The secret history of Australia's favourite song
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Australians know Waltzing Matilda, written by our most popular poet Banjo Paterson, as our most loved song and unofficial national anthem. What Australians don't know is that their song is embroiled in a web of secrecy, violence and a triangular love affair. Written at a pivotal time in Australia's history, Waltzing Matilda is as important to Australian culture as events like the Eureka Stockade and the story of Ned Kelly.
In the middle of remote Queensland, shearing sheds were being burnt to the ground by striking union shearers, amid violent gun battles and sheep being burnt to death. A swagman mysteriously died beside a remote billabong, possibly shot by the squatter or one of the three policemen. Then a secret deal was done by unionists to conceal the truth of the swagman's death. Banjo Paterson becomes entangled in a love affair that destroys the lives of two women. This is the story of Waltzing Matilda.
Although various authors and historians have written about Waltzing Matilda, mostly they have been influenced by their own political leanings. Generally, the left side of politics claim the song is a political allegory and the conservatives claim Waltzing Matilda is nothing but a 'meaningless little ditty'. All of them have neglected to consider in general that Banjo Paterson, like a lot of successful men, was a womaniser.
One hundred and fifteen years after the writing of Waltzing Matilda, Australians continue to be fascinated with the song and sing it proudly wherever they meet to celebrate. Given the facts outlined in this story, they will be further captivated and embrace the song for decades to come.
- Allen & Unwin, April 2012
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