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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Waltzing Matilda and how it all started

I have been a fan of Waltzing Matilda since I first heard it in school. I was 10 and loved the new words - billabong, Coolibah, billy, etc - that you would never ever hear anyone speak in India. In Australia, the song, originally written by Banjo Patterson in the 1890s, is an identity. "It's the unofficial National Anthem," one Aussie notes. In his book, The Fair Dinkum Queensland Exposed! John Morris writes that the swagman (something like a tramp) who stole a sheep (jumbuck) was in reality a trade unionist who shot himself by the waterhole (billabong) during the Great Shearers' strikes in the 1890s. It could have been one Samuel Hoffmeister, who is believed to have done more than steal a sheep – he burned a woolshed to the ground! 

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