Waltzing Matilda

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This tune is an iconic one for Australians. It is one that illustrates the folk process.

There is a fair amount of conjecture and opinion round the traps in this part of the world but there is no doubt that the emergence and evolution of Australia's unofficial national anthem makes quite a story.

1. It seems that the story begins in Scotland in the late C.18th with the words of a poem by Robert Tannahill (1774-1810). The text of that poem can be found here: <http://www.contemplator.com/scotland/craiglea.html>

2. A few years later James Barr (1770-1836) a friend of Tannahill's composed a tune for the poem, said to have been published in 1818.

3. Archibald Milligan, (1848-1919) was a musician based in Glasgow, who made something of a name for himself both as a player and publisher. Milligan seems to have picked up the tune and published it under the pseudonym Carl Volti. This bit would really benefit from fact checking. It is also thought for some time that Thomas Bulch was using 'Carl Volti' as a pseudonym. Yep, its a muddle! But it does prove that Bulch was aware of Milligan.

4. James Kerr published the tune at least twice, once in "Kerr's Merry Melodies" v.3, No 368 (c.1880), see below and again in v.6 "Kerr's Collection of Merry Melodies for Pianoforte" where the composer was identified as Carl Volti.

5. Thomas Edward Bulch (1862-1930) born in New Shildon, Durham, UK, emigrated (1884) to Australia. He lived in Ballarat and later Melbourne and then Sydney, where he earned respect as a composer, arranger and brass band conductor. Bulch composed many tunes and arranged many others in pursuing his musical interests. One of these was "Craigielee" (pub 1892) a quick march arranged for brass band. The composition was attributed to Godfrey Parker, one of Bulch's pseudonyms. The two tunes are different but the one is clearly based on the other. More background on Bulch can be found here: <http://www.wizardandtyphoon.org/>, and here: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bulch>. It is not known where Bulch obtained copy of James Barr's tune. It is possible that he had played Millikan's version of Barr's tune during his formative days in New Shildon. It is also possible that he came by it via one of James Kerr's publications. And possibly both!

6. Some version of Bulch's arrangement was available to the Warrnambool Garrison Artillery Band on 28 April, when it was played, probably repeatedly, during the Warrnambool Race Carnival in 1894.

7. Christina Macpherson (1864-1936) attended the races in Warrnambool in 1894, where she heard the tune. Some 40 years later Macpherson confirmed this detail, in a letter she wrote but did not send; you can read it here:- <https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-224075404/view>. In August 1895 she remembered the tune (or perhaps misremembered it) when she played it for Banjo Paterson (1863-1941) during a visit to the Macpherson family's property, Dagworth Station, Qld, and again a few days later at her brother's home in Winton. Paterson wrote lyrics for the tune. Patterson later asked Macpherson to write the music down and send it to him. This she did. An image of Macpherson's transcript of the tune and lyrics can be found in the National Library of Australia <https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/4494967?lookfor=Christina%20Macpherson&offset=3&max=26>.

8. In 1903 Paterson sold his copyright to the lyrics, together with a 'lot of old junk', to Angus & Robertson, for five pounds. The copyright was subsequently bought by Inglis & Co, who used the song to brand and sell "Billy Tea".

9. Marie Cowan ( -1919), wife of the manager of Inglis & Co, altered the tune, introducing a more upbeat tempo, adding the word "Jolly" to the lyrics. The tune and lyrics were printed on the packaging for the tea. The tea, the tune and the lyrics were thus distributed widely throughout Australia. The song was well known to Australian soldiers during WWI who sang it as an expression of cultural cohesion and identity.

T: THOU BONNIE WOOD O' CRAIGIELIE R: march, reel B: James Kerr "Merry Melodies" v.3 p.41 #368, (pub c.1880) Z: 2016 John Chambers <jc:trillian.mit.edu> M: 2/4 L: 1/16 K:G (GA) |B2Bc A2AB | G2B2E3G | D2G2B2G2 | d2cB A2GA |B2Bc A2AB | G2B2E3G | D2G2d2B2 | AGAB G2 :| |: (Bc) |d3ed2B2 | g2f2e2d2 | d3e edcB | B2A2A2 (Bc) |d2B2c2d2 | e2f2g3e | d2G2d2B2 | AGAB G2 :|


The National Library of Australia host an online exhibit <https://web.archive.org/web/20091012215723fw_/http://www.waltzingmatilda.com.au/index.html>

"Waltzing Matilda", Dennis O"Keeffe, Allen & Unwin, 2012

"Waltzing Matilda", W. Benjamin Lindner, Boolalong Press, 2019

Wikipedia has an extensive article:- <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltzing_Matilda>

Item added to Wiki in April 2022

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