“Banjo” Paterson

In 1885, Paterson began submitting and having his poetry published in the Sydney edition of The Bulletin under the pseudonym of “The Banjo”, the name of a favourite horse.

In 1890, as “The Banjo” he wrote “The Man from Snowy River”, a poem which caught the heart of the nation and, in 1895, had a collection of his works published under that name. This book is the most sold collection of Australian bush poetry and is still being reprinted today. In his lifetime, Paterson was second only to Rudyard Kipling in popularity among living poets writing in English. Paterson also became a journalist, lawyer, jockey, soldier and a farmer.

Paterson became a war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the Second Boer War, sailing for South Africa in October 1899. His graphic accounts of the relief of Kimberley, surrender of Bloemfontein (the first correspondent to ride in) and the capture of Pretoria attracted the attention of the press in Britain. He also was a correspondent during the Boxer Rebellion. He was editor of the Sydney Evening News (1904–06) and of the Town and Country Journal (1907–08).

“Banjo” walking his daughter Grace to the Altar at Yaralla

In 1903 he married Alice Walker* in Tenterfield. Their first home was in Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace born in 1904 and Hugh born in 1906.

Considered one of his most famous poems, Waltzing Matilda, was written in 1895 and first published in 1903. The song has long been referred to as “the unofficial National Anthem of Australia”.

In 1905 he published a collection of bush ballads entitled Old Bush Songs.

In World War I, Paterson failed to become a correspondent covering the fighting in Flanders, but did become an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France. He returned to Australia early in 1915 and, as an honorary vet, travelled on three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt. He was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force on 18 October 1915, serving initially in France where he was wounded and reported missing in July 1916 and latterly as commanding officer of the unit based in Cairo, Egypt. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged from the army having risen to the rank of major in April 1919. His wife had joined the Red Cross and worked in an ambulance unit near her husband.

In Australia again, he returned to journalism. His third collection of his poetry, Saltbush Bill JP, was published and he continued to publish verse, short stories and essays while continuing to write for the weekly Truth. Paterson also wrote on rugby league football in the 1920s for the Sydney Sportsman..

He retired in 1930 and was created CBE in 1939.

At the time of his death on 6 February 1941 his reputation as the principal folk poet of Australia was secure. His body of work included seven volumes of poetry and prose in many editions, a collection The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson (1923), a book for children The Animals Noah Forgot (1933), and an anthology The Old Bush Songs (1905).

*Alice Walker was Dame Eadith Walker's cousin.

Join us at the museum on 7th April when the Bell Bird Bush Band will be entertaining us with some of the old Bush Ballads.
We have a 2-volume set of "Banjo's" works as well as his children's book, "The Animals Noah Forgot", in our extensive library, where you are welcome to drop in and browse.

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