Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"There is more to life than increasing its speed."
Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson
An Australian legend
Now, months later, I find I have followers in 18 countries. Who'd have ever thought, eh? Many readers have made wonderful comments about Australia, so I thought I would add some Aussie history from time to time. Sitting in my study, the engine room, are two complete collections of works by Banjo Paterson and another great Australian writer and poet - Henry Lawson. Both are legends.
I've read them both about five times and always been impressed. 'Banjo' is a nickname - named after a horse on his family cattle station. Also, other than a great body of work, he is probably well known for two things: he is depicted on the Australian ten-dollar note, and he wrote Waltzing Matilda - a rousing tune that will make the hairs rise on the back of any Aussie's neck. So, who was this guy?
Andrew Barton ('Banjo') Paterson (1864-1941), poet, solicitor, journalist, war correspondent and soldier, was born on 17 February 1864 at Narrambla near Orange, New South Wales, eldest of seven children of Andrew Bogle Paterson (d.1889), grazier, and his native-born wife Rose Isabella, daughter of Robert Barton of Boree Nyrang station, near Orange. His father, a lowland Scot, had migrated to New South Wales about 1850, eventually taking up Buckinbah station at Obley in the Orange district.
'Barty', as he was known to his family and friends, enjoyed a bush boyhood. When he was 7 the family moved to Illalong in the Yass district. Here, near the main route between Sydney and Melbourne, the exciting traffic of bullock teams, Cobb & Co. coaches, drovers with their mobs of stock, and gold escorts became familiar sights. At picnic race meetings and polo matches, he saw accomplished horsemen from the Murrumbidgee and Snowy Mountains country which generated his lifelong enthusiasm for horses and horsemanship and eventually the writing of his famous equestrian ballads.
Australian ten-dollar note
After lessons in his early years from a governess, once he was able to ride a pony he attended the bush school at Binalong. In 1874 he was sent to Sydney Grammar School where in 1875 he shared the junior Knox prize with (Sir) George Rich, and matriculated aged 16. After failing a University of Sydney scholarship examination, Paterson served the customary articles of clerkship with Herbert Salwey and was admitted as a solicitor on 28 August 1886; for ten years from about 1889 he practised in partnership with John William Street.
During his schooldays in Sydney Paterson lived at Gladesville with his widowed grandmother Emily May Barton, sister of Sir John Darvall and a well-read woman who fostered his love of poetry. His father had had verses published in the Bulletin, soon after its foundation in 1880. Paterson began writing verses as a law student; his first poem, 'El Mahdi to the Australian Troops', was published in the Bulletin in February 1885. Adopting the pen name 'The Banjo' (taken from the name of a station racehorse owned by his family), he became one of that sodality of Bulletin writers and artists for which the 1890s are remarkable in Australian literature, forming friendships with E. J. Brady, Victor Daley, Frank Mahony, Harry 'The Breaker' Morant and others. He helped Henry Lawson to draw up contracts with publishers and indulged in a friendly rhyming battle with him in the Bulletin over the attractions or otherwise of bush life.
By 1895 such ballads as 'Clancy of the Overflow', 'The Geebung Polo Club', 'The Man from Ironbark', 'How the Favourite Beat Us' and 'Saltbush Bill' were so popular with readers that Angus & Robertson, published the collection, The Man From Snowy River, and Other Verses, in October. The title-poem had swept the colonies when it was first published in April 1890. The book had a remarkable reception: the first edition sold out in the week of publication and 7000 copies in a few months; its particular achievement was to establish the bushman in the national consciousness as a romantic and archetypal figure. The book was as much praised in England as in Australia: The Times compared Paterson with Rudyard Kipling who himself wrote to congratulate the publishers. Paterson's identity as 'The Banjo' was at last revealed and he became a national celebrity overnight.
While on holiday in Queensland late in 1895, Paterson stayed with friends at Dagworth station, near Winton. Here he wrote 'Waltzing Matilda' which was to become Australia's best-known folk song. In the next few years he travelled extensively through the Northern Territory and other areas, writing of his experiences in prose and verse for the Sydney Mail, the Pastoralists' Review, the Australian Town and Country Journal and the Lone Hand, as well as the Bulletin. In 1895 he had collaborated with Ernest Truman in the production of an operatic farce, Club Life, and in 1897 was an editor of the Antipodean, a literary magazine.
His most important journalistic opportunity came with the outbreak of the South African War when he was commissioned by the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age as their war correspondent; he sailed for South Africa in October 1899. Attached to General French's column, for nine months Paterson was in the thick of the fighting and his graphic accounts of the key campaigns included the surrender of Bloemfontein (he was the first correspondent to ride into that town), the capture of Pretoria and the relief of Kimberley. The quality of his reporting attracted the notice of the English press and he was appointed as a correspondent also for the international news agency, Reuters, an honour which he especially cherished in his later years. He wrote twelve ballads from his war experiences, the best known of which are 'Johnny Boer' and 'With French to Kimberley'.
Paterson returned to Australia in September 1900 and sailed for China in July 1901 as a roving correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald. There he met G. E. ('Chinese') Morrison whose exploits he had always admired; his accounts of this meeting are among Paterson's best prose work. He went on to England where he met again his old friend of Bulletin days, the cartoonist Phil May, and spent some time as Kipling's guest at his Sussex home.
