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Waltzing Matilda

Australia's inofficial national anthem


Waltzing Matilda is certainly Australia's most popular folk song and bush ballad.
Andrew Barton "Banjo" Patterson, journalist, author and bush poet, wrote the lyrics during a visit on Dagworth station near Winton, Queensland in 1895, while the tune is connected to Christina Macpherson who lived at the station.

mural of the billabong scene
Mural of the billabong scene

Why is the song so popular? - Because it captures the Aussies sense of freedom and independence.

The story is about a travelling worker (swagman) who camped by a waterhole (billabong), and stole a sheep to have a meal with his billy tea. When the owner of the jumbock arrived with the police at the scene, the swagman rather drowned himself than going to prison.

A lot of stories and folklore surround the song and its creation. It is widely accepted that A.B. Patterson heard of the shearer's strikes in Queensland in the early 1890s. The woolshed on Dagworth station was set on fire. Samuel Hoffmeister, one of those involved in the turmoils was chased by the police and shot himself near the Combo waterhole.

Waltzing Matilda has never been Australia's national anthem, but it is sung on many public occasions. It is Australian culture!

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The Lyrics

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Refrain

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me,
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.


Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Refrain

Up rode the squatter mounted on his thorough-bred
Down came the troopers One Two Three
Whose that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Refrain

Up jumped the swagman sprang in to the billabong
You'll never catch me alive said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Refrain

The famous song also has its own museum & interpretive centre in Winton, where you can learn about history, stories and legends.

matilda centre from the outside
Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton

a waterhole in the bush
Combo waterhole near Kynuna where it all happened

The 49ha Combo Waterhole Conservation Park is part of the Diamantina catchment, so you will find many waterholes there. Road access is about 13km south of Kynuna. From a car park you can take the interpretive walking trail (2.6 km return).

Take plenty of water, and don't go after rain, the track might be flooded. Although the park is close to Kynuna, you need to be self-sufficient.

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