Reprint: "Banjo" Paterson. The Cheerful Bard of the Bush by G. A. King

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Andrew Barton Paterson, poet, story-writer, and sportsman, is dead. "The Banjo" to Australians in general, and "Barty" to his personal friends, he was one of the "don't-care-a-hang" type. He was a good companion, a good colleague, a good friend, and a man who could adapt himself to any set of circumstances.

There is scarcely a corner of Australia in which the author of "The Man From Snowy River" was not known -- if not personally, at least by his verse -- and it mattered not whether he was among the sheep Outback, at the station homestead or in the shearing shed, or in the shearers' hut; at an up-country race or polo meeting; or on any field of sport; or fishing in his beloved Snowy River; or even on active service (he had three campaigns to his credit); "Barty" was always a fine fellow.

He loved Australia, and his verse, unlike that of many other Australian authors, was never morbid. He saw the best in his native country, and he had a keen sense of humour, which was equally apparent in his conversation and in his writings. Paterson will be numbered among the great Australians, and one test of his qualities was that one never heard him referred to as "Mr, Paterson." It was always "Banjo" or "Barty," which was as he liked it.

A son of the bush, which he loved. Paterson was bom at Narrambla, near Molong. After leaving the Sydney Grammar School he studied law, being subsequently admitted as a solicitor. For some years he practised his profession in Sydney, and was a member of the firm of Street and Paterson. He was not keen on the law, but he found time to combine with his legal work, as one writer has expressed it, "the writing of cheerful verse inspired by the life of the plains and hill stations." At every opportunity he got away to the bush.

Good-bye to Drudgery.

Eventually the pen triumphed over the law, and Paterson forsook what was to him the drudgery of the lawyer's office for Press work, which provided greater opportunities for a life in the open. As an editor, however, he was to a great extent out of his element, for, although newspaper work appealed to him, the administrative duties involved in these positions were not at all to his liking.

Paterson always had a warm spot in his heart for the horse. If Shakespeare had not put the words, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" into Richard Ill's mouth, it is more than likely that Paterson would have uttered them. He dearly loved a horse -- a good horse -- and to have deprived him of his "horsey" talk would have deprived him of one of the pleasures of speech. Whether it was the most famous colt of the day; whether it was the slickest polo pony ever bred; or one of the wild horses of which he sings in his verse was all one to "The Banjo."

His thoughts were ever in the country. On one occasion he dryly remarked to the writer that he was going to spend a holiday with the sheep out west, and that about summed up Paterson's temperament. Sheep out west meant horses to muster them, and there "The Banjo" would be happy.

In those days Paterson's nerve and dash made him one of the best of amateur riders, and he was a frequent competitor at the meetings of the old Sydney Hunt Club. He was also a polo player of ability, and was keenly interested in the turf. Up to within a few weeks of his death he was a conspicuous figure on the principal racecourses of Sydney, with his outsize in field-glasses. At one time -- in the early years of the present century -- he essayed the ownership of racehorses, but did not meet with any great success. Paterson was a keen tennis and bowls player.

His verse will live long -- particularly in "the bush" -- for its cheerfulness and expressiveness, and for its description of the brighter side of Australian country life. 

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1941

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 12, 2011 7:00 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #277 - Mr Darwin's Shooter by Roger McDonald was the previous entry in this blog.

Great Australian Authors #50 - A. B. "Banjo" Paterson is the next entry in this blog.

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