Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, CBE (17 February 1864 – 5 February 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author, widely considered one of the greatest writers of Australia's colonial period.

Banjo Paterson
Banjo Paterson, circa 1890
Andrew Barton Paterson

(1864-02-17)17 February 1864
"Narrambla", near Orange, New South Wales, Australia
Died5 February 1941(1941-02-05) (aged 76)
Resting placeNorthern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation(s)Author, journalist, composer, clerk, poet
Alice Emily Walker
(m. 1903)
RelativesJohn Paterson (uncle)

Born in rural New South Wales, Paterson worked as a lawyer before transitioning into literature, where he quickly gained recognition for capturing the life of the Australian bush. A representative of the Bulletin School of Australian literature, Paterson wrote many of his best known poems for the nationalist journal The Bulletin, including "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889) and "The Man from Snowy River" (1890). His 1895 ballad "Waltzing Matilda" is regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem and, according to the National Film and Sound Archive, has been recorded more than any other Australian song.[1]

Early life

Paterson as a baby with his nanny, Wiradjuri girl Fanny Hopkins, mid-1860s

Andrew Barton Paterson was born on 17 February 1864 at the property "Narrambla", near Orange, New South Wales, the eldest son of Andrew Bogle Paterson, a Scottish immigrant from Lanarkshire, and Australian-born Rose Isabella Barton,[2] related to the future first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton.[3] Paterson's family lived on the isolated Buckinbah Station near Yeoval NSW[4] until he was five when his father lost his wool clip in a flood and was forced to sell up.[5] When Paterson's uncle John Paterson died, his family took over John Paterson's farm in Illalong, near Yass, close to the main route between Melbourne and Sydney. Bullock teams, Cobb and Co coaches and drovers were familiar sights to him. He also saw horsemen from the Murrumbidgee River area and Snowy Mountains country take part in picnic races and polo matches, which led to his fondness of horses and inspired his writings.[2]

Paterson's early education came from a governess, but when he was able to ride a pony, he was taught at the bush school at Binalong. In 1874 Paterson was sent to Sydney Grammar School, performing well both as a student and a sportsman. During this time, he lived in a cottage called Rockend, in the suburb of Gladesville. The cottage is now listed on the Register of the National Estate and New South Wales State Heritage Register.[6] He left the prestigious school at 16 after failing an examination for a scholarship to the University of Sydney.[7]


The Gladesville cottage Rockend, where Paterson lived in the 1870s and 1880s

Paterson was a law clerk with a Sydney-based firm headed by Herbert Salwey, and was admitted as a solicitor in 1886.[7] In the years he practised as a solicitor, he also started writing. From 1885, he began submitting and having poetry published in The Bulletin, a literary journal with a nationalist focus. His earliest work was a poem criticising the British war in the Sudan, which also had Australian participation. Over the next decade, the influential journal provided an important platform for Paterson's work, which appeared under the pseudonym of "The Banjo", the name of his favourite horse.[8] As one of its most popular writers through the 1890s, he formed friendships with other significant writers in Australian literature, such as E.J. Brady, Harry "Breaker" Morant, Will H. Ogilvie, and Henry Lawson. In particular, Paterson became engaged in a friendly rivalry of verse with Lawson about the allure of bush life.[9]


This portrait of Paterson is reproduced on the Australian ten-dollar note.

Paterson became a war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the Second Boer War, sailing for South Africa in October 1899. There he met fellow war correspondents Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling as well as British army leaders Kitchener, Roberts and Haig.[10]

His graphic accounts of the relief of Kimberley, surrender of Bloemfontein (the first correspondent to ride in) and the capture of Pretoria attracted the attention of the press in Britain.[2] An untouched box of chocolates, created by the British company Cadburys for Queen Victoria as a 1900 New Year's gift for troops serving in South Africa, was discovered in Paterson's papers at the National Library of Australia in 2020.[11] He also was a correspondent during the Boxer Rebellion, where he met George "Chinese" Morrison and later wrote about his meeting. He was editor of Samuel Bennett's Evening News from 1903 to 1908,[2] and his Town and Country Journal 1907 to 1908.[12]

Hiatus and military service

In 1908 after a trip to the United Kingdom he decided to abandon journalism and writing and moved with his family to a 16,000-hectare (40,000-acre) property near Yass.[5]

In World War I, Paterson failed to become a correspondent covering the fighting in Flanders, but did become an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France. He returned to Australia early in 1915 and, as an honorary vet, travelled on three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt. He was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force on 18 October 1915,[2] serving initially in France where he was wounded and reported missing in July 1916 and latterly as commanding officer of the unit based in Cairo, Egypt.[13] He was repatriated to Australia and discharged from the army having risen to the rank of major in April 1919.[14] His wife had joined the Red Cross and worked in an ambulance unit near her husband.[5]

Later life and death

John Longstaff's portrait of Banjo Paterson, winner of the 1935 Archibald Prize

Just as he returned to Australia, the third collection of his poetry, Saltbush Bill JP, was published and he continued to publish verse, short stories and essays while continuing to write for the weekly Truth.[5] Paterson also wrote on rugby league football in the 1920s for the Sydney Sportsman.[15]

In December 1938 Paterson was appointed Commander of the British Empire (CBE).[16]

He died on 5 February 1941.[7]

Personal life

Paterson with his wife Alice and daughter Grace, photographed by Lionel Lindsay

On 8 April 1903, he married Alice Emily Walker, of Tenterfield Station, in St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, in Tenterfield, New South Wales.[17][18] Their first home was in Queen Street, Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace (born in 1904) and Hugh (born in 1906).

Paterson had been previously engaged to Sarah Riley for eight years, but this was abruptly called off in 1895 following a visit to her at Dagworth Station in Queensland where she was visiting the Macpherson family. It was here that Paterson met his fiancée's best friend from school days, Christina Macpherson, who composed the music for which he then wrote the lyrics of the famous Waltzing Matilda. However, following this collaboration Paterson was suddenly asked to leave the property, leading historians to conclude that he was a womanizer and had engaged in a scandalous romantic liaison with Macpherson.[19][20][21][22]

Paterson died of a heart attack in Sydney on 5 February 1941 aged 76.[23] Paterson's grave, along with that of his wife, is in the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, Sydney.


Cover to Paterson's seminal 1905 collection of bush ballads, entitled Old Bush Songs

The publication of The Man from Snowy River and five other ballads in The Bulletin made "The Banjo" a household name.[24] In 1895, Angus & Robertson published these poems as a collection of Australian verse. The book sold 5000 copies in the first four months of publication.[25]

In 1895, Paterson headed north to Dagworth station near Winton, Queensland. Travelling with fiancée, Sarah Riley, they met with her old school friend, Christina Macpherson, who had recently attended a race at Warrnambool in Victoria. She had heard a band playing a tune there, which became stuck in her head and replayed it for Paterson on the autoharp. The melody also resonated with him and propelled him to write "Waltzing Matilda"[26] While there has been much debate about what inspired the words, the song became one of his most widely known and sung ballads.[27]

In addition, he wrote the lyrics for songs with piano scores, such as "The Daylight is Dying"[28] and Last Week.[29] These were also published by Angus & Robertson between the years 1895 to 1899. In 1905, the same publishers released Old Bush Songs, a collection of bush ballads Paterson had been assembling since 1895.[30]

Although for most of his adult life, Paterson lived and worked in Sydney, his poems mostly presented a highly romantic view of the bush and the iconic figure of the bushman. Influenced by the work of another Australian poet, John Farrell, his representation of the bushman as a tough, independent and heroic underdog became the ideal qualities underpinning the national character.[31] His work is often compared to the prose of Henry Lawson, particularly the seminal work, "The Drover's Wife", which presented a considerably less romantic view of the harshness of rural existence of the late 19th century.

Paterson authored two novels; In No Man's Land (later titled An Outback Marriage) (1900) and The Shearer's Colt (1936), wrote many short stories; Three Elephant Power and Other Stories (1917), and wrote a book based on his experiences as a war reporter, Happy Dispatches (1934). He also wrote a book for children, The Animals Noah Forgot (1933)

Contemporary recordings of many of Paterson's well known poems have been released by Jack Thompson,[32] who played Clancy in the 1982 film adaptation of "The Man from Snowy River". While having no connection to the movie, an Australian television series of the same name was broadcast in the 1990s.

