Banjo Paterson and the Making of Australian Verse
Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864 – 1941) was one of Australia’s most renowned and influential poets. Known for iconic works like “Waltzing Matilda”, “The Man from Snowy River” and “Clancy of the Overflow”, his bush poetry helped shape Australia’s national identity.
Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson was born in 1864 at the property “Narrambla” near Orange, New South Wales to Scottish immigrant Andrew Bogle Paterson and Australian-born mother Rose Isabella Barton. He spent much of his childhood at isolated outback stations like Buckinbah and Illalong which exposed him to bush life and inspired his future writing.
Paterson was educated at Sydney Grammar School but left at 16 without attending university. He worked as a law clerk and was admitted as a solicitor in 1886 while pursuing poetry as a hobby, taking on the pen name “The Banjo.”
“It has nothing to do with my second initial — B. — as some people seem to think. By the way, my first name has been misprinted. It is not Arthur, but Andrew. ‘Banjo’ was the name of a horse I once rode. I was at a loss for a signature for my first contribution, not wishing to put my own name, and Banjo being in my mind at the time, I just slapped that down, and, somehow, it stuck to me. Eh! my book? Oh! well, it was the Bulletin made me publish, and I’ve done very well out of it. I owe a great deal to Archibald. If it hadn’t been for him I should never have come before the public as an author at all. My second book is in the press now, but I’ve not quite finished my part of the work. It will deal with the rough aspects of Queensland cattle life. I’m going to spend my vacation in the North to study types and brush up my bush knowledge. You can’t write about a thing unless you know it thoroughly, or at least, you shouldn’t.”Bernard Espinasse in Table Talk (31 January 1896) of an interview with Paterson
In the 1890s, Paterson gained fame for bush ballads published in The Bulletin, befriending fellow writers like Henry Lawson. Notable early works included “Clancy of the Overflow” (1889) and “The Man from Snowy River” (1890) which romanticized the Australian bush.
Volumes of Paterson’s verse sold extremely well, turning him into a household name. He reported for The Sydney Morning Herald during the Boer War and Boxer Rebellion. Paterson also edited major newspapers for several years.
When World War I erupted, the established writer served in the Australian Imperial Force, reaching the rank of major. Back in Australia, he edited newspapers like The Evening News. His most iconic poem “Waltzing Matilda” was written during a 1895 trip to Dagworth Station and set to music.
Later he focused on children’s books, short stories, essays and war diaries like Happy Dispatches. Overall he helped mythologize the rugged, laconic Aussie bushman through verse. Collections like Rio Grande’s Last Race established his reputation as Australia’s bush laureate.
Paterson’s bush ballads gave distinctively Australian voice to the nation’s literature and culture. He immortalized in verse the horsemen, pastoral workers and pioneers who tamed the wild frontier. Works like “Clancy of the Overflow” and “The Man from Snowy River” became beloved campfire tales.
Alongside Henry Lawson, Paterson defined a new era in Australian writing. But where Lawson portrayed the bushman’s view from the road, Paterson captured the saddle. At heart, he was a poet of the galloping horse.
While immortalizing the Australian bush and outback characters in his writing, Paterson led an active but private personal life.
In 1903, the 39-year-old Paterson married Alice Emmeline Walker, a member of an upper class grazier family related to the prominent Thomas Walker dynasty. Alice had previously ended an engagement to Paterson’s poet peer Henry Lawson, unable to cope with Lawson’s alcoholism.
They married in her hometown of Tenterfield. Alice was Paterson’s junior by over a decade, but the two proved an excellent match.
The marriage marked a transition for Paterson into domestic life after his globe-trotting adventures as a bachelor poet and writer. Friends remembered Alice as an outgoing, vivacious woman who shared many of Paterson’s passions, like horseback riding, sports, and the outdoors. An avid tennis player, Alice brought athleticism and energy to complement Paterson’s more reserved temperament.
Together the couple made a home in Sydney, where Paterson had recently taken on an editor position at the Evening News. This role represented a prestigious appointment at a leading city newspaper. The steady career was likely a stabilizing influence that enabled Paterson to settle down in marriage.
By all accounts, Paterson and Alice enjoyed a happy union until the end of his life. Alice was not only a loving companion, but also an indispensable secretary and assistant who transcribed Paterson’s work and offered writing advice. Their partnership gave Paterson a harbor of comfort amidst his hectic professional life. For Paterson, ever the wanderer, matrimony provided a sense of permanence and belonging with his cherished wife.
