Home - Chermside & District History

Waltzing Matilda's Connection With Chermside by Geoff Thompson. Edited by Patrick O'Shea.

Introduction


This work is developed from a power point address presented by Geoff Thompson to the Chermside & Districts Historical Society in 2018. Geoff uses the original text of Waltzing Matilda by Paterson and not later versions.

Map - Winton - Cloncurry Area.


Dagworth Station


Winton is 849 km west of Rockhampton and 1,400 km N W from Brisbane and is connected by train to both places. Alternatively a plane can fly direct in a few hours. But when the Squatters moved into this area they only had horses and they had to blaze their own tracks.

In the 1890s to reach Dagworth Station from Winton one had to ride on horseback for about 130 km which would take two days and involve camping out.

Dagworth was one of many properties, called Stations in this remote area where the rainfall was limited but sufficient for the growth of grass which made it good for grazing sheep and cattle. Since the carrying capacity viz animals per hectare was low they needed very large properties for the large numbers of animals they needed to cover their cost of production and cost of transport to market. Wool from the sheep via wagons while the cattle could walk in herds supervised by drovers and dogs.

Each station had a small hamlet somewhere near a water supply where the owners and workers lived. At its heart was the homestead where the owner or manager and family lived. It was also the office for the bookkeeper who kept the accounts and paid the workers.

Nearby there would the blacksmith's forge, the carpenter' s shed, the saddler's shed the barracks for the single men, cottages for the married men and family, a 'sick bay' for casualties and sickness, sometimes a bone setter might be available.

Some stations had a school room with a governess who lived in the homestead to teach all the children the basics of education.

The toilets were all pits with a little 'house' over the pit while the homestead might have had 'pans' or drums which had to be emptied regularly.

Map of Kynuna Area on the Diamantina River


Kynuna which is half way between Winton and Cloncurry in Queensland is on the Diamantina River. is the nearest settlement to Dagworth Station. It had a Police Station, a Post Office, a Store and not much else. (A2 - the Landsborough Hwy. 84 Julia Creek Rd.)

The Diamantina River which passes nearby is a complex system of interweaving channels and waterholes or billabongs hence the area is called the Channel Country.

Map of Kynuna today.


The present state of the settlement is a Police Station, the Blue Heeler Hotel and Pub (under the Silver Marker) the Kynuna Road house which is a motel, a Service Station, a closed State School and a few houses. There is a Dagworth St., which is all that remains of Dagworth Station, a memory!

Kynuna State School - Closed


Waltzing Matilda Kynuna State School 240

The small school would have been a primary maybe with only one teacher but now it is closed because it does not have enough pupils. Those on the stations would have access to the School of the Air on their computers. Others may go to boarding school in the cities on the coast.

There is no shade outside the school and the only tree looks like it is dead while the grass looks like it is struggling.

Blue Heeler Hotel & Pub


Waltzing Matilda Hotel & Pub

The name represents Queensland's iconic dog, they are even being bred in the USA these days where they call them the Dingo Dog's.

This part of the Blue Heeler is the Pub part (drinking/eating) while the accommodation is out of sight at the rear.

Kynuna Police Station


Waltzing Matilda Police Station

The Police Station is shrouded in shrubs and trees but the familiar blue sign out the front on the street is unmistakable. There is no kerbing and guttering and the street is probably gravel, dusty in the dry muddy in the wet.

Waltzing Matilda V. 1.


Waltzing Matilda Down on his luck 540
Fredrick McCubban's 'Down on his luck' is a classic depiction of the Swagman.

Oh there once was a swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree
And he sang as he watched his old billy boiling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

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Swagman - Itinerant worker - back packer
Swag - Rolled up blanket with spare clothes inside.
Billabong - Waterhole/pond left behind when a river changes course.
Coolabah Tree - Eucalyptus - grows in dry country.
Waltzing Matilda - Euphemistic expression for walking with my swag ( a substitute for the woman I don't have generically called Matilda) (Waltzing was a popular dance at the time.)

Waltzing Matilda V. 2.


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?

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Leading a Water bag - Carrying a canvas water bag slung behind oneself.
Tucker Bag - Bag for carrying food.

Waltzing Matilda V. 3.


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

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Jumbuck - A young sheep - a lamb

Waltzing Matilda V.4.


Down came the squatter a riding on his thoroughbred
Down came the troopers one two three
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.

----------------------------------------------------------

Thoroughbred - A well bred horse - a race horse
Squatter - Property owner -
Troopers - Mounted police

Waltzing Matilda V.5.


