Thursday, July 30, 2009

Banjo Paterson (Thanks Gina)

I know who Banjo Paterson is. He wrote "Waltzing Matilda".

I did forget about him at one point. When I read about certain current Aussie celebrities naming their children Banjo, I thought they were naming it after the instrument. I didn't quite understand what the deal was with that. My friend Gina set me straight. Then she suggested I do an entry on the Banjo guy.

My mom has told me at least twice that "Waltzing Matilda" is a song about tea. Apparently this is what some tour guide told them when they were in Australia. I think tea is PART of the song. But I don't think it's the main plot.

I forgot the exact story, but I think it involves a swagman stealing a sheep and then dancing with the sheep. I think the sheep might be dead. It makes me wonder how the story might have progressed if the other characters of the song hadn't come along. You know what some people like to do with farm animals.....

I'm pretty sure Paterson wrote some other songs as well. I forgot which ones. I guess I'll find out soon.

I think he's on one of the Australian dollar notes. I forgot which one.

Well, let me start my research.

Lord Wiki has a photo of Banjo Paterson. He's pretty handsome. I do remember seeing him on money. I'm trying to figure out which one has him. I want to say the five dollar note, but I think that has Queen Elizabeth. Maybe Paterson is on the back?

Baby Banjo was born as Andrew Barton on 17 February 1864. He'd fit in well with my family. My new nephew's birthday is on 14 February. My dad's is on 19 February. My older sister's is on 22 February.

Birthday website time!

Paterson was an Aquarius.

He is an 11 in numerology. That's one of the MASTER numbers. It totally fits a guy who becomes famous enough to have his face slapped on a money note.

My favorite numerology website says this about the 11: The 11 is also known as the psychic's number, it's the most intuitive of all numbers and it represents illumination and deep insight. The 11 is also very sensitive, charismatic and inspirational.

As for the negative: 11's can be overly fearful, timid and impractical. They often walk the edge between greatness and self-destruction and they might indulge too much in self-criticism.

Does any of that fit Paterson? Maybe. Maybe not.

Paterson wrote "The Man From Snowy River". I forgot about that.

Lord Wiki says Paterson spent most of his childhood in a town called Binalong. It sounds a bit like Bennelong.

I'm looking at Google Maps now.

Binalong is about three hours south-west of Sydney. It's not too far from Goulburn...about an hour away. It's also pretty close to Canberra. We were in that general area. We could have visited Paterson's childhood home. Oh well. I guess we missed that. Maybe we'll return someday. I doubt it though. There's too many other places to go.

Ah...okay. Lord Wiki says the town is named after Bennelong. I thought that might be the case.  It's just a different spelling.

Paterson moved to the town when he was five.

He was born in a place called Narrambla. It's near Orange. Orange is actually one of the places we considered going to for our 2009 trip. At one point, I had us driving to Dubbo and visiting places like Orange and Parkes. See...there's way too many places in Australia that I want to go to.

Binalong is about three hours south of Orange. I wonder why the family moved.

Daddy Paterson was a Scottish immigrant. Mommy Paterson was Australian-born.

Lord Wiki says the family was related somehow to Edmund Barton. I wondered that when I saw that Banjo's real name was Andrew Barton. I thought maybe it was a coincidence, but I wasn't sure. I'm still not sure though. Lord Wiki might have made one of his mistakes.

The family left the town near Orange because Paterson's uncle died. They moved to take over his farm. Lord Wiki says this was in Yass. That's close to Binalong...about thirty minutes away. But I think Lord Wiki is trying hard to confuse me here.

Paterson had a governess for his early childhood education. Later he went to school. This happened once he could ride a pony. I guess he rode the horse to school.

In 1874, Paterson started going to boarding school at Sydney Grammar School. He'd be around ten years old then. Lord Wiki says he did well. Sydney Grammar School is the one near Hyde Park and the Australia Museum.

Lord Wiki says that at that time Paterson lived in a cottage in a Sydney suburb called Gladesville. It's about twenty-two minutes away from the school; and that's with modern transportation. Isn't that commute kind of long for a student? Did they not have boarding at the school itself?

Maybe Lord Wiki made a mistake. Perhaps Paterson moved there after he finished school; or towards the end of his schooling.

When he was finished with high school, Paterson went to work for a law clerk. He did that; and at the same time he did some writing. He started having his work published in 1885. That was in the Bulletin, the now canceled magazine that once contained Norman Lindsay's racist work. That's also the magazine that Donald Horne transformed.

What did Horne do again?

I'm trying to remember....

Oh..... I think he removed the part about it being for white Australians.

Paterson began using the name Banjo for his writing. He got that name from one his favorite horses. I wonder if it was the one who took him to the bush school.

Paterson was a nationalist.

I think nationalist means someone is patriotic. I'm reading what Lord Wiki has to say about it. There seems to be some potential racist overtones.

I know many people would argue that there is nothing wrong with having love for your country or ethnic group. I'm not sure if I agree or not. I was once very proud of being Jewish. I had extra love for MY people. Now I'm not like that. I don't see Jews as being any more my people than anyone else. I feel we're all fellow human beings.

I don't see anything wrong with waving a flag every now and then. I think it's great to love your country. I think the problem comes when you feel your country is superior to others; or there may be an excessive worry about being invaded by outsiders. I don't necessarily mean invasion as in war, but things like intermarriage or too many neighbors speaking a certain language.

There are Australians and Americans who worry that their countries are going to lose their whiteness. It would be a more sympathetic situation if they hadn't stolen the country from nonwhite people.

In 1889, Paterson published a pamphlet with his nationalist views. It was called Australia for the Australians. I wonder if I can find it somewhere online.

I just realized I've been spelling Paterson's name wrong. I had to go back and change it all. That was a pain.

In 1890, Paterson wrote "A Man From Snowy River". Lord Wiki says he captured the heart of the nation. I guess it was pretty popular. He'd be about twenty-six then. So he had some good success at an early age.

I'm reading what Lord Wiki has to say about the poem. He talks about nationalism; gives me a different perspective. For Australians at the time, there wasn't quite yet an Australian nation. It was separate colonies controlled by Great Britain. The Federation thing happened in 1901, so this was the decade living up to it.

I think I was picturing Paterson as the nationalists of today...keep immigrants out and keep us pure. But his nationalism was probably more along the lines of wanting unity for Australians and freedom from Great Britain.

And now I know which dollar note he's on. Lord Wiki says it's the ten dollar one. Here's something I didn't know. The full poem is printed on the note in microprint. It's some kind of security measure. That's pretty cool.

I think I'm going to go listen to some versions of the poem on YouTube.

The editing in this one is impressive. It uses scenes from the movie version of the poem. The narration is good too.

Here's Slim Dusty singing the poem. I prefer it being sung. I guess that's because I'm not a big fan of poetry.

Banjo Paterson published that poem and others in a book. It sold very well. Even to this day, it's still reprinted.

A couple of years after Australia became a federation, Paterson got married. He married Alice Emily Walker. They moved to Queen street in Woollahra. That's in Sydney, right?

Okay. Yes. It's right near Moore Park. I zoomed in on the map so I could see Queen Street. It intersects at Oxford near Moore Park.

The lovely couple had two children, a boy and a girl.

Besides poetry, Paterson also worked a journalist. He was a war correspondent for the Second Boer War in Africa. This was in 1899, before he got married.

For World War I, Paterson spent time in France as an ambulance driver.

He also traveled the world as a vet.

Is there anything this guy didn't do?

He died in 1941 from a heart attack. He was seventy-six, so he led a pretty full-length life. That's good.

I'm going to read about "Waltzing Matilda" now.

I was wrong. I thought the Matilda was the sheep. Lord Wiki says it's a bag slumped over one's back. I thought that was the swag.

I'm lost and confused.

There is tea-making in the poem, but I do think my mom's wrong about it being the main theme.

The poem was written in 1887. That's before he wrote "The Man From Snowy River". Then why did Lord Wiki talk about that one first?

The song version is known as the unofficial Australian anthem. When there was that vote to see which song should be the anthem, it came in second place.

Yikes, Lord Wiki is trying to drive me insane. Now he's saying it was written in 1895.

Maybe he wrote a draft in 1887 and then wrote the next draft in 1895?

Legend has it that Paterson was staying at a bush station in Queensland called Dagworth Homestead. The hosts played a celtic tune called "The Craigeelee". Paterson liked the tune and decided to write a song around it.

I guess he didn't copy the tune exactly. Someone named Christina Macpherson wrote the music to the song. Lord Wiki says she was probably inspired by a Scottish song called "Thou Bonnie Wood Of Craigielea".

