Australia 2010

A circumnavigation (with risks).

Winton.

Rather than just return to Brisbane via the coast we have decided to revisit the outback.

If you look at a map of outback Queensland you may find Winton, roughly in the middle. For a town of its size and economic importance it is remarkably well known...

...for something that happened on the 6th of April 1895 at the North Gregory Hotel.**

Not actually this North Gregory Hotel, the original one burnt down long ago, at the same time as the adjacent open-air cinema. The cinema was also rebuilt and still operates one day a week as a sort of cinema museum...

...showing a one hour nostalgia collection of 1950 and 1960 film excerpts (followed by tea and biscuits.) Naturally the cinema also houses...

...the world's biggest deckchair. At the back of the famous hotel is Arno's famous wall...

...incorporating items rescued from Winton's rubbish tip (presumably by Arno).

Remarkable as these attractions are they are not the source of Winton's fame. For this you must look at a well know and much loved song. The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker making a crude cup of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep's ostensible owner arrives with three policemen to arrest the worker, he drowns himself in a small lake and goes on to haunt the site.

The importance and cultural significance of this song is what Winton is all about. Hence the massive and impressive Waltzing Matilda Centre.

Before you can fully appreciate the song a little background information is useful.

The phrase Waltzing Matilda is believed to have originated with German immigrants who settled in Australia.

Waltzing is derived from the German term auf der waltz, which meant to travel while learning a trade. Young apprentices in those days travelled the country working under a master craftsman, earning their living as they went, sleeping where they could.

Matilda has Teutonic origins and means Mighty Battle Maiden. It is believed to have been given to female camp followers who accompanied soldiers during the Thirty Years' War in Europe. This came to mean "to be kept warm at night" and later to mean the army great coats or blankets that soldiers wrapped themselves with. These were rolled into a swag tossed over their shoulder while marching. So the phrase Waltzing Matilda came to mean: to travel from place to place in search of work with all one's belongings on one's back wrapped in a blanket or cloth.

Swagman - a drifter, a hobo, an itinerant shearer who carried all his belongings wrapped up in a blanket or cloth called a swag

Billabong - a waterhole within a creek/river system.

Coolibah -a eucalyptus tree.

Billy -a tin can with a wire handle used to boil water.

Jumbuck - a sheep. {a large, difficult-to-shear sheep, not a tame sheep. This implies that the sheep was not 'owned' by the squatter or regularly shorn, thus not able to be stolen by the swagman.}

Tucker-bag - a bag, often of calico, used for keeping food.

Squatter -a station landowner, manager, or lessee. {Australian squatters started as early farmers who raised livestock on land which they did not legally have the right to use. In many cases they later gained legal use of the land, even though they did not have full possession, and became wealthy thanks to these large land holdings. The squatter's claim to the land may be as uncertain as the swagman's claim to the jumbuck.}

Trooper - a policeman, a mounted militia-man.

 

Waltzing Matilda written in 1887 by poet Banjo Paterson.


There once was a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
under the shade of a Coolibah tree.
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled,
you'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

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

Down came a squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
up came the troopers one, two three.
Who's* the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Up got the swaggy and jumped into 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.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,
you'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

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

 

Note that there are many different versions of Waltzing Matilda and this one is not exactly as written by Banjo Paterson.

* Who's is the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag? (i.e. who does it belong to?)

** Waltzing Matilda was first performed on the 6th of April 1895 by Sir Herbert Ramsay at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton, Queensland. The occasion was a banquet for the Premier of Queensland.