At the birth of Australia we had not one, but two giants of literature, Lawson and Paterson. Andrew Barton Paterson was born on 17 February 1864 near Orange NSW. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School, then he studied law at Sydney University and practised in Sydney.

Paterson started writing for The Bulletin in 1889. One of his fi rst works was “Clancy of the Overflow” and this was his first use of the name ‘Banjo’, a country racehorse. Critics described the work in such words as “The best jingle of snaffl e and spur combined with poetic treatment”. His second most popular work was “The Man from Snowy River”, of which 10,000 copies were sold in 1895.

In 1895, at Dagworth Station near Winton Qld, Paterson wrote the words for “Waltzing Matilda” to suit an old marching song.

He went to the Boer War and to China as a correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald in 1904 and 1906. In 1903, Paterson married Alice Walker, who bore him a son and a daughter.

He tried his hand at cattle farming at Coodra on the Upper Murrumbidgee, then at the outbreak of WWI he went to Europe in the hope of becoming a war correspondent. In 1916 he joined a remount (horse) service in Egypt.

After the war he continued to write up until 1936, his last work was “The Shearer’s Colt”. Paterson died in Sydney on 5 February 1941.

Critics argue over the different styles and compositions of Paterson and Lawson but, as with all things in life, the ultimate critic is the reader – and the enjoyment, wonder and romance one reads into their work.

Folklore tells us that Banjo Paterson Restaurant, Punt Road, Gladesville, was once owned by one of Paterson’s grandmothers and that he stayed in that house on school holidays.


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