New book sheds light on Waltzing Matilda mystery

Waltzing Matilda book charts creation of Australia's 'accidental anthem'


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A new book sheds light on the history of Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda.

A new book sheds light on the history of Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda.

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The book celebrates the 'forgotten women' behind the ballad

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Perhaps surprisingly, there were no eggs thrown when barrister-cum-author Benjamin Lindner finished his keynote address at the Winton Writers' Festival.

Winton's famous North Gregory Hotel has a proud place in Australian folklore as the site where, on April 6, 1895, the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda was first performed.

Since 2012 that April 6 anniversary has been celebrated as Waltzing Matilda Day.

But in his recently published book Waltzing Matilda - Australia's Accidental Anthem, Mr Lindner said this exact date might need a re-think.

Part of Mr Lindner's book focuses on the chance meeting at Dagworth Station between Banjo Paterson, his then-fiancee Sarah Riley and musician Christina Macpherson.

"All three converge on Winton and Dagworth Station, with Sarah Riley introducing Banjo to Christina," Mr Lindner said.

"Christina played the tune on an autoharp and Banjo thinks, 'I can write some words to that'."

Mr Lindner used historical records to track the movements of the three, discovering in the process that, as of April 1895, the song likely hadn't been written yet.

"When I looked at the chronology and compared it to the folklore, I found that there has been talk of the 6th of April 1895 as the date when the song was first performed in public at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton," he said.

"Just by matter of simple logic, you couldn't have had the song performed four months before it was written. That was the point of my keynote address."

Mr Lindner stressed that the exact date of the performance was not as important as celebrating the song.

"I didn't go there as this bloke from Melbourne telling them to move Waltzing Matilda Day to another date," he said.

"You might celebrate it in August, or another time. It really doesn't matter, it's wonderful to have the song celebrated in any event."

Mr Lindner said his book was also a celebration of the often-forgotten women behind Waltzing Matilda.

"Celebrating the women of Waltzing Matilda is a more important issue than the date," he said.

"There's a huge number of people who don't know who composed the music. It wasn't just Christina Macpherson, if it wasn't for Sarah Riley's introduction to Banjo, the song wouldn't have been written."

Although his findings might ruffle a few feathers, Mr Lindner said it had been well received in Winton.

"There were no eggs thrown at me," he said.

"I wasn't carried out of town on anyone's shoulders, but I think the audience recognised that controversy and conversation are good things to have.

"I've only received positive feedback so far."

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