A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson (The Bush Poet): featuring 'The Geebung Polo Club'

Andrew Barton Paterson

Andrew Barton Paterson was born on February 17, 1864 at Narambla Cattle Station, near Orange, New South Wales. His early years were spent at Narambla before his family moved to Illalong Station in the Yass district, near the Snowy Mountains, where the young boy got to know squatters, drovers, stockmen, and even bushrangers (the characters who would fill his later books).

At ten years of age Paterson was sent to live with his grandmother Emily Barton so that he could attend Sydney Grammar School. Here he became a well-mannered and athletically gifted teenager, and on leaving school at 16 years of age, he took up a position as an articled clerk in a lawyer's office. He found office work somewhat boring and spent most of his leisure time pursuing is sporting interests. Paterson received some public attention in the sporting field as a member of the first polo team to represent his state of New South Wales.

The following poem was inspired by his love of polo.

Source

The Geebung Polo Club

by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson

It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash --
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished,
And their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.

It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called `The Cuff and Collar Team'.
As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them -- just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.

Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken -- just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar Captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player -- so the game was called a tie.

Then the Captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him -- all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal -- and missed it -- then he tumbled off and died.

By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, `Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here.'
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub --
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.

The Banjo

By 1885 Paterson had become a qualified solicitor and his first works, under the pseudonym 'The Banjo', were published in the Bulletin magazine. He had adopted the nickname 'Banjo' after a racehorse owned by his family, and by 1890 his works were among the most popular in the Bulletin. The critically acclaimed and much loved Clancy of The Overflow having assured 'The Banjo' success when published in the 1889 Christmas edition of the Bulletin.

Source

without parallel in colonial literary annals

— London Library Year Book
The man from Ironbark
The man from Ironbark | Source

Further verses including The Man From Ironbark, and Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve under the same pen name aroused considerable interest, and curiosity as to the author's true identity. This however would not be revealed until the 1895 publication of The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses. This book was described in the London Library Year Book as "without parallel in colonial literary annals," and gave A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson a public following wider than any other author in the English language except Rudyard Kipling.

The author had become an overnight success. The first edition sold out in a fortnight, and 10000 sales reached within the first year. By 1992 more than 120000 copies had been sold, and it continues to outsell any other publication of Australian poetry. The Man From Snowy River has been made into a movie, television series, and as many other of Paterson's poems, a song.

While staying at Dagworth Station, near Winton, he wrote Waltzing Matilda which was to become Australia's national folk song

Soon after the successful publishing of The Man From Snowy River Paterson went for a holiday in Queensland. While staying at Dagworth Station, near Winton, he wrote Waltzing Matilda which was to become Australia's national folk song.

In late 1899 he served as a war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald during the Boer War in South Africa, where he had a close association with the Australian Lancers. While there he met famed English poet and author Rudyard Kipling. Paterson returned to Australia in 1900, and almost immediately set off for China as a war correspondent to cover the Boxer Rebellion, but it had ended by the time he arrived. Soon after returning home this time, he met and fell in love with a grazier's daughter, Alice Walker. Their subsequent marriage proved a very successful union.

He left the city to try his hand at farming on two occasions, but these ventures proved unsuccessful and he returned to Sydney to work as a freelance journalist. During these years Paterson published Old Bush Songs and Saltbush Bill JP and Other Verses.

At the outbreak of World War 1 he sailed for London with the hope of becoming a correspondent, but instead was employed as an ambulance driver in the French battlefields. Now 50 years of age, Paterson was then sent to Egypt as a Remount Officer and attained the rank of Major due to his work in breaking horses for the Allied troops. His wife joined him there, working for the British Red Cross until they returned to Sydney in 1919, where they settled with their son and daughter.

Paterson's later life was adventure filled. He went crocodile-hunting and buffalo shooting in the Northern Territory, and pearl diving at Broome in Western Australia. He continued writing collections of poetry and in 1933 produced the children's book The Animals That Noah Forgot, and the following year, the semi-autobiographical Happy Dispatches.

A. B. 'Banjo Paterson became ill and died in hospital on February 5, 1941

He wrote as bush folk themselves would if they were able and it is this that has made his poetry so popular with them and city folk alike. His verse belongs to the true ballad tradition of tales musically told and he could appropriately be compared to a minstrel of the middle ages.

Australian Ten Dollar Note
Australian Ten Dollar Note

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Comments 38 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

And yours is the first hub of the morning for me. Good day to you John. Interesting subject. Quite a talented and determined and gifted human being. Thanks for the information on this gentleman.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Howdy Bill, congratulations on being the first to read this hub. Aussies being somewhat of a minority on Hub Pages, I have taken it on my shoulders to try to promote the work of fellow Australians who have inspired me, or I feel worthy of having their work seen by the wider global community.

Glad you enjoyed this hub, and as always I appreciate your comments. Have a good day.


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 2 years ago from Alabama

How interesting.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you wetnosedogs, I'm glad you found it worth reading.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

Awesome bit of Australian cultural history. Sometimes our historical studies up here tend to neglect you folks down under, and I am sure there are a multitude of fascinating lessons like these we could all learn. Thanks for educating me.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

My pleasure Mel. I do feel there is a lot of untapped cultural history that is hidden within these Antipodean shores that the rest of the world may find interesting. Thanks for your kind comment.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I think you will find many here that love the Aussies, lol and I did love this mans work and the video Clancy of the Overflow, especially. I think you have a good idea that will go over very big.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Thanks so much, Jodah, for educating us all about Andrew Barton Paterson. Very fascinating stuff here!

Learned a lot from your interesting hub.

Up and more and sharing.