The Presbyterian Church at Tenterfield was filled with people from the surrounding parts of the district on 8 April, all anxious to witness the marriage of Mr A. B. Paterson to Miss Alice Walker, eldest unmarried daughter of the late Mr W. H. WalkerEvening News, 10 April 1903
of Tenterfield Station. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Richard Dill Macky. Miss Bessie Walker was the only bridesmaid and Mr W. H. Kelly acted as best man. After the ceremony a few intimate friends of the house party were entertained at the Homestead where a large number of the employees and their families had gathered in order to present the bride with a silver salver. On behalf of the bride the bridegroom returned thanks in a few well-chosen words. The interior of the church was tastefully decorated for the occasion by the employees of the station many of whom had known Miss Walker since childhood. Among those present were Miss Edith Walker, Miss Nesta Drury (Brisbane), Mr & Mrs F. W. Everett, Mrs Jeffreys, Miss May Walker, and the Messrs. Tom, Lionel and Wallace Walker. Mr and Mrs Paterson left later in the day for Bombala and the southern mountains where the honeymoon is to be passed.
Paterson and Alice had two children – Hugh, born in 1904, and Bertha Jean in 1905. Hugh followed his father into military service, joining the Australian Imperial Force during World War II only to be captured by Japanese forces. He survived the ordeal.
Away from the public spotlight, Paterson was a reserved man who disliked discussing his own work. But his marriage to Alice provided a happy domestic anchor for his literary career. She offered staunch support, accompanying him on overseas trips as his fame grew.
Paterson managed to balance writing with his love of the outdoors, maintaining several rural properties where he could ride horses, muster cattle and find inspiration in the bush. Though known to appreciate female beauty, he remained devoted to his wife.
In his final years, Paterson persisted writing despite failing health, publishing his last poem in 1940 at age 76. He died just a year later in 1941, survived by Alice and his two children. Though much of Paterson’s private life remains a mystery, his family gave him a serene home to return to after his adventures in verse.
Paterson died of a heart attack in 1941 aged 76. His image appears on the Australian $10 note, and Waltzing Matilda is considered Australia’s unofficial national anthem. He made an indelible mark on Australian arts and culture through his enduring bush poetry.
A. B. ‘Banjo’ PATERSON Works (1864-1941)
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895)
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses (1902)
The Old Bush Songs (1905)
Three Elephant Power and Other Stories (1917)
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses (1917)
The Animals Noah Forgot (1933)
Happy Dispatches (1934)
An Outback Marriage (1900) (aka In No Man’s Land)
The Shearer’s Colt (1936)
“Clancy of the Overflow” (1889)
“The Man from Snowy River” (1890)
“In Defence of the Bush” (1892)
“The Man from Ironbark” (1892)
“Saltbush Bill” (1894)
“Waltzing Matilda” (1895)
“Hay and Hell and Booligal” (1896)
“Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” (1896)
“We’re All Australians Now” (1915)
“A Bush Lawyer” (1933)
“The Cast-Iron Canvasser” (1891)
