AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson found romance amongst Australia’s rugged characters of its bush. His ballads – such as Waltzing Matilda – remain beloved today.

Street was articled to a Sydney solicitor before going on to found Street and Paterson as legal partners. His writings caught the eye of The Bulletin newspaper which championed themes of nationalism and traditional values.


Banjo Paterson, as a poet, enjoyed considerable levity while simultaneously creating poignant pieces about life in Australia’s bush. His inspiration came largely from nature itself while drawing influence from American cowboy poetry as well as traditional English poetry traditions.

Waltzing Matilda, perhaps Banjo’s most celebrated work, has since become an anthem for Australian nationalism. Written while staying at Dagworth Station owned by Christina Macpherson-Macpherson – wife of shearer Robert Macpherson who Banjo knew and shearer Robert Macpherson worked with – it may have been inspired by a tale about transient worker who stole sheep before drowning himself in a billabong.

One of the most engaging aspects of this poem is its use of alliteration; for instance, when writing “thunder of thread and the crash of horns” this creates an interesting rhythm within the poem. Additionally, another notable aspect is the sense of urgency created by its narrative narrator hunting down an elusive colt while at risk from being captured by an army of brumbies.

This poem, composed after the Boer War, is an emotive depiction of drovers’ last days on earth. Unfortunately, mechanized transport and its associated costs have forced many into retirement and out of business altogether.

This poem provides students with an engaging introduction to Australian folklore and history, serving as a great starting point. This lighthearted piece has even been made into movies and TV series! Students can research its story while creating posters or art projects depicting scenes from its song; using various media like painting, drawing, collage and mixed media as inspiration to make something beautiful that will stand the test of time in either their classrooms or homes.


Bush Ballad poetry tells stories about life in Australia with an upbeat tone, while still conveying something deeper about its spirit. Banjo Paterson’s writings had a significant influence on Australian perception of their country and continue to influence how singers, writers and artists describe Australia today.

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864 – 1941) was a journalist, poet and lawyer who found inspiration in Australia’s rugged bushland. His poems became synonymous with its landscape as part of Australia’s national identity; “Waltzing Matilda” in particular has become one of the nation’s best-known folk songs.

This song’s lyrics are inspired by events that took place at a sheep station in 1894. Christina Macpherson, wife of squatter Robert Macpherson and traditional tune player who later taught Paterson her craft played Christina the story and its traditional tune (now commonly known as Waltzing Matilda).

Before Federation, an unprecedented drought and shearers’ union strike caused many Australians to leave the outback for city life, taking with them its rich culture of bush ballads that documented gold rush, shearing industry and drover traditions with them. Robert Paterson was determined to preserve this heritage; so he began compiling an anthology of old bush songs which later evolved under his guidance and his fellow folklorist Graham Seal’s supervision.

Paterson wrote the charming tale of a young lad who resists baptism in Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, an impressionistic work about the days when drovers roamed across Australia’s outback landscape. Even today, as modernisation reduces drover numbers due to mechanised transport costs and maintenance fees on stock routes, this tale still speaks to readers and speaks directly about its subject matter.

The Man from Snowy River is an iconic bush ballad, first published in The Bulletin newspaper in 1890 and later republished with other works by Angus and Robertson in October 1895. A romantic paean to nature that resonates deeply today with many Australians; even featuring on our 10-dollar polymer note alongside a Wattle plant!

Short stories

Banjo Paterson is best known for his popular poems; however, his short stories also gained immense popularity. These tales often featured humorous anecdotes and vivid characters – making them both engaging and thought provoking. His work helped establish an Australian literary voice: romanticizing rugged individualism while exploring themes like friendship and resilience.

Once a solicitor, Paterson began writing for The Bulletin and other newspapers under the pseudonym of “Banjo.” By 1895 he had made two significant strides: writing Waltzing Matilda as well as publishing his first book of verse, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses – this landmark book sold more than 5,000 copies within four months and made Paterson famous across Australia; The Times even made comparisons between him and Rudyard Kipling!

Paterson spent much of his writing life traveling and reporting for newspapers in Queensland and Western Australia, writing extensively about his adventures while traveling outback areas of Queensland and Western Australia. Additionally, he composed many songs – most famously “Waltzing Matilda.”

Although Paterson’s poem wasn’t about any real event, its inspiration came from real events: in 1895 Paterson visited Dagworth Station in northern Queensland where he heard an amusing tale about a transient shepherd (“swagman”) who stole sheep before drowning himself to avoid arrest – an event which inspired what has since become one of Australia’s iconic national anthems, played and sung across Australia ever since.

Later, Paterson employed his journalistic talents as a war correspondent during the Boer War. His thrilling and balanced reports were eagerly read throughout Australia and he earned a reputation for fairness and professionalism during this period.

Following his military service, Paterson turned his hand full time to writing. His works were widely published by newspapers and magazines throughout Australia; additionally, he became a sought-after lecturer presenting wartime adventures to audiences from coast to coast.

In 1900, The Sydney Morning Herald sent him to cover the Boxer Rebellion in China. Although the conflict had passed when he arrived there, his vivid accounts of its fighting made him famous across Australia and made him an in-demand writer. Later he settled down in Sydney and focused on writing.

Personal correspondence

AB “Banjo” Paterson was more than just a poet; he was also an educated man with an appreciation of life’s finer things, from sport and socialite activities to an accomplished horseman. We at the Library are fortunate enough to hold onto some of his private papers which shed insight into who the man behind his words truly was; in this series of blog articles by Assistant Curator of Manuscripts Bronwyn Ryan we explore items from this collection.

Letters written to family members and documents related to his sheep station provide insight into everyday life before he became one of Australia’s finest bush poets.

Paterson was born in rural Narrambla in 1864 and spent his early years working on sheep stations (ranches) throughout central NSW. Here he gained inspiration for many of his bush poems relating to teamsters and drovers working the land using traditional forms of transportation such as teamsters and drovers; these bushmen were adept horsemen whose heroic and romantic images made an impactful impression upon young Paterson.

By the time he had completed his law studies in Sydney, he had already published some verse and written a collection of folk ballads. Following this he turned his focus toward journalism, becoming editor of a newspaper there before traveling as a special war correspondent during Boer War; also covering Boxer Rebellion but leaving before its conclusion; finally landing another job covering Vietnam War (1960-61).

In 1902, he published Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses; two years later he resigned as editor of Sydney Evening News before heading back out into the country and purchasing Coodra Vale near Wee Jasper as his property.

Paterson had an extraordinary talent for capturing the spirit of his time through writing. His approachability and friendships with some of Australia’s best-known public figures were hallmarks of excellence for any writer, and Paterson excelled at doing just that.