“Banjo” Paterson, who wrote the words for Waltzing Matilda in 1895, died on this day in 1941 as a result of a heart attack.
Waltzing Matilda tells the story of a swagman – a poor homeless man travelling on foot carrying his possessions in a “swag” slung over his back. This itinerant bloke commits suicide to escape arrest after he was caught by the authorities with a stolen sheep on a rich man’s property.
This song is famous for being Australia’s “unofficial national anthem.”
When it was one of four songs in a plebiscite to choose the official national song, I was one of the 28% who voted for it.
“Waltzing Matilda” is probably based on an incident at Combo Waterhole.
I visited the place when I was much younger and met one of the locals who confirmed for me that I was in fact at the place where “the swaggy took his jump.”
At that time the National Safety Council had placed a sign there with detailed instructions on how to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation.
How does it come to pass that the story of a homeless man who kills himself still represents the soul of Australia for very many Australians?
Lest we forget the lives of men.
Geoff Fox, January 6th, 2020, Terra Nullius.