ANDREW BARTON ‘BANJO’ PATERSON was born in Narrambla, New South Wales, on 17 February, 1864.
He lived in the city for most of his life, yet he became wildly famous in the colonies for the poems and stories he wrote about life in the Australian outback.
Just before the turn of the century he composed “Waltzing Matilda”, the much-loved ballad about a swagman who drowned himself in a billabong.
He also wrote The Man from Snowy River, a collection of verses (including the poem by the same name) that sold out of its first edition in a week.
The stories he created about the lives and struggles of bushmen, shearers and drovers in rural farm country struck a chord with Australians.
“This image of Australia, which by the beginning of the 20th century was already one of the most urbanised countries in the world, obviously appealed to a population that liked to present itself as hard-working, laconic, and not wanting to take itself too seriously,” says Dr David McCooey, associate professor of literary studies at Deakin University, Victoria.
“Also, the ‘settler’ generations were dying out, so there was a moment to romanticise those people and their history,” he adds.
Romanticising the outback?
Banjo grew up in the Yass region in southern NSW, but he left the area at age 10 to finish his schooling in Sydney.
In his twenties he found work as a lawyer, then as a journalist.
It was around this time he also started publishing poems under the pseudonym ‘the Banjo’ in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail.