Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson was best known as a poet and author. He became the most popular poet in Australia. He was best known for the ballad ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and his book called ‘The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses’.
Banjo Paterson was born at Narrambla in New South Wales. He was the eldest of seven children. Banjo had one brother and five sisters. His parents names are Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson, he had a Scottish heritage. Banjo’s parents were graziers on the Illalong station in the Yass Districts. Most of Banjo’s life was spent on the family property, but when he was ten his parents sent him to live with with his grandmother in Sydney, for educational reasons. Banjo Paterson was an accomplished equestrian (horse rider), and polo player.
When Banjo was young he was educated by a governess. Once he was able to ride a pony he went to a bush school in Bingalong. When he was living with his grandmother in 1874 he was sent to Sydney Grammar School and in 1875 he shared the Junior Knox Prize with George Rich. He completed school aged 16 and enrolled at a university but failed the examination.
When Banjo Paterson was a law student he began to write verses. His first poem that he wrote was called ‘El Mahdi to the Australian Troops’, which was published in the Bulletin in February 1885. He later adopted the pen name ‘The Banjo’, which was taken from the name of a station racehorse that was owned by his family. He later became one of the Bulletin writers and artists. Angus and Robertson published Banjo Paterson’s first book, ‘The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses’, in October 1895. The launch of this book was very successful, it sold over 7000 copies in just a couple of months. While in Queensland on a holiday late 1895, Banjo stayed with friends. This is where he wrote ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which later became one of Australia’s best known folk song. Banjo Paterson travelled to South Africa in 1899 as a special war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald during the Boer War. In 1903 Banjo was appointed editor of the evening news, he held that position until 1908 when he resigned.
In 1903 Banjo married Alice Walker in Tenterfield. Their first home together was in Queen Street, Woollahra. They had two children, they were named Grace and Hugh. Grace was born in 1904 and Hugh was born in 1906. During World War One Banjo sailed to Europe hoping for an appointment as war corespondent. Instead he was an ambulance driver to the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France. He was eventually promoted to Major. When Banjo was back in Australia he went back to journalism and retired in 1930. Later in 1939 Banjo was created CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). He passed away due to a heart condition on the 5th of February 1941, it was just 12 days before his 77th birthday. His reputation as the principle folk poet of Australia was secure, Banjo’s work included seven volumes of poetry.
Banjo Paterson was not only known for Waltzing Matilda, but also for his attempt to improve the lives of his fellow Australians by exposing their hardships to the public. Banjo’s role in Australian culture has been celebrated by placing his face on the $10 note. His poems are still being published and are still selling.