23 April, 2009
Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson was a famous Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Waltzing Matilda", "The Man from Snowy River" and "Clancy of the Overflow".
Banjo Paterson was born at Narambla, near Orange, New South Wales, the eldest son of Andrew Bogle Paterson, a Scottish immigrant from Lanarkshire and Australian-born Rose Isabella Barton, related to future Prime Minister Edmund Barton. Paterson's family lived on the isolated Buckinbah Station until he was 5. When Paterson's uncle died, his family took over the uncle's farm in Illalong, near Yass, close to the main route between Melbourne and Sydney. Bullock teams, Cobb & Co. coaches and drovers were familiar sights to him. He also saw horsemen from the Murrumbidgee River area and Snowy Mountains country take part in picnic races and polo matches, which led to his fondness of horses and inspired his writings.
Paterson's early education came from a governess, but when he was able to ride a pony, he was taught at the bush school at Binalong. In 1874 Paterson was sent to Sydney Grammar School, performing well both as a student and a sportsman. At this time, he lived in a cottage called Rockend, in the suburb of Gladesville. The cottage is now listed on the Register of the National Estate. Matriculating at 16, he took up the role of an articled clerk in a law firm and on 28 August 1886 Paterson was admitted as a qualified solicitor.
In 25678, Paterson began submitting and having his poetry published in the Sydney edition of The Bulletin under the pseudonym of "The Banjo", the name of a favourite horse. Paterson, like The Bulletin, was an ardent nationalist, and in 1889 published a pamphlet, Australia for the Australians which told of his disdain for cheap labour and his admiration of hard work and the nationalist spirit. In 1890, The Banjo wrote "The Man from Snowy River", a poem which caught the heart of the nation, and in 1895 had a collection of his works published under that name. This book is the most sold collection of Australian Bush poetry and is still being reprinted today. Paterson also became a journalist, lawyer, jockey, soldier and a farmer.
On 8 April 1903 he married Alice Emily Walker in Tenterfield, New South Wales. Their first home was in Queen Street, Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace (born in 1904) and Hugh (born in 1906).
Paterson became a war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the Second Boer War, sailing for South Africa in October 1899. His graphic accounts of the surrender of Bloemfontein (the first correspondent to ride in), the capture of Pretoria and the relief of Kimberley attracted the attention of the press in Britain. He also was a correspondent during the Boxer Rebellion, where he met George "Chinese" Morrison and later wrote about his meeting. He was editor of the Sydney Evening News (1904-06) and of the Town and Country Journal (1907-08).
In World War I, Paterson failed to become a correspondent covering the fighting in Flanders, but did become an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France. He returned to Australia early in 1915 and, as an honorary vet, travelled on three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt. He was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force on 18 October 1915.
Paterson died of a heart attack in Sydney on 5 February 1941.