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Waltzing Matilda: The secret history of Australia's favourite song Kindle Edition
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The Secret History of Australia's Favourite Song
by Dennis O'Keefe
Waltzing Matilda is Australia's most loved song. Its story weaves its way in a complex web of national history. Surprisingly, the derivation of "waltzing" is from the German term "auf der Waltz" meaning "on the tramp" while the "Matildas" were female camp followers who accompanied the soldiers in the Thirty Year War. In the Australian vernacular "Waltzing Matilda" thus means to go walkabout, looking for a job, with your tools of trade and whatever keeps you warm at night.
The original was written by Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson at Dagworth Station in western Queensland in 1895. Its verses are from specific events that occurred during the 1894 shearers' strike culminating in the alleged suicide of Samuel Hoffmeister (the swagman) beside the Four-Mile Billagong near Kynuna in western Queensland. There in remote Queensland shearing sheds were burnt down by striking union shearers agitating to maintain wages, gain conditions and finally to get a foothold in parliament. A formative period often recorded as poetry in the "Bulletin".
Then how was it about a "jolly" swagman camped by a billabong asked by the troopers about a "jolly" jumbuck? This is a mere strand in Dennis O'Keefe's story of squatters, unions, violence, gun battles, intrigue, romance and conflict. A story that realistically weaves our Australian history from convicts to land ownership into a coherent whole.
Here is an Australian folk song synonymous with the country itself, like "La Marseillaise" for the French, "Danny Boy" for the Irish, "Flower of Scotland" or "Loch Lomond" for the Scots, "Land of Hope and Glory" for the English and "This Land is Your Land" for the Americans. And here is a book that tells it entertainingly and with feeling.
28 May 2012