View Full Version : Waltzing Matilda

Wayne Lomman
12-18-2017, 9:46 PM
Fred Skelly has been wondering why Waltzing Matilda nearly got up as Australia's national anthem when we chose Advance Australia Fair. I suspect it was put up as a bit of a red herring to provide context for more serious contenders. However, it does remain a much loved Australian anthem, originally written by Banjo Patterson against the backdrop of severe economic depression in the 1890's and put to music later. It combines themes of the bush, freedom, petty crime and outwitting authority and privilege. What's not to like in that list?

To understand the song, it helps to know that a swag-man was an itinerant worker of variable reliability, a billabong is not surf wear nor illegal substance equipment but an oxbow lake, a coolabah tree is a shady species of eucalypt that grows where few other shade trees survive, a billy is not illegal substance equipment either but rather is a tin can with a handle for cooking everything as well as making tea, a matilda is your swag which is a bundle of all your belongings carried at an angle across the shoulders, and waltzing with your matilda is going on the road working from place to place, camping where you can and getting food however you can. A jumbuck is a sheep, a tucker-bag is where you carry your food (its a tucker-box if you have wheeled transport and has become the esky these days). The squatter in this story is someone who has decided that the colonial government is too slow handing out selections and has grabbed land unilaterally. They were not well liked...

So it is really another of those bush anthems that most Australians identify with despite being one of the more urban nations on the planet! Cheers

Mel Fulks
12-18-2017, 9:57 PM
I've always liked it ...wistful ,and bitter sweet.

Jim Becker
12-19-2017, 9:00 PM
I remember learning that song in elementary school chorus. :) (A LONG time ago...of course)

Frederick Skelly
12-20-2017, 11:49 AM
Thank you Wayne.
You're right - what's not to like?

Keep 'em coming Sir!


Art Mann
12-20-2017, 3:20 PM
I first became familiar with the song through a performance of the fabulous Australian acoustic guitar picker, Tommy Emmanuel. He explained the history of the song before playing it on a video I watched. If Tommy weren't such a nice guy, I would swear he sold his soul to the devil to be able to play like he does. I haven't heard anyone on earth play like him - and I have seen a lot of guitar pickers.

Ken Fitzgerald
12-20-2017, 3:56 PM
Music in the form of folk music has always has always been special to me. 3 years ago before our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia, NZ and Fiji, I listened to this song, another Australian song "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and others before we went to Australia. Seeing the Australian Outback and Sydney Harbor meant a whole lot more to me having heard the folk songs which provided some historical and social background.

Wayne Lomman
12-20-2017, 10:54 PM
Ken, you touched on another reason why I like this forum. I am highly unlikely to ever travel to North America. Talking to you guys on this forum gives me an insight into your culture that I can't get otherwise.

Art, Tommy Emmanuel is truly amazing.

Another guy who is legendary in his portrayal of Australian culture is Paul Kelly. For those of us who may have done the odd rash thing in our lives, try 'Dumb Things'. For those of us looking for something both spine tingling and inspirational, listen to his a capella rendition of Psalm 23 called 'Meet Me in the Middle of the Air'. He also co-wrote the iconic songs 'Treaty' and 'From little things, big things grow' which tell some of the story about the reprehensible treatment of indigenous Australians.

Rich Engelhardt
12-21-2017, 5:57 AM
I first hear the song in the movie - On The Beach.

Possibly the most depressing (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053137/?ref_=ttls_li_tt) movie ever made by a huge star (Gregory Peck)
If you've never seen the movie, I highly recommend it.
It's a very good movie, but, it will really drag you down - so - make sure you cue up Rudy and watch that right after ;).

Wayne Lomman
12-21-2017, 6:02 AM
Rich, I have to agree with you about On The Beach. I saw it so long ago I can hardly remember anything about it other than the lingering depression afterwards. Cheers

Chet R Parks
12-21-2017, 7:23 AM
Johnny Cash sings Waltzing Matilda and explains the words while he's singing Waltzing Matilda - Johnny Cash Johnny Cash Infocenter • 389K views (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL4v7UrqcF4) I visited Australia and New Zealand in 1971, spent a month there, not nearly enough. Beautiful country and people. The opera house was still under construction. The shells were up but that's about it. I watch as much as I can find about NZSAS1. As former military I tip my hat to them, most likely the best of the best with Willie Apiate VC as a first class example of humility.

Wayne Lomman
12-21-2017, 5:23 PM
Chet, you will be pleased to know that the Sydney Opera House did get finished! New Year's Eve there are huge celebrations on and around Sydney Harbour, the bridge and the opera house. There are fireworks on 'The Coat Hanger' and the harbour and live music everywhere by leading contemporary musicians. It's broadcast live on ABC Australia. Cheers

Chet R Parks
12-21-2017, 5:48 PM
Thanks but I knew that it got finished. I really liked our visit there (it was our honeymoon). I remember you had a lottery going on at that time to pay for it's completion. If I hadn't just got married I would have stayed if they would have left me :rolleyes:. I follow the happenings in Australia/New Zealand pretty closely, fascinating places. I know they are two different places so I don't mean to offend you by putting them together. Love your little stories and sorry I didn't meant hijack the original post Hope all is well with you and your family.

Chris Parks
12-21-2017, 6:03 PM
An interesting fact about squatters and swaggies was how the swaggies knew who would give them work and a feed when they needed it. Apparently they carried chalk and had a "language" of signs that they would write on gate posts etc to let their fellow wanderers know if the squatter was a good bloke or not. A really good series of books was written based on that period of Australian life featuring a half caste aboriginal detective called Napolean Bonaparte written by Arthur Upfield and they capture the essence of the Australian outback wonderfully.

Chet, my apologies, I owe you an email and have forgotten all about it.

Chet R Parks
12-21-2017, 6:24 PM
Chris, no apologies necessary, everything is good. I'll have to check out Arthur Upfield, thanks.

Mel Fulks
12-21-2017, 6:43 PM
Chris ,that is interesting. I had heard of transients doing that in USA ,especially during the depression.

Mike Cutler
12-22-2017, 6:15 PM

Very cool. Thank you.

I was last in Australia in Feb' of '93. If I could have figured out a way to stay, I'd have never left. Stunning place. I've had an Australia fiver in my wallet ever since, just to remind me to go back again.
Made it to Tasmania during that trip also. Very pretty. I gotta get back.
I flew back to the states the day the WorldTrade Center was bombed. That was an interesting day.

Ken Fitzgerald
12-22-2017, 7:22 PM
We have been to Australia once and New Zealand twice. Like Mike, if I could, I'd have remained there. Love the country and the friendliness of the people. We actually were in Tasmania, Hobart and the surrounding area for a couple days. Dearly loved the town there.

In Sydney, we were on a boat tour of Sydney harbor and got photographs of the park around Government House. When I arrived home from our trip to Australia, an older female cousin of mine sent me photographs of my Dad and his Australian girl friend taken in that same park around Government House . My father (in the US Navy) was on an LCI during WWII and fought in the South Pacific often with Australian soldiers. One of the few stories he told of his service was about an Australian soldier's comments as the crew of the LCI landed them on a Japanese sniper infested beach in the South Pacific.