List Of Works by Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson
1885 El Mahdi to the Australian Troops – The Bulletin
1886 The Bushfire – The Bulletin
1886 A Dream of the Melbourne Cup – The Bulletin
1886 The Mylora Elopement – The Bulletin
1887 Only a Jockey – The Bulletin
1887 Over the Range – The Sydney Mail
1887 The Deficit Demon – The Bulletin
1887 Lost – The Sydney Mail
1887 Our Mat – The Bulletin
1888 Uncle Bill – The Bulletin
1888 Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve – The Bulletin
1889 Australia for the Australians – Gordon and Gotch
1889 The Corner Man – The Bulletin
1889 The Sausage Candidate – The Bulletin
1889 Who is Kater Anyhow? – The Bulletin
1889 “In re a Gentleman, One” – The Bulletin
1889 Tar and Feathers – The Bulletin
1889 How M’Ginnis Went Missing – The Bulletin
1889 Hughey’s Dog – The Bulletin
1889 Mulligan’s Mare – The Bulletin
1889 Song of the Future – The Bulletin
1889 An Idyll of Dandaloo – The Bulletin
1889 The Scapegoat – The Bulletin
1889 Clancy of The Overflow – The Bulletin
1890 How I Shot The Policeman – The Bulletin
1890 Our New Horse – The Bulletin
1890 The Man from Snowy River – The Bulletin
1890 How Wild Horses Are Yarded – ?
1890 My Various Schools – The Sydneian
1890 The Hypnotist – The Bulletin
1890 Gilhooley’s Estate – The Bulletin
1890 Those Names – The Bulletin
1890 The Maori Pig Market – The Bulletin
1890 On Kiley’s Run – The Bulletin
1890 Conroy’s Gap – The Bulletin
1891 The Downfall of Mulligan’s – The Bulletin
1891 Come-by-Chance – The Bulletin
1891 His Masterpiece – The Bulletin
1891 In the Droving Days – The Bulletin
1891 The Flying Gang – The Bulletin
1891 The Lost Drink – The Bulletin
1891 An Evening in Dandaloo – The Bulletin
1891 The History of a Jackaroo in Five Letters – The Bulletin
1891 Victor Second – The Bulletin
1891 As Long As Your Eyes Are Blue – The Bulletin
1891 Been There Before – The Bulletin
1891 The Open Steeplechase – The Bulletin
1891 The Cast-Iron Canvasser – The Bulletin
1891 A Mountain Station – The Bulletin
1892 The Tug-of-War – The Bulletin
1892 The Pannikin Poet – The Bulletin
1892 In Defence of the Bush – The Bulletin
1892 The Ballad of G. R. Dibbs – The Bulletin
1892 An Answer to Various Bards – The Bulletin
1892 The Boss of the Admiral Lynch The Bulletin
1892 The Man from Ironbark – The Bulletin
1892 A Bushman’s Song – The Bulletin
1893 The Duties of an Aide-de-Camp – The Bulletin
1893 Our Ambassador or Sharp Practice on the Darling – The Bulletin
1893 Behind the Scenes – The Bulletin
1893 Reconstruction – The Bulletin
1893 When Dacey Rode the Mule – The Bulletin
1893 Black Swans – The Sydney Mail
1893 The All Right ‘Un – The Bulletin
1893 Tom Collins – The Bulletin
1893 The Great Calamity – The Bulletin
1893 Last Week – The Bulletin
1893 A Bush Christening – The Bulletin
1893 Frying Pan’s Theology – The Bulletin
1893 The Ghost of the Murderer’s Hut – The Bulletin
1893 The Geebung Polo Club – The Antipodean
1894 A Triolet – The Bulletin
1894 Shearing at Castlereagh – The Bulletin
1894 The Travelling Post Office – The Bulletin
1894 A Bunch of Roses – The Bulletin
1894 Ambition and Art – The Bulletin
1894 How Gilbert Died – The Bulletin
1894 Tommy Corrigan – The Bulletin
1894 A Voice from the Town – The Bulletin
1894 How the Favourite Beat Us – Rosehill Race Book
1894 The Man Who Was Away – The Bulletin
1894 The Amateur Rider – The Bulletin
1894 Saltbush Bill – The Bulletin
1894 The Two Devines – The Bulletin
1895 Johnson’s Antidote – The Bulletin
1895 Concerning a Dog Fight – The Bulletin
1895 Prelude – The Man from Snowy River
1895 The Daylight is Dying – The Man from Snowy River
1895 Jim Carew – The Man from Snowy River
1895 The Swagman’s Rest – The Man from Snowy River
1895 The Wind’s Message – The Man from Snowy River
1895 Under the Shadow of Kiley’s Hill – The Man from Snowy River
1895 The Merino Sheep – The Bulletin
1895 Brumby’s Run – The Bulletin
1896 Hay and Hell and Booligal – The Bulletin
1896 Out of Sight – Rosehill Race Card
1896 Mulga Bill’s Bicycle – The Sydney Mail
1896 With the Cattle – Australasian Pastoralists’ Review
1896 Concerning a Steeplechase Rider – The Bulletin
1896 Song of the Artesian Water – The Bulletin
1896 “Shouting” for a Camel – The Bulletin
1896 White-When-He’s-Wanted – The Bulletin
1896 The Story of Mongrel Grey – Australasian Pastoralists’ Review
1896 Rio Grande’s Last Race – The Sketch
1896 Pioneers – The Town and Country Journal
1897 Bill and Jim Nearly Get Taken Down – The Bulletin
1897 Preparing for Premiers – The Bulletin
1897 The Wreck of the Golfer – The Sydney Mail
1897 Review of Barcroft Boake’s Poems – Review of Reviews
1897 By the Grey Gulf-water – The Bulletin
1897 The Ballad of the Calliope – The Antipodean
1897 Saltbush Bill’s Second Fight – ?
1898 A Disqualified Jockey’s Story – The Bulletin
1898 T.Y.S.O.N. – Australasian Pastoralists’ Review
1898 The Cycloon, Paddy Cahill and the G. R. – The Bulletin
1898 Saltbush Bill’s Gamecock – ?
1899 Buffalo Shooting in Australia – The Sydney Mail
1899 The Matrimonial Stakes – The Bulletin
1899 The Sydney Cup – The Bulletin
1899 Bush Justice – Australasian Pastoralists’ Review
1899 The Federal Bus Conductor and the Old Lady – The Bulletin
1899 The Reverend Mullineux – The Bulletin
1899 Polo – The Australian Magazine
1899 Song of the Pen – Grand Fair and Press Bazaar Souvenir Book
1899 A Rule of the A.J.C. – The Bulletin
1899 The First Surveyor – Australasian Pastoralists’ Review
1899 The Lost Leichhardt – The Bulletin
1899 A War Office in Trouble – The Bulletin
1899 The “Bottle-Oh” Man – The Bulletin
1899 Driver Smith – The Bulletin
1899 Father Riley’s Horse – The Bulletin
1899 Investigating Flora – The Bulletin
1899 The City of Dreadful Thirst – The Bulletin
1899 Preface to His Natural Life – His Natural Life
1900 An Outback Marriage – The Melbourne Leader
1900 Boer War Dispatches – The Sydney Morning Herald
1900 The Reveille – The Sydney Mail
1900 Johnny Boer – The Sydney Mail
1900 There’s Another Blessed Horse Fell Down – The Bulletin
1900 That V.C. – The Bulletin
1900 Fed Up – The Sydney Mail
1900 Commandeering – The Sydney Mail
1900 With French to Kimberley – The Sydney Morning Herald
1900 Santa Claus – The Sydney Mail
1900 The Rum Parade – The Sydney Mail
1900 A Visit to Basutoland – The Sydney Morning Herald
1901 Song of the Federation – N.S.W. bookstall souvenir
1901 French’s Cavalry and Their Work – The Sydney Morning Herald
1901 The Maori’s Wool – The Bulletin
1901 Prince Alexander of Teck – The Sydney Morning Herald
1901 Our Federal Army and Its Cost – The Sydney Morning Herald
1901 Going North – The Sydney Morning Herald
1901 The Bullock – The Bulletin
1901 The Protest – The Bulletin
1901 The Wargeilah Handicap – The Sydney Mail
1902 An Informal Letter from London – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 A Fighting General-Lord Methuen – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 Now Listen to Me and I’ll Tell You My Views – The Bulletin (quoting Reynolds’ News)
1902 (Written) Contributions to The Story of South Africa – The Story of South Africa
1902 Thirsty Island – The Bulletin
1902 The Late Lieutenant Morant – The Sydney Mail
1902 Sitting in Judgment – The Pastoralists’ Review
1902 Pearling Industry at Thursday Island – The Sydney Mail
1902 It’s Grand – The Bulletin
1902 Voyage of the Pilgrims – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 A Visit to Drought Land – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 In the Cattle Country – The Sydney Mail
1902 The Dog – The Bulletin
1902 Gleanings of a Globe Trotter: A Day’s Racing in France – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 Gleanings of a Globe Trotter: The Coloured Alien – The Sydney Morning Herald
1902 The Passing of Gundagai – The Commonwealth (Annual)
1902 Anthony Considine – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 Any Other Time – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 Do They Know? – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 Hard Luck – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 “He Giveth His Beloved Sleep” – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 In the Stable – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 Jock – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Last Parade – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Last Trump – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Old Australian Ways – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Old Timer’s Steeplechase Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 On the Trek – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Pearl Diver – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 Right in Front of the Army – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Road to Gundagai – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Road to Old Man’s Town – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Scotch Engineer – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 What Have the Cavalry Done? – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 A Walgett Episode – Rio Grande’s Last Race
1902 The Cat – The Bulletin
1902 The Dog–As a Sportsman – The Bulletin
1902 Lord Milner – The Sydney Morning Herald
1903 Waltzing Matilda Sheet music
1903 Dr Morrison: A Notable Australian – The Evening News
1903 The Ballad of Cockatoo Dock – The Evening News
1903 The Ballad of that P.N. – The Evening News
1903 Riders in the Stand – The Evening News
1903 Policeman G. – The Evening News
1903 Gone Down – The Evening News
1903 The Election Season – The Evening News
1903 The Ballad of the Carpet Bag – The Evening News
1903 Saltbush Bill on the Patriarchs – The Evening News
1903 The Amateur Gardener – The Evening News
1904 Macbreath – The Evening News
1904 A Nervous Governor-General – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle at the Races – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle in the Private Bar – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle in the Sanctum – The Evening News