Media reports in August 2008 stated that a previously unknown poem had been found in a war diary written during the Boer War.[33]


Bridge named after Banjo Paterson near Illalong

Banjo Paterson's image appears on the $10 note, along with an illustration inspired by "The Man From Snowy River" and, as part of the copy-protection microprint, the text of the poem itself.[34]

Artist Violet Bowring painted a portrait of her one-time neighbour Banjo Paterson, now hanging in Sydney’s Australian Club, and used as the cover illustration of a book The Best of Banjo Paterson, compiled by Walter Stone, published in 1977.[35]

In 1981 he was honoured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post.[36]

A. B. Paterson College, at Arundel on the Gold Coast, Australia, is named after Paterson.[37]

The A. B. "Banjo" Paterson Library at Sydney Grammar School was named after Paterson.[38]

The Festival of Arts in Orange, New South Wales, presents a biennial Banjo Paterson Award for poetry and one-act plays[39] and there is also an annual National Book Council Banjo Award. Orange also has an annual Banjo Paterson Poetry Festival.[40]

A privately owned 47-year-old Wooden Diesel vessel from Carrum, Victoria, was christened with the name Banjo Paterson and coincidentally, runs regularly up and down the Patterson River.[citation needed]

In 1983, a rendition of "Waltzing Matilda" by country-and-western singer Slim Dusty was the first song broadcast by astronauts to Earth.[41]

He topped the list of The Greatest of All - Our 50 Top Australians published in The Australian on 27 June 2013.[42]


A bust of Paterson in Banjo Paterson Park, Yass, New South Wales


  • The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895)
  • Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses (1902)
  • Three Elephant Power and Other Stories (1917)
  • Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses (1917)
  • The Animals Noah Forgot (1933)
  • Happy Dispatches (1934)
  • The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1961)
  • The World of 'Banjo' Paterson: His Stories, Travels, War Reports and Advice to Racegoers, edited by Clement Semmler (1967)
  • Banjo Paterson's Horses: The Man from Snowy River, Father Riley's Horse, Story of Mongrel Grey (1970)
  • Poems of Banjo Paterson (1974)
  • Poems of Banjo Paterson : Volume Two (1976)
  • The Best of Banjo Paterson compiled by Walter Stone (1977)
  • Happy Dispatches: Journalistic Pieces from Banjo Paterson's days as a War Correspondent (1980)
  • Banjo Paterson: Short Stories (1980)
  • Banjo Paterson's Old Bush Songs edited by Graham Seal (1983)
  • Banjo Paterson: A Children's Treasury (1984)
  • The Banjo's Best-Loved Poems: Chosen by his Grand-Daughters compiled Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie (1985)
  • A. B. Paterson's Off Down the Track: racing and other yarns compiled Rosamund Campbell and Philippa Harvie (1986)
  • Banjo Paterson's Poems of the Bush (1987)
  • Banjo Paterson's People: selected poems and prose (1987)
  • A Literary Heritage: 'Banjo' Paterson (1988)
  • Banjo Paterson's Australians : Selected Poems and Prose (1989)
  • A Vision Splendid: The Complete Poetry of A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson (1990)
  • A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson: A Book of Verse (1990)
  • Snowy River Riders: selected poems (1991)
  • Selected Poems: A. B. Paterson compiled by Les Murray (1992)
  • A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson: Bush Ballads, Poems, Stories and Journalism edited by Clement Semmler (1992)
  • Banjo Paterson Favourites (1992)
  • Singer of the Bush: The Poems of A. B. Paterson (1992)
  • Selected Verse of 'Banjo' Paterson (1992)
  • Banjo Paterson: His Poetry and Prose compiled by Richard Hall (1993)
  • Favourite Poems of Banjo Paterson (1994)
  • In the Droving Days compiled by Margaret Olds (1994)
  • Under Sunny Skies (1994)
  • Banjo's Animal Tales (1994)
  • The Works of 'Banjo' Paterson (1996)
  • The Best of Banjo Paterson compiled by Bruce Elder (1996)
  • Banjo's Tall Tales (1998)
  • From the Front : Being the Observations of Mr. A.B. (Banjo) Paterson: Special War Correspondent in South Africa: November 1899 to July 1900, for the Argus, the Sydney Mail, the Sydney Morning Herald edited by R. W. F. Droogleever (2000)
  • Mulga Bill's Bicycle and Other Classics (2005)
  • The Bush Poems of A. B. (Banjo) Paterson compiled by Jack Thompson (2008)
  • The Battlefield Poems of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson compiled by Jack Thompson (2010)
  • Banjo Paterson Treasury illustrated by Olso Davis (2013)
  • Looking for Clancy: Ballads by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson illustrated by Robert Ingpen (2013)
  • Banjo Paterson Treasury (2013)


