My Mate Bill By Banjo Paterson

A Celebration Of the stockman spirit

This humorous bush ballad pays tribute to the speaker’s late friend Bill, an archetypal Australian stockman. His death prompts fond recollection of Bill’s rough-and-tumble frontier life.

Paterson affectionately depicts Bill as an irreverent larrikin misfit through outback imagery – riding bucking horses, drafting cattle, chopping hides. Suggesting heaven lacks hides, horses and sheep for Bill to work with highlights his quintessential “bushie” talents.

The Old Bush Songs

by Banjo Patterson

The implied mismatch between Bill’s rugged earthiness and waywardness and heavenly propriety is milked for comic effect. Paterson jokes angels will be confounded by Bill’s brash Aussie persona.

Underneath the humor is an epitaph commemorating mateship and celebrating the stockman spirit embodied by icons like Bill. His peerless skills capture the nation’s emerging ethos.

So while lighthearted, “My Mate Bill” pays sentimental tribute to a unique Australian type – the larger-than-life bushman whose grit, loyalty and rebelliousness inspired the national character. Paterson immortalizes him with characteristic lyricism and wit.


That’s his saddle on the tie-beam,
And them’s his spurs up there
On the wall-plate over yonder–
You ken see they ain’t a pair.

For the daddy of all the stockmen
As ever come mustering here
Was killed in the flaming mulga,
A-yarding a bald-faced steer.

They say as he’s gone to heaven,
And shook off all worldly cares
But I can’t sight Bill in a halo
Set up on three blinded hairs.

In heaven! what next I wonder,
For strike me pink and blue,
If I see whatever in thunder
They’ll find for Bill to do.

He’d never make one of them angels,
With faces as white as chalk,
All wool to the toes like hoggets,
And wings like an eagle-hawk.

He couldn’t ‘arp for apples,
His voice had tones as jarred,
And he’d no more ear than a bald-faced steer,
Or calves in a branding yard.

He could sit on a bucking brumbie
Like a nob in an easy chair,
And chop his name with a greenhide fall
On the flank of a flying steer.

He could show them saints in glory
The way that a fall should drop,
But sit on a throne–not William,
Unless they could make it prop.

He mightn’t freeze to the seraphs,
Or chum with the cherubim,
But if ever them seraph johnnies
Get a-poking it like at him–

Well! if there’s hide in heaven,
And silk for to make a lash,
He’ll yard ’em all in the Jasper Lake
In a blinded lightning flash.

If the heavenly hosts get boxed now,
As mobs most always will,
Who’ll cut ’em out like William,
Or draft on a camp like Bill?

An ‘orseman would find it awkward
At first with a push that flew,
But blame my cats if I know what else
They’ll find for Bill to do.

It’s hard if there ain’t no cattle,
And perhaps they’ll let him sleep,
And wake him up at the judgment
To draft those goats and sheep.

It’s playing it low on William,
But perhaps he’ll buckle to,
To show them high-toned seraphs
What a Mulga man can do.

If they saddles a big-boned angel,
With a turn of speed, of course,
As can spiel like a four-year brumbie,
And prop like an old camp horse,

And puts Bill up with a snaffle,
A four or five inch spur,
And eighteen foot of greenhide
To chop the blinded fur–

He’ll yard them blamed Angoras
In a way that it’s safe to swear
Will make them tony seraphs
Sit back on their thrones and stare.

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