But the swagman he up and he jumped into the water hole
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

---------------------------------------------------------

The Situation in the Channel Country in the 1890s


The Creation of Waltzing Matilda by Patterson developed out of several incidents on and around the quarter of a million acres of Dagworth Station.

At the time the whole of this extensive area of grazing land was dogged by the Great Shearer's Strikes of the early 1890's in which some seven Shearing Sheds were burnt down by the strikers. Dagworth Station Shed was burned down on 2nd September 1894. To make matters worse there were 143 lambs burnt alive in the fire and afterwards the body of a striker, Samuel (Frenchie) Hoffmiester was found nearby.

While there was considerable public outcry in the region, especially in regard to the grisly death of the lambs there was also the body of the dead man which had to be buried rather quickly. Since he had been shot there also had to be an inquest, and soon, as the weather was getting warmer. The body was inspected by Bob MacPherson, Manager of Dagworth (The Squatter) and three Troopers (Mounted Police) from Kynuna. The verdict was death by suicide with a bullet to the head.

Dagworth Shearing Shed 1893 - 4


Waltzing Matilda - Dagworth Shearing Shed 450

A fortified temporary shearing shed at Dagworth Station following the 1894 arson of the main shed. The three troopers at left are thought to be those referred to in Waltzing Matilda, while the squatter was Bob MacPherson the Manager and son of the owner fourth from the right. (Note by Qld. State Library.)

The log wall may have been the fortification of the shed to prevent any strikers from getting under the shed where the sheep were held for drying before shearing.

Nothing is left of Dagworth today, it was bought by the North Australian Pastoral Co. in 1995.

The Creation of Waltzing Matilda - The Participants.


Waltzing Matilda Banjo Patterson
Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson poet, solicitor of Sydney.

Most historians agree that the Creation of Waltzing Matilda by Paterson developed out of several incidents which occurred on and around Dagworth Station.

Sarah Riley


Waltzing Matilda Sarah Riley 160

Sarah Riley was travelling with her fiancé of eight years Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, poet and solicitor and may have been visiting her family on their Station near Winton.

Enter Christina MacPherson the woman who Inspired Waltzing Matilda.


Waltzing Matilda Christiana MacPherson 240

Christina MacPherson travelled from Victoria to visit her brother Bob who was manager of Dagworth and on the way she went to visit Sarah in Winton.

There she invited Sarah and Paterson to visit at Dagworth, they accepted and while there Paterson heard the story of the recent disasters. Also he was very 'taken' with the attractive Christina.

A few months earlier in Victoria where she lived, Christina had heard a Scottish tune that she liked, "The Craigielee March". While at Dagworth she played it one evening from memory on a zither and many historians believe Paterson began to see the possibility of weaving the above story and the Craigielee March together; the result was Waltzing Matilda.

The Combo Waterhole


Waltzing Matilda Combo Waterhole 2017 250

The billabong where the visitors. Paterson, Sarah Riley and Christina MacPherson had a picnic while they were at Dagworth Station. It might have been the inspiration for Patterson to use a billabong in his poem.

The Unexpected Results


For the lyrics Paterson wrote about two things:

• The chorus is a subtle expression of his feelings for Christina (Come a Waltzing Matilda with me.)
• The verses were written loosely about recent events at Dagworth Station

The result was humiliation for everyone, Sarah and Banjo's engagement was broken and no doubt Christina was embarrassed while Patterson distanced himself from the song and his time at Dagworth. But he did write an Iconic Australian song.

The Original Waltzing Matilda as Patterson wrote it.


Oh there once was a swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah tree
And he sang as he watched 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 with glee
And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.

Down came the squatter a riding on his thoughbred
Down came the troopers one two three
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me.

But the swagman he up and he jumped into the water hole
Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

Chermside Connection No. 1 Trooper Austin Cafferty


Waltzing Matilda - Cafferty Grave

This grave is Number RC1-22-5 in Lutwyche Cemetery, Kedron and is the last resting place of the Cafferty Family.

Minnie Cafferty (nee Todd) 8/4/1931 60 years.
Austin Cafferty 5/4/1952 89 years.
Rose Cafferty 7/1/1981 77 years.

The Hoffmeister death inquest documents name Trooper Austin Cafferty as one of those who came to investigate the shearer's death on 2nd Sept. 1894 after the Dagworth fire.

Cafferty Family Eleanor, Rose, Austin and Minnie C1907


Waltzing Matilda Cafferty Family 250 C1907

This photo was taken when the family was living in St. Lawrence; Austin was a Sergeant and he retired in 1914. Eleanor was the only daughter who married.

Austin Migrated to Australia from Leitrim, Ireland in 1883. He joined the Qld. