Waltzing Matilda – An Allegory

During our many tours of North West Queensland, we often called into Kynuna to see my mate Richard Magoffin, who for many years had a large circus tent opposite the Blue Heeler Hotel.  Dick had his own theory about the song Waltzing Matilda and had done years of research and displayed his findings in the tent for all to see. It was an icon for many years. What Dick had to say made a lot of sense to me and I was inspired to write this poem and Dedicated it to the late Richard Magoffin.
In 2011 these lyrics were a finalist and the winner in the Lyrics Only section of the Tamworth Songwriters Association’s National Country Music Song Writing Awards in Tamworth.


Hey Banjo, what was on your mind when, by that waterhole,
Christina played old Craigielee? Did something stir your soul?
Perhaps a voice, a plaintive cry, within the billabong
was what inspired the alleg’ry, immortalised in song.

The shearer’s strike of ninety-four sent forth the worker’s cries,
too long the Squatter set the terms, democracy would rise.
A worker too should have a voice; a fair go all they sought,
but by September ninety-four the strike had come to nought.

Though Dagworth and Kynuna men had still some fight within
and burnt old Dagworth’s woolshed down, a monumental win.
Your swagman sent to reconnoitre, matilda on his back;
a guise well hid within your words, a rather clever tack.

And Hoffmeister whom they found dead down by the waterhole,
did represent the worker’s right, for this he gave his soul.
He stood against authority, who through excessive use
had robbed the worker of his vote; ’twas wrong and sheer abuse.

The fuss was over one poor sheep, a jumbuck so you said;
that jumbuck was McPherson’s wool and lambs burnt in his shed.
No Squatter missed a single sheep some swagman sought for tea;
your jumbuck was his assets, the Squatter’s property.

The Squatter on the thoroughbred was Mac your dear old friend,
he stood for landed interests, who aimed to have their end.
They dominated government, controlled the nation’s law;
a loaded system quite unfair, which left the workers poor.

You said three troopers came that day to catch one simple thief.
I think you mean how once again, much to the workers grief,
the overwhelming use of law was just another tool,
for use against the battler’s fight, to make him look the fool.

Was it the swagman’s ghost that called the day Christina played?
Or did you hear the Shearer’s call and on your mind it weighed?
‘Twas Mac who called for your return; your services in view.
Mick Fahey would stand the Shearer’s case, the squatters called on you.

Kynuna pub saw sacred deals with charges dropped that day;
the champagne flowed across the bar and common sense held sway.
Then Banjo, Sir, you penned this tale, in guise of fiction true,
but thanks to Dick Magoffin mate, we’ve cottoned on to you.

So when we sing old Banjo’s song based ’round that shearer’s strike,
we’ll know the truth within our hearts, our minds will be alike.
‘Twas more than just a fancy tale of some poor swaggy’s plight,
but how some men fought tooth and nail, for justice and for right!

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4 replies on “Waltzing Matilda – An Allegory”

It is good to see you back on the Pub again!

Back when I was in school (a century or so ago), I learned about Waltzing Matilda. They taught us the meaning of all the Australian words, but that was where they left it. Looking back, it seems a curious omission considering the obsession with details, metaphor, hidden meanings, and the like when they taught poetry.

In other words, I’ve never heard about any of this before. I am very pleased you posted it.


Yes it was just a simple Aussie song we all sang to lift the Aussie Spirit. When I first met Dick he had a whole tent full of records to back his theory and I thought it made sense that there had to be more to the story than a swaggy pinching a sheep, which many did and left the fleece on the fence, but to have all those troopers chasing him in outback Kynuna seemed a little unrealistic. Thanks for sharing.


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