I'm so lost. Is this the same song that inspired Paterson in the first place? I'm trying to imagine this scenario. Well, looking at the names....they do look alike. I'm going to guess it's the same song.

YouTube has a video of a guy singing it. It does sound a lot like "Waltzing Matilda".

I think I've watched this guy's videos before.

There's arguments behind the reasons for Paterson writing "Waltzing Matilda". Some thought it was a political statement of some sort. Other people say he was just trying to flirt with Christina at the Bush Station. Maybe she hummed the song, and then he hit on her by making up some lyrics?

Now here's where my mom might have gotten the tea idea. In 1903, the Billy Tea company used the song as its advertising jingle. That made the song even more popular.

Lord Wiki says in 1941, some Americans had the song copyrighted as an original composition. Yikes. Did they think no one would notice the song was an old Australian one? Well, there was no Internet in those days. I guess it would be easier to pull something like that off.

Oh wait. I don't get this. They were able to keep the copyright. And Australia had to pay the American company to play the song at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. What the hell? That is absolutely nuts.

I'm going to check out some version of the song on YouTube.

Here's a very weird version by Tom Waites. His voice is hard for me to get used to.

Here's Rolf Harris. His voice is adorable. The recording explains the meaning of the song. The video also has lots of cute Aussie animal photos.

Here's a boy's choir singing it....a bit haunting. I think choirs always sound a bit spooky; maybe because horror movies seem to use them in their soundtracks.

And here's Tina Arena. She sings very good.

Here's a parody of the song. It's Eminem inspired....pretty cute. My favorite part is around 1:28.

And here's another parody. I like this one a lot.

All right. Enough of that song for now.

Back to Paterson.

He wrote two novels....An Outback Marriage and The Shearer's Cult. Have any of you read them? Well, if you want to read the marriage one, it's online at Gutenberg. I've been reading Wuthering Heights online via Gutenberg.

They also have the Shearer's Cult. Maybe I'll read it someday.

There's a school named after Banjo Paterson. It's in the Gold Coast...A B Paterson College.

  I still keep spelling his name wrong.

Another famous poem that Paterson wrote is "Clancy of the Overflow". I think I've heard it before, but I'm less familiar with it than I am with the other songs.

The character Clancy pops up in "A Man From Snowy River". That's cool. I like when characters from one story make cameo appearances in others. Stephen King does that a lot in his novels.

I think I'm going to leave Lord Wiki now.

Where should I go next?

I think I'll visit the Australian biography dictionary thing.

Paterson had six younger siblings.

His nickname in childhood was Barty. I guess he didn't love that...otherwise he wouldn't have used the name of a horse as his pen name.

This website says he moved at the age of seven not five. Although maybe he moved when he was five, and then again at seven?

The bush school he went to was in Binalong. Maybe he lived in Yass and went to school in Binalong. Or maybe Yass is the name of the general area and includes Binalong.

Paterson was popular....well-liked.

He was good at tennis.

He loved horses.

Okay, I have some explanation now of his boarding school living arrangement. He lived with his grandma in Gladesville.

His first poem published was called "El Mahdi to the Australian Troops".

Paterson was definitely successful. He wasn't one of those poets who are finally appreciated after they die.

Here's a website for a Waltzing Matilda museum. It's located in Winton Queensland. Have any of you been to it?

Here's a website for a musical group called Wallis and Matilda. They play Banjo Paterson stuff.

Their site has the words to many (perhaps all?) of his poems. You can hear clips of Wallis and Matilda singing each song.

There's a Banjo Paterson restaurant. Their website plays really uplifting happy music. It makes me want to do something inspiring and magical.

If I'm reading this right, the restaurant is located in the house in which Paterson lived with his grandma.

It's believed that the building (called Rockend) was once an Inn. Then Paterson's grandma bought it in 1866. He came to live with her in 1874.

I like this restaurant. It has a whole vegetarian menu.

There's a Banjo Paterson Best Western Motor Inn. It's in Lakes Entrance. That's in Victoria, right? I think it's east of Melbourne?

Google Maps says I'm right. It looks pretty close to the Snowy Mountains. A person driving from Melbourne to Sydney might stay at this motel. Or maybe it would be out of the way a bit.

This website has a history of "Waltzing Matilda".

They say Paterson was traveling with his fiance. Her name was Sarah Riley. But that's not the girl he married. He married Alice Emily. What happened here?

