Man Who Wrote Waltzing Matilda - Banjo Paterson
Banjo Paterson - His Life and Poetry
by Dereck Parker
J. B. `Banjo Paterson was not simply the author of the words of `Waltzing Matilda, Australias unofficial national anthem, and many other classic ballads such as `The man from Snowy River and `Clancy of the Overflow. Though it is now almost forgotten, he was a first-rate war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald. His dispatches from the Boer War are as vivid and exciting to read today as when they were frantically scribbled under the guns of Boer sharp-shooters, and delivered on daring rides from the front to the nearest telephone office. He was a friend of `Breaker Morant, whose notorious trial and execution was one of the sensations of that war. He was also an expert horseman, a man who knew everything there was to be known about horses and horse-racing, winning prizes at polo matches and race meetings.
Returning from South Africa, The Banjo (as he always signed himself) worked for Sydney newspapers, and travelled to China and England (where he stayed with his friend, the poet Rudyard Kipling), and for a while led a relatively sedentary life as editor of The Sydney Evening News. At the outbreak of World War One, he failed to get accreditation as a war correspondent, and served as an ambulance driver in France, and finally to Egypt where he headed a team of rough-riders and trained horses. Major Paterson came back to Sydney to edit The Sportsman and the earliest collection of traditional bush songs, and to become a popular and well-known broadcaster in the early days of radio. By the time he died everyone in Australia knew the verses of `Waltzing Matilda but scarcely anyone could have told you they had been written by `Banjo Paterson as he had sold the copyright outright for five pounds!