Thursday, 18 June 2015

Waltzing Matilda - A Place of History and a Song to hold

Outback Queensland - photo CRB 2010

 Alan Ramsay, rang from Australia with devastating news last night. A fire had ravaged the Waltzing Matilda Centre with its Quantilda Museum  at Winton  in Queensland, Australia. A disaster for heritage and stored family history, for  irreplaceable photos and handwritten articles may have been lost.
 
Longreach near Winton, Queensland - Photo CRB 2010
 
Numbed, I thought about Winton - the Ramsay brothers  who were two of  those early pastoral settlers on Oondooroo Station; the stories and songs that have come out of Outback Queensland;  " Banjo" Paterson who penned many of those songs and poems, portraying the lives of those early stockmen, shearers and swagmen - " Waltzing Matilda" possibly the most well - known song of all ;   A J Boyd, writer of a series of short stories " Old Colonials" . Boyd was  headmaster for a short time at Toowoomba Grammar School where  some pastoralists - and bankers - sent their boys for education. My grandfather James Halifax Stewart, was recorded as having attended   Toowoomba Grammar School  during the years Boyd was headmaster.

Toowoomba Grammar School - photo CRB 2010

James Halifax moved back to New Zealand in 1890 with family when his Banker father died.  Amongst  Boyd's stories was that of a  banker,  a Mr. S and journeys to outback banks. Reminds me of stories  passed down orally by the family about James Halifax father's  journeys to Townsville and Barcarldine - back then it would have been mainly journeys by horse   to the banks in those towns. Certainly not the easy train journey aboard " Spirit of the Outback" and bus coach tour experienced by us back in 2010 up to Longreach and Winton.

National Bank Barcarldine about 1887 - photo courtesy National Library Queensland

Even though Winton Queensland  and the Waltzing Matilda Centre seems so far away from Coromandel New Zealand there are many strong links across the miles.  This is through the song " Waltzing Matilda."
The song penned by Paterson way back in 1895  on Dagworth Station near Winton  was first recited in public by Sir Herbert Ramsay at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton on 6 April 1895 at a banquet for the Premier of Queensland.  This bush ballad  that has spread across Australia , New Zealand and around the world. Until it is said to have become the unofficial National Anthem of Australia, sung at National Australia Day in 2009.

In 2010 just before the Queensland trip outback,  a New Zealand film Premiere organised by the Waihi Vision Committee was attended at Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula - Beneath the Hill 60. The film set during WW1 tells the story of the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company South of Ypres (Belgium West Flanders)  and one which the New Zealand counterparts, including from Waihi and the Coromandel Peninsula, could relate to as part of the NZ Tunnelling Company in WW1.
 
 
This film was made in and around Townsville, Queensland  with the script based on the writings of  rural Queensland WW1 tunneller  Oliver Woodward.   Bill Leimbach was producer of  Beneath the Hill 60. It is Bill Leimbach, this leading Australian filmaker and producer , who was selected in 2014 to produce a new film about  Waltzing Matilda. Leimbach hired Morgan O'Neill to direct the film, the script of which is about the life of  Banjo Paterson on the outback station and the song Waltzing Matilda. Oondooroo Station  near Winton (home once of the Ramsay brothers) was slated to also be used in film scenes.
 



Sheep on Oondooroo Station, near Winton, 1915 courtesy Queensland Historical Atlas, Collection of the Centre for the Government of Queensland

 

It appears there was another film produced in 1933 also called Waltzing Matilda both starring and directed by Pat Hanna, originally born in  Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula. Hanna ( full names George,  Patrick) also was a WW1 soldier, a private in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. This  film, about two men who found work as drovers on a station, was not as  successful as Hanna had hoped for.
 
Buffalo Beach Whitianga - Photo CRB 2012 - Whitianga being where Pat Hanna born
More thinking evokes memories of a mother singing and teaching me growing up in New Zealand, the song Waltzing Matilda. Humming it now brings back more memories of her introducing me to stories of another family member way back, arriving as a Marine aboard HMS Sirius to Australia in 1788. Other stories such as Norah of Billabong - must read stories for any growing girl and for grandchildren the stories of the Gum Nuts. Interwoven with stories from a father and his stories passed down through the generations - the Spider Story and other songs from their country of Scotland - Auld Lang Syne - as with Waltzing Matilda- an integral part of New Year and community celebrations. The story of Hauturu, the Taniwha of Whangamata Beach Road Playground, Coromandel Peninsula shared with grandchildren by my father, fishing tales of Coromandel's Eastern Seaboard. Another variation of the song Waltzing Matilda - And the Band played Waltzing Matilda - written originally  by Eric Bogle  about  Australian soldiers who fought s and died in the Battle of Gallipoli in WW1. This song now commemorates the allied troops who fought at Gallipoli - the ANZACs.
 
2001.215 Photograph Album of 4/509 Sapper Philip Roderick McRae Hanna, New Zealand Engineers- Courtesy National Army Museum NZ   Gallipoli
 
This makes me realise that although many things were destroyed at Winton early Thursday morning, there are some of those intrinsic history things that weren't. Those are our songs and oral stories passed on through families and others. That it is important to continue passing on  these. To use other media such as doing now,  with this blog, to keep those songs and stories safe in our hearts and shared with many others - the stories of Queensland Outback and stories of Coromandel Peninsula. For they are a relevant part of the past and stories of families - Gorrie, Stewart, Morton  and Ramsay - who journeyed back and forth from Australia to New Zealand and if passed on, these stories  will be there for our future generations.
 
Outback Queensland - Photo CRB 2010
 

                                                            

                                      The original Waltzing Matilda

                                             as written in the Winton District   by Banjo Paterson in 1895


Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Who'll come a Waltzing Matilda  my darling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading  a water bag
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Down came a jumbuck to drink at the water hole
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he said as he put him away in the tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda my darling
 You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading  a water bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Down came the squatter a riding on his thoroughbred
Down came policemen one two three
Where is the jumbuck you've got in the tuckerbag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
  
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
 Waltzing Matilda leading  a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
 
But the swagman he up and he jumped in the waterhole
Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree
And his ghost can be heard as it sings in the billabong
 Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
 
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
 Waltzing Matilda leading  a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
 
Windmill Queensland Outback - Photo CRB 2010

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