Waltzing Mathilda

Officially the Australian National Anthem is Advance Australia Fair.


But all Australians know for a fact that the REAL Anthem is a much older, more traditional ballad that was written by my beloved Banjo Paterson.

original notated version of ‘Waltzing Matilda’

In 1895 Banjo wrote Walting Mathilda at Dagworth Station.

Troopers at Dagworth Station during the Shearer’s Strike in 1894

It is thought that the lyrics were inspired by the shearer’s strike of 1894.


Rolf Harris is going to sing Waltzing Matilda for you.

Now he’s an Australian institution.

Singer – artist – entertainer – general Aussie icon.

So just sit back and get a glimpse of some of the cute and crazy critters that inhabit Australia while he warbles.

I’m not talking about the two-legged, upright mammals either…

Waltzing Mathilda – by Banjo Paterson

OH! there once was a swagman camped in the Billabong,
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree;
And he sang as he looked at his 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 and 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 sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!”
Down came the Squatter a-riding his thorough-bred;
Down came Policemen—one, two, and three.
”Whose is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tucker-bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”
But the swagman, he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree;
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong,
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”


Definitions of Australian Slang


Walking along a bush track.


A bedroll, part of the ‘swag’ usually a chaff bag, containing his ‘billy’  provisions and blankets.

Waltzing Matilda

The act of carrying the ‘swag’ sometimes known as ‘humping the bluey’.


An unemployed Australian drifter or tramp. The term originated from the ‘swag’ they carried.


Aboriginal word for a waterhole or blind channel leading out from a river.


Aboriginal word for a type of gum or eucalyptus tree.


An open topped tin with a wire handle used for boiling water to make tea, or to heat food over a fireplace.


Australian slang word for sheep, corrupted from ‘jump up’. Sheep jump up after being shorn.

Tucker Bag

A bag for tucker (food); part of the swag.


A landowner, usually a sheep station owner or grazier. At one time, squatters illegally claimed land for themselves in addition to land that they had been granted.


Policemen. In the early days there was no Police Force and the colony was protected by soldiers or troopers.

For more Banjo Paterson see The Man From Snowy River and Mulga Bill’s Bicycle.


  1. At last someone’s translated it for our Kiwi neighbours (and the rest of the world’s inhabitants)!
    On ya, mate! LOL : D


    1. Unless you’re Australian – and sometimes even then – Waltzing Mathilda is a bit of a puzzle. Ahhhhhhh – the Orrstraaliaans – sway to a different tune than the rest of the world. LOL


  2. Hi Jo, at my age i know a lot of the meanings and when i was younger on building sites the only way for us to make tea was a billy can, and it was the tea boy who had to do it.

    But i always thought the National Anthem was the song by Rolf Harris – Two Little Boys 😉


        1. Oh he was that. I know I giggled at your comment about Two Little Boys 😉 – but that song actually makes me a little teary when I hear it. Especially when it was played on ANZAC Day, as it often was when I was growing up. It really does encompass exactly what ANZACS and childhood mates were. 🙂
          Rolf is worthy of a post all to himself I feel.


  3. I had wondered what the song meant. Thanks for explaining the meaning of the word too. I learned something new today and it’s still early morning! 🙂


    1. A lot of aussies don’t either these days – some of the vernacular is not used as much. At least the terms ‘waltzing, mathilda, waltzing mathilda, jumbuck,’ are no longer heard in general conversation.


  4. Even with the definitions, I found my ears boggled by the sounds of silliness. It takes time to acclamate to the nuanses of dialects spoken fast. Both songs on this post are really cool! Ive got the movie Galipoli sitting in my dvd player waiting for me to watch it. It will be my first Au war movie ever.


      1. Well, I watched it and loved it! The ending was a blunt shock. At first I thought, What?! It can’t end there! But then… I realized it was the perfect ending. scenes like that in real life ARE blunt endings. Though it does make me wonder why Au would want to help the British back in that time. I would think they should have hard feelings considering how Au was founded. Indeed Mell Gibsons dad in the movie echoed those same sentiments.


        1. I think that is also why I liked it so much – life is so often like WTF ???
          The ties between Aus and Britian are still strong – why – I don’t know. Maybe the heritage is just to close to the average Joe to do anything else.

          So glad you liked it – it is one of my favourite aussie movies.

          Others you NEED to see are:

          1. Alvin Purple
          2. Breaker Morant
          3. The Castle
          4. Don’s Party
          5. The Lighthorsemen
          6. The Odd Angry Shot
          7. The Picture Show Man
          8. Romper Stomper
          9. The Sum of Us
          10. Picnic at Hanging Rock
          11. Storm Boy
          12. Two Hands

          To start with that is…hehehehe

          Now get cracking mate



          1. ok, I copy pasted the list. But I have a real good ear for accents. Problem is, after I listened to too many female Irish singers, my singing voice now has a permanent Irish lilt to it, and I can’t seem to undo it. (not that I mind it) As I read many books from old England.. my inner reading voice has a perfect English accent. So what will happen if I watch all these Au movies in a row? My english inner voice might morph into an Ausie one. 🙂 heheh My mom asked me today, :Why do you keep talking about Austrlia?” 😀


  5. All these years I thought Waltzing Matilda was a song about dancing. Thank you!
    Also, the Coolibah photo is amazing!


  6. Jo,
    I’ve sung this song when I was a kid here in the States hundreds and hundreds of times! I never knew what the words meant but simply loved the way the lyrics rolled off the tongue. It sure is great to know what those lovely words finally mean!! Also the photos really adds to the whole story you’re telling – Love it!!


    1. Hi Chris – so glad the explanations went a ways to adding to the song for you. It’s always been a favourite of mine that is for sure.
      Shhhhhhh – I didn’t know what it all meant for years.
      You’ll keep my secret huh ??


  7. Jo — thank you a thousand times for educating me about this song. I luv “Waltzing Matilda” and hum it a lot. I have had trouble learning the words because I don’t know what they mean. So now I can learn them and sing along. And beautiful pictures too.


    1. I get a little carried away at times – one book/web page leads to another, and another – but information – it just interests me. I love the back story I guess. 😉


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