindsay said that there will always be 'superior men who are aristocrats of the mind'.
'On those men civilisation exists. Banjo was one of them.'
I always liked that song. For a long time I thought it referred to a woman.
I learnt Clarence of the Overflow when I was in school...
Here’s the definitive version, by the inimitable
And don’t miss Eric Bogle’s “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” (WW1 Gallipoli Remembrance Song):
So did I, and probably most other people. It's actually quite an interesting story.
Thanks for the post.
Digged out Slim Dusty’s and Judith Durham’s (what a voice!) versions.
Like most I guess, boy, was I wrong about what the song is about.