He was a solicitor, journalist,war correspondent, soldier, grazier but, most importantly, a poet. Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson CBE (1864-1941) was as responsible as anyone for codifying the imagery of the Australian as the archetypal bushman. Born in Orange on his father’s property, he was aged 7 when his family moved to the Yass district. He attended the bush school at Binalong until, aged 10, he was sent to Sydney Grammar School. During his time at Grammar, he lived at Gladesville with his maternal grandmother, Emily Barton, a cultivated woman who was a sister of Sir John Darvall, a member of the first responsible government of NSW. Coming from a family of pioneer landholders of some substance, his background was privileged but he made his own success. Paterson started writing verses while a law student; indeed when qualified, legal practice did not much interest him but he did help Henry Lawson with publishing contracts. The Bulletin magazine was his principal outlet; in April 1890 he published The Man from Snowy River, it captivated the nation. So many other famous works emerged including Waltzing Matilda, written in 1895 while on holiday at Winton in Queensland.
Paterson’s extraordinary life is set out in new biography; Banjo by Grantlee Kieza. Kieza is the author of twelve books including recent bestsellers Mrs Kelly, Monash and Bert Hinkler. At 582 pages, he’s produced a major work containing fascinating details, making it a great idea for Christmas and holiday reading.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free