Andrew Banjo Paterson

Andrew "Banjo" Paterson
Andrew “Banjo” Paterson

PATERSON, ANDREW BARTON (1864-1941), poet, was born at Narrambla. near Molong, New South Wales, on 17 February 1864. He was the son of Andrew B. Paterson, grazier, and was related to Edmund Barton (q.v.).

Educated at Sydney Grammar School and the university of Sydney, he was admitted as a solicitor and practised until 1900 at Sydney. He began contributing verse to the Bulletin and in 1895 published The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses. It was an immediate popular success, was in its tenth thousand a year later, and 40 years afterwards the number of copies sold was over 100,000.

Paterson was a war correspondent during the South African war, in China after the Boxer rebellion, and at the Philippine Islands.

Another collection of his work, Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, appeared in 1902, and this also has been frequently reprinted.

In 1904-6 he edited the Sydney Evening News and in 1907-8 the Sydney Town and Country Journal. Paterson also made a collection of popular Australian songs The Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging and Overlanding Days. This was published in 1905 and by 1924 had gone into its fourth edition.

In 1906 Paterson published a novel An Outback Marriage, which reached a fourth edition in 1924. He became a pastoralist near Yass for some years, but when the 1914-18 war broke out went to Europe as correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, was an ambulance driver in France, and in 1915 joined the remount service in Egypt, where he reached the rank of major.

In 1917 a further collection of his work was made and published under the title Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses. In the same year a collection of his short stories appeared under the title of Three Elephant Power and Other Stories. After his return from the war Paterson remained in journalism for the rest of his life. In 1921 appeared the Collected Verse of A. B. Paterson (9th edition, 1938), and in 1933 a book of verse for children, The Animals Noah Forgot. In 1934 Happy Dispatches, describing his meetings with well-known people appeared, and in 1936 The Shearer’s Colt (fiction).

He died at Sydney on 5 February 1941. In 1903 he married Alice W Walker who survived him with a son and a daughter. He was made a C.B.E. in 1939. Paterson was an able journalist who met many notabilities in a long life and graphically drew them in his Happy Dispatches. His novels and short stories are readable, but he will be remembered only for his verse; The Man from Snowy River is his best volume and there is no better volume of Australian popular poetry. “The Man from Ironbark” and “An Idyll of Dandaloo” still keep their humour in spite of the years, and “Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve” stands in the highest class as racing verse. The same quality is found in “The Man from Snowy River”, a fine swinging ballad, and in a different way “The Travelling Post Office” and “Black Swans” are both excellent. Saltbush Bill, J.P., though otherwise a disappointing volume, contains one poem, “Waltzing Matilda”, which bids fair to become an Australian folk song.

Paterson’s attempt to preserve the local songs of the pioneering days, published as Old Bush Songs, was also a valuable piece of work.