The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 22. Waltzing Matilda

22. Waltzing Matilda
Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson & Henry Lawson — 960 x 690 mm
© Robert Morgan


Born at Narrambla, near Orange, New South Wales, ‘Barty’ Paterson or ‘Banjo’ Paterson, as he was variously known, was educated at Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney where he studied law.

While working as lawyer Paterson began to write poetry.  In the 1880s his poetry, under the pseudonym ‘The Banjo’, started to appear in the Bulletin. ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ appeared in 1889 and in 1895 ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was written and the best selling The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses was published.

Paterson left the law in 1900 and became a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald. For the next thirty years he combined the careers of journalist and poet.  In 1902 he published a second volume of poems Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses. At the same time he was a correspondent covering the South African War.

He returned to Australia in 1904, edited the Sydney Evening News (1904-06), published a collection of bush songs Old Bush Songs in 1905, wrote a novel An Outback Marriage (1906), edited the Town and Country Journal (1907-08), then sold the rights to his poetry and bought a property on the upper Murrumbidgee.

With the outbreak of World War I, Paterson went to Europe hoping to become a war correspondent.  In 1917 he published Saltbush Bill, J. P. And Other Verses and continued to publish verse, short stories and children’s poems until the 1930s.  He died in Sydney on 5 February 1941.  Today he is Australia’s most widely known popular poet.

HENRY LAWSON (1867-1922)

Born at Grenfell, New South Wales on 17 June 1867, Henry Lawson had a difficult childhood.  He was born on the goldfields, received little education, and, as the eldest child in a large family, was expected to assume many of the family’s psychological and physical burdens.  His parents separated in 1883 and Lawson moved to Sydney with his mother.  In 1887 Louisa Lawson bought a newspaper called the Republican and it was here that Lawson’s first prose writing was published.  That same year the Bulletin published Lawson’s first poem and in 1888 it published his first short story.

Lawson’s talents as a popular poet and writer of short stories blossomed between 1888 and 1892.  It was during this time that he wrote ‘Andy’s Gone With Cattle’, ‘The Roaring Days’, ‘The Drover’s Wife’ and ‘The Bush Undertaker’.  In 1892, at the expense of the Bulletin, he walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back.  Partly as a result of this journey Lawson became acutely conscious of the hardships of bush life.

Lawson’s first collection of stories – Short Stories in Prose and Verse – appeared in 1894 and it was followed in 1896 by While the Billy Boils and In the Days When the World Was Wide. The latter two books heralded the beginning of a long and intimate relationship with the publishing house of Angus & Robertson.

Lawson continued to write prolifically until about 1905.  After that his life became increasingly tragic as he drifted into alcoholism and insanity.  For nearly fifteen years he was constantly in and out of gaol.  He died at Abbotsford, New South Wales on 2 September 1922.

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