This trip with his fiance happened in 1895. Lord Wiki said he had gotten married in 1903. I guess he had a love before Alice Emily.

Sarah and Banjo went to Queensland. They went to a property near Winton, the place that has the Waltzing Matilda Centre. Things are starting to fall in place in my little brain here.

The property was managed by a guy named Bob. Bob's sister was Christina Macpherson...that girl who helped write the famous song. She was an old schoolmate of Sarah's. Ah! And earlier I read that Banjo might have been flirting with Macpherson. I pictured him traveling alone and kind of having some fun while his girlfriend was not around. I figure most guys do stuff like this...many females too. But he might have been flirting right under Sarah's nose!

It was a rainy day.

Christina played that Scottish song. What instrument did she play it on? No one knows. Some say it was a autoharp. Others say it was likely a zither---some kind of string instrument.

All right. So Banjo is here with his girl. He hears her friend play a song. It's in his brain.

Then he goes on a walk around the property with Bob. They go to a watering hole. They see a dead sheep.

That could have been inspiration.

Four months earlier, something had happened that also might have led some inspiring to Paterson. There were some fights between Bob and the shearers. The shearers burnt lots of his sheep because they were angry. The police and bob pursued them. One of the shearers committed suicide by jumping into the water. No, wait. That's what happens in the song. In the Bob story, the guy shot himself. But maybe he fell into the water after shooting himself.

The writer of the website says exactly what I was just thinking. I was struggling to put it into words, but now I see he has done it for me: One aspect that seems odd is that the song gives the impression of remarkable sympathy for the plight of the working class in the face of the power of the land-owners and their friends the police. Did Bob and Christina Macpherson really enjoy hosting someone who wrote songs that romanticised their opponents?

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Can you imagine it? You invite your old school friend to visit your property. She brings her fiance. You tell them of recent battles you've had. Then that friend's fiance writes a song giving sympathy to your enemies. How did Bob and Christina feel about that?

Well, I guess she was okay with it. She did help Paterson tweak the song. Did they spend too much time with each other? Did Sarah get jealous? Is that why she and Banjo didn't get married?

Here's an ABC radio transcript about the history of the song. Apparently some historians are rewriting history. They've even written a book. Banjo and Christina: The True Story of Waltzing Matilda.

Peter and Sheila Forrest argue that the song is not an allegory for socialism.

I didn't realize it was supposed to be an allegory for socialism. And here my mom thought it was just about tea.

The Forrest people think "Waltzing Matilda" is just a fun song that helps represent Australia.

Peter Forrest says, I think we need to let "Waltzing Matilda" be. We need to say, "This is a simple little song, it simply means Australia. Let's not have it captured by any one section of opinion. Let's give it back to all Australians."

It's the Forrest people who believe that Banjo Paterson was just trying to flirt with his fiance's old school mate. Yeah. I can totally imagine that being true. But that doesn't have to mean the song completely lacks political meaning.

A professor named Ross Fitzgerald agrees with me. He says, It'd be almost impossible for him to ignore the reality of the shearer's strike, especially where he was at Winton, at Dagworth Station, because everybody would have been talking about it. I mean the strike was only defeated a few months before January 1895, so, whether it was consciously in his mind, which I would have thought it almost certainly would be, but it would certainly be unconsciously in his mind, so the two things aren't mutually exclusive.

Exactly. The attraction to Christina could explain the REASON for writing the song. But that doesn't mean the song is lacking some kind of deeper meaning.

This might not have been an angry passionate man who said I'm going to write a political song that makes people think! I'm going to push the idea of socialism.

It might simply have been a guy who used his songwriting skills to impress a woman he found attractive. And the property setting and current events could have inspired him to choose those particular lyrics.

I was about to quit this post, but I just found a whole website about Waltzing Matilda.

It has a drawing of Christina. She looks a bit angry.

The shearer who committed suicide was named Samuel Hoffmeister.

Sarah's family owned a property 2oo kilometers away from the MacPherson property.

I wonder how Banjo had met Sarah in the first place.

Cool. This page gives the answer. He met her through his law partner. They were engaged for eight years. Wow. Isn't that a long time? She was a cousin of Banjo's law partner.

I'm going to quit now. I'm horribly curious though about what happened with Banjo and Sarah. I also want to know how he met Alice Emily. I'm wanting celebrity tabloid crap here. That's horrible of me.