Hugs, Faith Reaper


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your kind comments Jackie. I think I am slowly getting a feel for what is popular here on hub pages and where a niche exists that I can help fill. I am very patriotic and love Australian history, our poets, writers and sportsmen etc. Our actors and singers get a lot of international exposure but other successful Aussies, not a lot. Glad you enjoyed this hub, especially 'Clancy'.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

My pleasure Faith, to share the history of one of my heroes and great literary talents of this country. Banjo Paterson had a great rivalry with another great writer, Henry Lawson who believed that Paterson romanticised life in the bush and outback when his work described it as harsh and unforgiving. Maybe I'll do a future hub from Lawson's point of view. Thank you for the vote up and share.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Jodah, this was fascinating reading as I had never heard of him or his poems, I love learning something new!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hello Nell, Thanks for reading and I'm glad I could enlighten you to the works of this amazing man. Coming from this country and growing up with these works it is hard to understand that others outside of Australia are not familiar with them or their authors. As stated in the article, at his peak, Paterson became the most highly read author in the English language, except for Kipling.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Oh, yes, Jodah, please do, that would be awesome!

Hugs, Faith Reaper


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

Greetings Jodah. I really enjoyed reading this hub. Well done. Man from Snowy River is one of my all time favorite movies - but, I did not know Paterson was such a good poet. Thanks for this hub.

I would love to read about Henry Lawson. Ned Kelly is a favorite legend I love to read about if you ever get along that way.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Phyllis, glad you found this hub interesting and agree that Paterson was an amazing poet. Yes the Man From Snowy River was a wonderful movie, but a lot of people probably still didn't associate it with the poem.

Faith, I'll see what I can do about Henry Lawson.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

Interesting reading, as I had not been exposed to him previously. I definitely like the international element of HubPages, which allows me exposure to topics like this that otherwise would utterly escape me. I never knew what I was missing before HP.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Flourish, I agree that Hub Pages is a great vehicle for learning about international topics and people you would otherwise not be exposed to. I have learnt a lot about US and British life, geography, and history etc since joining.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

thank you Jodah for sharing the life and times.. interesting and entertaining.. happy holidays and new year


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

No problem Frank, glad you found Banjo's life and times entertaining. thanks for reading. Happy New Year to you.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Great to read about one of our famous 'legends' and you have done it so well with Banjo Paterson. My mother was a member of the Australian Literature Society and I well remember her talking about him when he died during the war years. Voted up!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for your kind comments Blossom. The research and enjoyment I got writing this hub has inspired me to do more on other famous Australians. Thanks for the vote up too.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

I hope you do write more. I'll look forward to reading them.


jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

What a great hub about an author who inspires you. All I can say is "Well Done!" Jamie


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Jamie, All I can say is thank you for reading about this great man.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

A fascinating man you've written about who led quite a colourful life in interesting times of political unrest and change; interesting to know he was a contemporary of Kipling as well.

That ' Waltzing Matilda ' brought back some memories of primary school when we all had to learn this song as we were attempting to understand various cultures and remember that I was the only one in class who knew what a' billy ' was lol! It's funny what we remember...

Thanks for the education, and look forward to reading more.

All the Best,

R.Q.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for stopping by to read this hub Romeo. Yes he did lead a colourful life indeed. I'm sure Waltzing Matilda is his most famous work world wide and has become an Aussie icon. I will eventually write a hub about his contemporary and great rival, Henry Lawson.


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

Shall look forward to that Jodah; Lawson shoots from the hip with his writing, and quite optimistic. Thank you.

All the best,

R.Q.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I love reviews of this type and you have done a marvelous job of capturing the talent of this man. I do enjoy watching the movie The Man From Snowy River on occasion, I will have to read the background.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you teaches. Yes he was a remarkable talent. I hope to do more reviews of this type. Look forward to your comments on future hubs.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 23 months ago

Wow , thank you for this one ! "The Man From Snowy River " and the return ,are the two best movies , I believe , ever made ! I'll have to check out his poetry !........awesome ....Ed


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Ed, yes those are great movies now you need to go to the source of the inspiration...A.B."Banjo" Patterson himself. By all means check out his poetry. His amazing tales of country life and droving were one of my major inspirations growing up. Thanks for reading.


EsJam profile image

EsJam 19 months ago from Southern California

This was an inspirational article (hub). I learned something new! I knew the song "Waltzing Matilda" from grade school, and never knew it was by Mr. Paterson. How I loved that song. From all of the songs from my childhood, that was one that left an impression.

I also liked "Clancy of the Overflow" - I don't believe I'd ever heard it.

Voted up!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 19 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Essie, being a cowboy fan I see how you would have found this interesting. A lot of Banjo's poetry is about drovers (Australian Cowboys) and their lifestyle or the bush and outback life. I still love his poems and always wanted Waltzing Matilda to be adopted as our national anthem but alas it never was although considered.


EsJam profile image

EsJam 19 months ago from Southern California

I am going to do segments on cowboys from around the world...I hope that when I reach the Australian cowboy, I will do it justice, and it will meet with your approval.

Meanwhile, I would like to share this article on facebook - with your permission.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 19 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Those segments should be very interesting Essie. I'm sure you will do the Australian cowboy justice. Please feel free to share this on Facebook if you so despite. Thanks, I'm honoured.


EsJam profile image

EsJam 19 months ago from Southern California

Thank you! Shared on Hub and FB!


Buildreps profile image

Buildreps 17 months ago from Europe

This was a very brilliant and entertaining Hub, Jodah! I especially enjoyed the rhyme of Mr. A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson. Thanks for this nice article.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 17 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading Buildreps. Glad you enjoyed 'Banjo's" rhyme. He is perhaps Australia's most famous poet. I appreciate your visit and comment.

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    Jodah profile image

    John Hansen (Jodah)699 Followers
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    John was born and raised in Australia and subsequently is patriotic and interested in all things Australian inc.language, sport and culture.


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