Back in Sydney in 1902, Paterson published another collection, Rio Grande's Last Race, and Other Verses, and in November decided to abandon his legal practice. Next year he was appointed editor of the Sydney Evening News. On 8 April 1903 he married Alice Emily, daughter of W. H. Walker of Tenterfield station. They settled at Woollahra where a daughter Grace was born in 1904 and a son Hugh in 1906. Paterson resigned his editorship in 1908. He had enjoyed his newspaper activities and had produced an edition of folk ballads, Old Bush Songs (1905), which he had researched for some years; he had also written a novel, An Outback Marriage (1906), which had first appeared as a serial in the Melbourne Leader in 1900. But the call of the country could not be resisted and he took over a property of 40,000 acres (16,188 ha), Coodra Vale, near Wee Jasper, where he wrote an unpublished treatise on racehorses and racing. The pastoral venture was not a financial success and Paterson briefly tried wheat-farming near Grenfell.
When World War I began, Paterson immediately sailed for England, hoping unsuccessfully to cover the fighting in Flanders as a war correspondent. He drove an ambulance attached to the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France, before returning to Australia early in 1915. As honorary vet (with a certificate of competency) he made three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt and on 18 October was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force.
Almost immediately promoted captain, he served in the Middle East. Wounded in April 1916, he rejoined his unit in July. He was ideally suited to his duties and, promoted major, commanded the Australian Remount Squadron from October until he returned to Australia in mid-1919. Angus & Robertson had published in 1917 a further collection of his poems, Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, and a prose selection, Three Elephant Power, and Other Stories, heavily edited by A. W. Jose to whom Robertson confided: 'It is amazing that a prince of raconteurs like Banjo should be such a messer with the pen'.
After the war Paterson resumed journalism; he contributed to the Sydney Mail and Smith's Weekly and in 1922 became editor of a racing journal, the Sydney Sportsman—an appointment he found highly congenial. In 1923 most of his poems were assembled in Collected Verse, which has been reprinted many times. He retired from active journalism in 1930 to devote his leisure to creative writing. He was by now a celebrated and respected citizen of Sydney, most often seen at the Australian Club where he had long been a member and where his portrait now hangs. In following years he became a successful broadcaster with the Australian Broadcasting Commission on his travels and experiences. He also wrote his delightfully whimsical book of children's poems, The Animals Noah Forgot (1933). In Happy Dispatches (1934) he described his meetings with the famous, including (Sir) Winston Churchill, Kipling, Morrison, Lady Dudley and British army leaders. He published another novel, The Shearer's Colt (1936), and in 1939 wrote reminiscences for the Sydney Morning Herald. That year he was appointed C.B.E. He died, after a short illness, on 5 February 1941 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His wife and children survived him.
By the verdict of the Australian people, and by his own conduct and precept, Paterson was, in every sense, a great Australian. Ballad-writer, horseman, bushman, overlander, squatter—he helped to make the Australian legend. Yet, in his lifetime, he was a living part of that legend in that, with the rare touch of the genuine folk-poet, and in words that seemed as natural as breathing, he made a balladry of the scattered lives of back-country Australians and immortalized them. He left a legacy for future generations in his objective, if sometimes sardonic, appreciation of the outback: that great hinterland stretching down from the Queensland border through the western plains of New South Wales to the Snowy Mountains—so vast a country that the lonely rider was seen as 'a speck upon a waste of plain'. This was Paterson's land of contrasts: 'the plains are all awave with grass, the skies are deepest blue', but also the 'fiery dust-storm drifting and the mocking mirage shifting'; 'waving grass and forest trees on sunlit plains as wide as seas', but the 'drought fiend' too, and the cattle left lying 'with the crows to watch them dying'.
Although coming from a family of pioneer landholders who, by their industry had achieved some substance, Paterson wrote for all who were battling in the face of flood, drought and disaster. He saw life through the eyes of old Kiley who had to watch the country he had pioneered turned over to the mortgagees, of Saltbush Bill fighting a well-paid overseer for grass for his starving sheep, of Clancy of the Overflow riding contentedly through the smiling western plains:
"While the stock are slowly stringing,
Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures
that the townsfolk never know."
In such lines as these Paterson lifted the settled gloom from our literature of the bush.
On the night of Paterson's death, Vance Palmer broadcasted a tribute: 'He laid hold both of our affections and imaginations; he made himself a vital part of the country we all know and love, and it would not only have been a poorer country but one far less united in bonds of intimate feeling, if he had never lived and written'.
Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Clancy's comment: one of my manuscripts includes works by this great talent. That same manuscript won an award in the Australian National Literary Awards. What's 'KY!' about? Mm ... a Muslim refugee girl who travels to Australia by boat, ends up in a detention centre and is bullied by Aussie girls for wearing a hijab, glasses and loving books. Her name is Rida. Boy, could she run. Here is an exert that will explain how I used Banjo's powerful work. The Clancy referred to in this piece is Clancy of the Overflow ...
"Bang!’ went his pistol. Rida took off and stayed with the other runners. However, only one girl was with her at the 200-metre mark. She was tall and an excellent runner. Then, suddenly from nowhere, Rida heard a voice. It was the voice of Mr Crute, reading some lines from her favourite poem as he’d done so many times in the Detention Centre. It was ‘The Man from Snowy River.’
“So Clancy rode to wheel them – he was racing on the wing
where the best and boldest riders take their place,
and he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring.”
The words were clear and inspiring and she mentally pictured the drover in the very movie she’d borrowed from Carmen. At the 300-metre mark, Rida focused on the finishing line with renewed confidence. She could see the white tape ahead and activated her plan. Mustering all her energy she pushed herself and moved ahead of her competitor. That’s when the voice returned.
“Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
and he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound.”
Again, Rida heard Mr Crute’s voice when she was metres from the tape. It was her favourite line from her favourite poem. The words were haunting, powerful and inspiring.
“And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.”
Seconds later, Rida broke the tape on the finishing line. She ran on for a few metres before she stopped, bent over and rested her hands on her knees to catch her breath."
Thank you, Banjo. Love ya work ... love ya work!-CT
Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)