Selected individual works


Short Stories


  1. ^ Arthur, Chrissy (6 April 2012). "Outback town holds first Waltzing Matilda Day". ABC News.
  2. ^ a b c d e Semmler, Clement (1988). "Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864–1941)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 11. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. pp. 154–157. ISBN 978-0-522-84459-7. ISSN 1833-7538. OCLC 70677943. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  3. ^ Percival Serle (1949). "Paterson, Andrew Barton (1864–1941)". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Angus & Robertson. Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2008.
  4. ^ "Yeoval Community Website". Archived from the original on 15 February 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "Bard of the Bush". Daily Mirror. Truth and Sportsman Ltd. 20 June 1956. p. 21.
  6. ^ "New South Wales State Heritage Register: Rockend Cottage later Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant". Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Semmler, Clement. "Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864–1941)". Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Archived from the original on 9 March 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  8. ^ "A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson". Australian Poetry Library. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  9. ^ Semmler, Clement. "Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864–1941)". Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Archived from the original on 9 March 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  10. ^ Paterson, A.B. (1935). Happy Dispatches (First ed.). Sydney: Angus & Robertson. pp. 18–76.
  11. ^ "National Library finds 120-year-old chocolates commissioned by Queen Victoria and owned by Banjo Paterson - ABC News". Archived from the original on 21 December 2020. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  12. ^ Australian Writers, L. J. Blake, Rigby Limited, 1968
  13. ^ "'BANJO' WON". Smith's Weekly. Vol. XXIII, no. 2. New South Wales, Australia. 8 March 1941. p. 16. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 17 December 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Paterson, Andrew Barton Service Records Item no 4028776". National Archives of Australia. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  15. ^ Headon, David (October 1999). "Up From the Ashes: The Phoenix of a Rugby League Literature" (PDF). Football Studies Volume 2, Issue 2. Football Studies Group. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2009.
  16. ^ "No. 34585". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1938. p. 15.
  17. ^ Banjo Paterson-His Life, Tenterfield Tourism
  18. ^ The Verse of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson Archived 7 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine Australian Bush Poetry, Verse & Music; Accessed on 6 June 2007
  19. ^ Forrest, Peter (2007). Banjo and Matilda : the story of Waltzing Matilda. Forrest, Sheila, 1953-. Darwin, N.T.: Shady Tree. ISBN 9780980351507. OCLC 225318439.
  20. ^ O'Keeffe, Dennis (2012). Waltzing Matilda : the secret history of Australia's favourite song. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781742377063. OCLC 780413544.
  21. ^ Benns, Matthew (31 October 2013). "Mistress: The true story of mistresses and their men. Chapter 8: The love triangle behind 'Waltzing Matilda'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 22 October 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Waltzing Matilda simply a love story say historians". Courier Mail. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  23. ^ ""Banjo" Paterson dead". The Sydney Morning Herald. No. 32, 171. New South Wales, Australia. 6 February 1941. p. 9. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 17 December 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  24. ^ Semmler, Clement (2007). Banjo Paterson: Collected Verse. Penguin Books. p. 4. ISBN 9780140146219.
  25. ^ "Series 02 Volume 195: A.B. Paterson - The Man from Snowy River and other verses, ca. 1895". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. State Library of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 17 September 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  26. ^ Parker, Derek (2009). The man who wrote Waltzing Maltilda. Woodslane Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 9781921606076.
  27. ^ Semmler, Clement (2007). Banjo Paterson: Collected Verse. Penguin. p. 5. ISBN 9780140146219.
  28. ^ "The daylight is dying [music]". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. State Library of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  29. ^ "Last week [music]: song". State Library of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 11 December 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  30. ^ "A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson". Australian Poetry Library. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  31. ^ "A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson". Australian Poetry Library. Archived from the original on 25 October 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  32. ^ "". Archived from the original on 18 March 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  33. ^ Campion, Vikki (18 August 2008). "Poet's works discovered in war diary". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 8 September 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2008.
  34. ^ "RBA Banknotes: $10 Banknote". Reserve Bank of Australia. Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  35. ^ Douglas, Barbara (1980). "A Tribute to Violet Bowring". Literature in North Queensland. 8 (3: Women's Issue): 53–74. ISSN 0817-458X.
  36. ^ "Australia Post website". Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  37. ^ "History". A.B. Paterson College. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Library". Sydney Grammar School. Archived from the original on 5 February 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  39. ^ Benson, Eugene; Conolly, L. W. (30 November 2004). Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English. Routledge. ISBN 9781134468485. Archived from the original on 22 December 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  40. ^ "Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival". Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  41. ^ Top 10 iconic Banjo Paterson Ballads Archived 16 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Australian Geographic, 17 February 2014
  42. ^ "Our 50 greatest Australians". PerthNow. 27 January 2013. Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 4 February 2018.


Digital collections

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