1904 The Fitzroy Blacksmith – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle in the Barber’s Shop – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle at the Bowling Green – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle on Music and Singing – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle at the Theatre – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle on Politics – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle on War and Debt – The Evening News
1904 The Oracle on the Capital Site – The Evening News
1904 The Seven Ages of Wise – The Evening News
1904 The Rhyme of the O’Sullivan – The Evening News
1904 Ave Caesar – The Evening News
1904 The Premier and the Socialist – The Evening News
1904 Humours of a Horse Bazaar The Evening News
1904 The Ballad of M. T. Nutt and His Dog – The Evening News
1904 The Man from Goondiwindi, Q. – The Evening News
1905 The Last of Sherlock Holmes – The Evening News
1905 Lay of the Motor Car – The Evening News
1905 Motoring to Melbourne – The Evening News
1905 The Dam that Keele Built – The Evening News
1905 The Incantation – The Evening News
1905 Saltbush Bill, J.P. – The Evening News
c.1905 (Written) Dan Fitzgerald Explains – The Evening News
c.1905 (Written) Done for the Double – The Evening News
1905 Introduction to Old Bush Songs – Old Bush Songs
1906 A Motor Courtship – The Evening News
1906 Maxims of Hafiz – The Evening News
1906 The Dauntless Three – The Evening News
1906 Santa Claus in the Bush – The Town and Country Journal
1907 Old Schooldays – The Sydneian
1907 Three Elephant Power – The Town and Country Journal
1914 The Road to Hogan’s Gap – The Lone Hand
1914 Sunrise on the Coast – The Lone Hand
1914 Song of the Wheat – The Lone Hand
1914 The Great War – The Sydney Morning Herald
1915 The Mountain Squatter – The Lone Hand
1915 We’re All Australians Now – Card for troops
1916 Australia Today 1916 – ?
1917 A Ballad of Ducks – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1917 The Angel’s Kiss – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1917 The Gundaroo Bullock – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1917 Not On It – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1917 A Singer of the Bush – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1917 At the Melting of the Snow – Saltbush Bill, J.P.
1918 The Army Mules – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1918 Swinging the Lead – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1918 Moving On – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1918 The Cookhouse – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1918 A General Inspection – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1918 In a Hospital – The Kia-Ora Coo-ee
1919 Hawker, the Standard Bearer – Smith’s Weekly
1919 Cassidy’s Epitaph – Smith’s Weekly
1919 Boots – Smith’s Weekly
1919 The Old Tin Hat – Smith’s Weekly
1919 The Quest Eternal – Smith’s Weekly
1922 That Half-Crown Sweep – The Sydney Sportsman
1922 J. F. Archibald: Great Australian Journalist – The Sydney Sportsman
1923 Jimmy Dooley’s Army – The Sydney Sportsman
1923 Typographical – The Sydney Sportsman
1923 Shakespeare on the Turf – The Sydney Sportsman
1923 A Job for McGuinness – The Sydney Sportsman
1933 The Animals Noah Forgot – Endeavour Press
1934 Happy Dispatches – Angus and Robertson
1936 The Shearer’s Colt – Angus and Robertson
1940 The Dry Canteen Sheet music
1940 Unforgotten – ?
1941 The Man Who Gave ‘Em What They wanted – The A.I.F. News
FAQs about Banjo Paterson
Q: What song is known as Australia’s “unofficial national anthem”?
A: Waltzing Matilda is considered by many to be Australia’s unofficial anthem. The song was written by poet Banjo Paterson in 1895.
Q: Where would you see Banjo Paterson’s face most often?
A: Paterson’s face appears on the Australian ten dollar note. He was chosen for this honor due to his immense popularity and contributions to Australian culture.
Q: What was Banjo Paterson’s real name?
A: Banjo Paterson was born Andrew Barton Paterson in 1864. The nickname “Banjo” came from his childhood. His family called him ‘Barty’.
Q: Where did his nickname “Banjo” come from?
A: As a child, Paterson was nicknamed “Banjo” by his family because he played the banjo. The name stuck with him into adulthood.
Q: Name two jobs that Banjo Paterson had in his lifetime.
A: Paterson worked as a solicitor, but had many creative pursuits including being a poet, author, journalist and war correspondent.
Q: What Banjo Paterson poem was made into a movie and a TV series?
A: Paterson’s poem “The Man from Snowy River” was adapted into a movie in 1982 and a TV series in the 1990s.
Q: What inspired a lot of Banjo Paterson’s poetry?
A: Paterson found great inspiration in the Australian bush, frontier life, and stories of pastoral workers, creating an iconic vision of traditional Aussie characters.
Q: Why is Banjo Paterson’s poetry so popular?
A: Paterson’s poems resonated due to his colorful storytelling, grasp of Australian language/culture, and romantic view of the bush which aligned with the national identity.