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Banjo Paterson’s historic handwritten manuscript found and could soon come home

Daryl Passmore, May 6, 2018 7:10PM The Sunday Mail (Qld)

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Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and a statue of Banjo Paterson. Photo: John Andersen media_cameraGovernor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and a statue of Banjo Paterson. Photo: John Andersen


Reading level: green

The original, handwritten version of Banjo Paterson’s “Waltzing Matilda”could soon be on its way back to where it was written.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wrote to Banjo Paterson’s oldest living relative asking to discuss permanently* displaying the historic document in the outback town of Winton, where the song was written 123 years ago.

Almost no one knew the manuscript* existed until two weeks ago, at the official opening of the new Waltzing Matilda Centre.

A.B. “Banjo” Paterson’s great grandson, Alistair Campbell, showed Ms Palaszczuk the sheet of paper bearing the words of the iconic song in the author’s flowing handwriting.

######SUNDAY MAIL ONLY#######EMBARGOED Banjo Paterson’s great, great grandson and original  manuscript of “Waltzing Matilda” media_cameraBanjo Paterson’s original manuscript of “Waltzing Matilda”

“I couldn’t believe what I was holding,” the Premier said.

“More than that, I couldn’t believe it’s not on display.”

The Government hopes Mr Campbell, who lives in country New South Wales, will agree to the document* taking pride of place in the new $23 million Waltzing Matilda Centre, the first museum in the world dedicated* to a song.

The song, written at the Dagworth Station sheep and cattle property in January 1895, has become Australia’s unofficial national anthem, sung from battlefields to sports arenas around the world, including before the AFL Grand Final each year.

Banjo Paterson with wife Alice and daughter Grace, ca. 1900-1912. Picture: Lionel Lindsay (courtesy of State Library of NSW) media_cameraBanjo Paterson with wife Alice. Picture: State Library of NSW

Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett said it would be ‘’unbelievable’’ to have the manuscript in the town.

“This is the natural home for it.

“The whole culture* of the town has been built up around ‘Waltzing Matilda’,” Mr Baskett said.

“There were rumours (that the manuscript) still existed but nothing official. So it took us all a bit by surprise — a champion surprise.”

The original centre — built in 1998 after celebrations to mark the song’s centenary* — burnt down three years ago, which was very upsetting for the community.

The tiny town of Winton — which has a population of only 875 — was overflowing with 8000 visitors at the festival to open the museum.

“The atmosphere* in town is still buzzing,” said the mayor.

The centre is expected to become a major tourist attraction for outback visitors.

Mr Baskett said they had many offers of memorabilia*, including a collection of 1500 different recordings of the song from a barrel organ*, to records*, cassettes*, CDs and digital downloads.

27/09/2003. Christine Anu sings Waltzing Matilda prior to the game. 2003 Grand Final. Collingwood v Brisbane. MCG. DIGITAL IMAGE media_cameraChristine Anu sings “Waltzing Matilda” before the 2003 AFL Grand Final

Online news coverage of the opening was seen by an audience of more than 70 million people and generated* 4.5 million social-media views — from as far away as Sweden.

“We are over the moon with the publicity we’ve got,” the mayor said.


  • It is used as the quick march (to keep time while marching) of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, which is part of the Australian Army, and as the official song of the US 1st Marine Division, part of the US Army, remembering the time the group spent in Australia during the World War II.
  • Australian passports issued from 2003 have had the words of “Waltzing Matilda”hidden microscopically* in the background pattern of most of the pages for visas and arrival/departure stamps.
  • The song is about a traveller, or swagman, travelling on foot with his matilda, which is another name for a type of sleeping bag, also called a swag.
  • There are several versions of the words to the songs. Usually, the words of the first verse go like this: Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, Under the shade of a coolibah tree, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled: “You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”
  • The song was first performed on April 6, 1895 at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton, Queensland.


  • permanently: forever
  • manuscript: handwritten first version
  • document: written or drawn piece of information, sometimes on paper
  • culture: the ideas and customs of a group of people
  • centenary: 100th birthday
  • atmosphere: the feeling or mood
  • memorabilia: souvenirs or objects to remember something by
  • barrel organ: an old-fashioned musical instrument with a pipes and a handle to make noise
  • records: old form of storing music
  • cassettes: old form of storing music
  • generated: made happen
  • microscopically: so small can only be seen through a microscope


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1. Next up … “Waltzing Matilda”
“Waltzing Matilda” is an iconic Australian song. However, it may not be well known to people from other countries. Using facts from the article write an introduction for the song as if it was to be the next song played on the radio. Include details of when, where and by whom, it was written. What it is about and its significance in Australian culture.

Extension: Should A.B. “Banjo” Paterson’s great grandson, Alistair Campbell, donate the prized manuscript to the museum? Make a list of reasons FOR and AGAINST parting with the manuscript so that it can go on display.

After thinking through the reasons, imagine you were Alistair Campbell. What would you do? Write a letter responding to Annastacia Palaszczuk’s (the Queensland Premier) request to display the manuscript in the museum. Include why you have come to your decision. If you decided to allow it to be displayed, how would you like the museum to take care of it and protect it from damage? Are any conditions on the loan/purchase of the manuscript?

Curriculum links: English, The Humanities — History, Critical and Creative thinking.
Time: Allow 30 minutes

2. More of Banjo Paterson’s poetry.
Banjo Paterson has written many poems and ballads about Australian life. Choose another piece (other than “Waltzing Matilda”) of his work. Some suggestions are: “The Man from Ironbark”, “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle”, “Clancy of the Overflow”, “The Man from Snowy River”, “A Bush Christening” but you may find another that interests you. Read the poem carefully. Answer the following questions about the work:

  • What is the title of the piece?
  • When was it written?
  • What is it mostly about?
  • Are there any words in the poem that you have not heard before?
  • From the way these words are used in the poem, what do you think they mean? Check in a dictionary or online dictionary to see if what you thought is correct.
  • What evidence from the poem is there that it was written a long time ago?

Extension: While reading the poem, you will have created a visual image of what it is about. Using whichever art materials you have available (for example, college, pencils/markers, pastels or paint), create a picture of the visual image in your head. Write a title for your artwork. It could be the title of the poem you have read or it may be a line from the poem that stands out to you.

Curriculum links: English, The Humanities — History, The Arts — Visual Arts.
Time: Allow 40 minutes

Extra Resources: Art materials, access to other poetry by Banjo Paterson.

With a partner see if you can you identify all the doing words/verbs in this text.

Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write and VCOP

Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in history