Melbourne Daily Photo

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Waltzing Australia

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Australia Day - Let's Go Waltzing!

Today (26th January) is Australia Day, a public holiday. Many people like to have a "long weekend" and so would have taken the Monday off. Bit hard to do though when the 26th falls on a Wednesday! One of the most well-known, and best loved Australian songs is "Waltzing Matilda" - written by one of our most famous poets - Banjo Patterson.

So famous in fact, his face appears on the $10 note along with the words to his "Man From Snowy River"! And a drawing of a Snowy River horseman. - How many people have their poetry printed on their country's bank notes?

A bush poet, journalist and writer, Andrew Barton "Banjo" Patterson was born on 17 February 1864, near Orange in NSW, and died at the ripe old age of 76, just 12 days short of his 77th birthday on 5 February 1941.

Growing up on a station close to the main route between Melbourne and Sydney at Illalong near Yass, drovers, Cobb & Co. coaches, and bullock teams were part of his childhood and became familiar sights to him. Seeing horsemen from the Snowy Mountains country and Murrumbidgee River area taking part in picnic races and polo matches, gave him a fondness for horses and inspired his writings -

"There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses -- he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray..."

- So starts the immortal poem ("The Man From Snowy River") by the Banjo which most Australian school children of yesteryear learnt, along with "Clancy Of The Overflow" -

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".

A movie titled "The Man From Snowy River" was made in 1982, and who could forget the stirring sight of One hundred and twenty stockmen in Akubras and Drizabones led by the man from Snowy River at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics?

During the Second Boer War, he sailed for South Africa in October 1899 and became a war correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Written in 1887 and set to music in 1903, "Waltzing Matilda" is often referred to as our "unofficial national anthem"

Sung by Slim Dusty - A great Australian country music singer-songwriter, he sold more than seven million albums and singles in Australia.

A swagman or swaggie - A bloke who travels around the country (often in the bush) in search of work.
Billabong - A pool or lagoon of water.
Jumbuck - A sheep
Squatter - The big boss who owns (usually) many acres of land.
Trooper - Police.
Swag - A bundly carried by swagmen over their shoulder or back containing their possessions.
Matilda - The name given to the "swag". There's a reason why a swag is called Matilda - the story goes something like this -

There was once a swagman called Joe who "waltzed" ie, travelled far and wide around Australia for many years, and his wife, Matilda accompanied him. Known as Mrs. Swaggie Joe, she was kind, well-liked and respected by all the other swagmen.

The years passed and together Joe and his wife grew old. One day, Joe woke up only to find his beloved Matilda had died during the night. The bush telegraph was busy as it always is in the bush, and the other swaggies came to pay their respects - and they named their swags "Matilda" in Matilda's memory.

Today's Quote: I'm the happiest little Vegemite this side of the Black Stump. Fair dinkum! - Australian (Aussie) slang.


Cezar and Léia said...

Congratulations, enjoy your Holiday and thanks so much for this happy cool video clip! :)

Leif Hagen said...

Happy Australia Day! I'll only go waltzing if Matilda will dance with ME!

Wayne said...

As school kids in Canada we learned the song and had all the slang explained to us.

I think it may have been Rolf Harris that introduced the song here. He was extremely popular in Canada and lived in Vancouver in the early 60s. I'm pretty sure he visited our school.

Anonymous said...

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Bill said...

Well researched. Thanks for sharing.
Happy Australia Day.

Lowell said...

My goodness, what a wonderful post...I've always liked the song, "Waltzing Matilda," but had no idea where it came from or who wrote it! So much fascinating information here. Thank you very much.

And Happy Australia Day to you and yours!

Leeds in Yorkshire daily photo said...

Happy Australia Day!
I guess there cannot be many here in the UK that do not know Waltzing Matilda, but I for one never knew of the Snowy River poem. I well remember the film The Man From Snowy River, I really liked it and saw it last a couple of years back.

Stefan Jansson said...

It's a great song. Nice writing here, enjoy Australia Day!

Luis Gomez said...

What a great post. Thank you. Enjoy Australia Day. I lived in Australia for a year and somehow feel Aussie at heart!

Unknown said...

Great post. Happy Australia Day!

James said...

Happy Australia day to you! Thanks for the lesson on Australia. :)

diane b said...

Happy Australia day. Good info here. I learnt something..never knew why the swag was called Matilda.

BlossomFlowerGirl said...

Cezar and Léia - Thanks, I'm glad you liked the video.

Leif - Matilda dances with everybody!

Wayne - Rold Harris was very popular here too. I think one of his most famous was 'Jake the Peg' I've known a few Canadians, but the ymust have lived in a different part of Canada - they never understood the slang.☺

Anonymous - It's happy I am that you enjoyed my post, thanks for the compliment. Can't help you with video games I'm afraid - hope you find what you seek.

Bill - Thanks - we had pretty good weather which always helps.

Jacob - Imagine if our national anthem gets changed again, wouldn't it be fun listening to the strains of Waltzing Matilda at the Olympics?

Paul - Waltzing Matilda seems to be the one song that almost everybody's heard. I know most Australians (of a certain generation though) know the words to 'Botany Bay'

Steffe - I've always loved the Banjo's poems and the rhythm to them.

Luis - You sound like you have good memories.

Evelyn - Thanks and a happy Australia Day to you to.

James - You make me sound like a school teacher.☺ Which is good - school teachers are brainy.

Diane - I heard that story many years ago I think I was around sixteen at the time. Happy Australia Day to you too.


Davine said...

I am so enjoying your posts. Not only do you give me more pride in my country but I am learning things I didn't know of have forgotten. Thanks. Can I ask what suburb you actually live in?? I'm in Eltham.

Lois said...

I really learned a lot from your post today and enjoyed the song. Thanks for sharing and Happy Australia Day!

Louis la Vache said...

Happy "Straya" Day!

«Louis» found the 'Waltzing Matilda' story to be very interesting!

Bergson said...

i wish you a happy Australia day

Jim said...

BlossomFlowerGirl, great Australia Day Post. Excellent work. I didn't have a traditionl barbecue this year for Australia Day, because I'm having a holiday in Tasmania. I have been posting and checking in on the blog remotely. Cheers.

Three Rivers, Michigan said...

Thanks for the post and the poems! Happy Australia Day. I love reading the historical notes you write!

Elaine Yim said...

Happy Australia Day! I love the Waltzing Matilda song too.

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Melbourne Daily Photo

Hello, I created this blog because Melbourne is my city and I want people to see what a beautiful place it is. So come with me on a journey of discovery as we traverse the dining precincts, the culture, the laneways and hidden gems that make Melbourne marvellous.