The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson - Special Correspondent later Major

Andrew Barton "Banjo' Paterson (1864-1941). Poet, ballad writer, journalist and horseman.

'Banjo' Paterson, known as Barty to his family, was born Andrew Barton Paterson at Narrambla, near Orange on 17 February 1864. His parents, Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson were graziers on Illalong station in the Yass district.

Paterson's early education took place at home under a governess and then at the bush school in Binalong, the nearest township. From about the age of ten years he attended the Sydney Grammar School. He lived with his grandmother in Gladesville and spent the school holidays at Illalong station with his family.

After completing school the 16-year-old Paterson was articled to a Sydney firm of solicitors, Spain and Salway. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1886 and formed the legal partnership, Street and Paterson. During these years Paterson began publishing verse in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail under the pseudonyms 'B' and 'The Banjo'.

In 1895, at the age of 31 and still in partnership with Street, Andrew Barton Paterson achieved two milestones in Australian writing. He composed his now famous ballad 'Waltzing Matilda' and his first book, The Man from Snowy River, and other verses, was published by Angus & Robertson, marking the beginning of an epoch in Australian publishing. This hallmark publication sold out its first edition within a week and went through four editions in six months, making Paterson second only to Kipling in popularity among living poets writing in English. His poetry continues to sell well today and is available in many editions, some of which are illustrated.

Paterson travelled to South Africa in 1899 as special war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald during the Boer War, and to China in 1901 with the intention of covering the Boxer Rebellion but he arrived after the uprising was over. By 1902 Paterson had left the legal profession. The following year he was appointed Editor of the Evening News (Sydney), a position he held until 1908 when he resigned to take over a property in Wee Jasper.

In 1903 he married Alice Walker in Tenterfield. Their first home was in Queen Street, Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace born in 1904 and Hugh born in 1906.

During World War I Paterson sailed to Europe hoping for an appointment as war correspondent. Instead, during the course of the war he was attached as an ambulance driver to the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France and was commissioned to the 2nd Remount Unit of the AIF. He was eventually promoted to Major.

In Australia again he returned to journalism, retiring in 1930. He was created CBE in 1939. At the time of his death on 6 February 1941 his reputation as the principal folk poet of Australia was secure. His body of work included seven volumes of poetry and prose in many editions, a collection The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson (1923), a book for children The Animals Noah Forgot (1933), and an anthology The Old Bush Songs (1905), in addition to his many pieces of journalism and reportage. Paterson's role in Australian culture has been celebrated on the Australian $10 note. *

Biography courtesy of the Reserve Bank of Australia

 A Flag for Australia go to top of page

They mustered us with a royal din,
In wearisome weeks of drought,
Ere ever the half of the crops were in,
Or the half of the sheds cut out.

'Twas down with saddle and spurs and whip,
The swagman dropped his swag,
And we hurried us off to an outbound ship,
To fight for the English flag.

The English flag.. it is ours in sooth
We stand by it wrong or right
But deep in our hearts is the honest truth
We fought for the sake of a fight

And the English flag may flutter and wave,
Where the World-wide Oceans toss,
But the flag the Australian dies to save,
Is the flag of the Southern Cross.

 With French to Kimberley go to top of page

The Boers were down on Kimberley with siege and Maxim gun;
The Boers were down on Kimberley, their numbers ten to one!
Faint were the hopes the British had to make the struggle good,
Defenceless in an open plain the Diamond City stood.
They built them forts with bags of sand, they fought from roof and wall,
They flashed a message to the south, "Help! or the town must fall"

Then down our ranks the order ran to march at dawn of day,
And French was off to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
He made no march along the line; he made no front attack
Upon those Magersfontein heights that held the Seaforths back;
But eastward over pathless plains, by open veldt and vley.
Across the front of Cronje's force his troopers held their way.

The springbuck, feeding on the flats where Modder River runs,
Were startled by his horses' hoofs, the rumble of his guns.
The Dutchman's spies that watched his march from every rocky wall
Rode back in haste: "He marches East! He threatens Jacobsdal !"
Then north he wheeled as wheels the hawk, and showed to their dismay
That French was off to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.

His column was five thousand strong; all mounted men and guns:
There met, beneath the world-wide flag, the world-wide Empire's sons;
They came to prove to all the earth that kinship conquers space,
And those who fight the British Isles must fight the British race!
From far New Zealand's flax and fern, from cold Canadian snows,
From Queensland plains, where hot as fire the summer sunshine glows

And in the front the Lancers rode that New South Wales had sent:
With easy stride across the plain their long, lean Walers went.
Unknown, untried, those squadrons were, but proudly out they drew
Beside the English regiments that fought at Waterloo.
From every coast, from every clime, they met in proud array
To go with French to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.

He crossed the Reit and fought his way towards the Modder bank.
The foemen closed behind his march, and hung upon the flank.
The long, dry grass was all ablaze (and fierce the veldt fire runs);
He fought them through a wall of flame that blazed around the guns!
Then limbered up and drove at speed, though horses fell and died;
We might not halt for man nor beast on that wild and daring ride.

Black with the smoke and parched with thirst, we pressed the livelong day
Our headlong march to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
We reached the drift at fall of night, and camped across the ford.
Next day from all the hills around the Dutchman's cannon roared.
A narrow pass ran through the hills, with guns on either side;
The boldest man might well turn pale before that pass he tried,

For, if the first attack should fail, then every hope was gone:
But French looked once, and only once, and then he said, "Push on!"
The gunners plied their guns amain; the hail of shrapnel flew;
With rifle fire and lancer charge their squadrons back we threw;
And through the pass between the hills we swept in furious fray,
And French was through to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.

Ay, French was through to Kimberley! And ere the day was done
We saw the Diamond City stand, lit by the evening sun:
Above the town the heliograph hung like an eye of flame:
Around the town the foemen camped - they knew not that we came;
But soon they saw us, rank on rank; they heard our squadrons' tread;
In panic fear they left their tents, in hopeless rout they fled

And French rode into Kimberley; the people cheered amain,
The women came with tear-stained eyes to touch his bridle rein,
The starving children lined the streets to raise a feeble cheer,
The bells rang out a joyous peal to say "Relief is here!"
Ay! We that saw that stirring march are proud that we can say
We went with French to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.

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Sources: Reserve Bank of Australia, Penguin Books

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