Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waltzing Matilda

Words:  Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson
Tune:  A variation on Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea by Robert Barr (1770-1836)

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?

(Chorus:) Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Waltzing Matilda and leading a waterbag,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came the jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred,
Up came Policemen - one, two and three,
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
Drowning himself by the coolibah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings by the billabong,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Australia's best known song has a rich history.  Written in 1895 by Banjo Paterson it has been adopted and adapted many times.  Dennis O'Keeffe's Waltzing Matilda site is a great place to start the journey of research into this fascinating subject.

I've printed the original lyrics above.  Observant listeners will note that the version sung here varies a little from the original.  These variations represent both the folk process and the varying ways in which this song is learnt by school-children around Australia.  (Any timing variations are my responsibility as conductor).  The suggestion at the very end of the recording came from James Rigby.

This recording was made on Friday, 20 January, 2012 at the Celtic Southern Cross Summer School in Victoria and was sung by all the attendees at the school.  I thank them all for their support and their contribution to the blog.  The illustration to this post is a photograph of the group by Phil Green.


  1. CONGRATULATIONS, John Thompson, on an extraordinary project and a fine year of singing! We shall have lime and pineapple jelly tonight to celebrate!! Green and gold for Australia Day!


  2. What a fantastic achievement - my wife and I (Poms both) have learned so much about Australia from the wonderful variety of songs you have brought to us over the year. We've also loved your selection of images to illustrate the songs.

    Once again thank you.

  3. Thanks John, this was so much fun and a privilege also to have taken part in the recording of this. We should have taken up James' suggestion just for the hell of it. Can we do another song like this next year, please please...
    Beth (MUSC)

  4. John, I suppose "Waltzing" was an obvious choice for a closing song, but having it sung by a chorus was brilliant. Your blog was like a perfect concert that I wish would go on forever. The final song brought tears to my eyes.
    -Joe Offer-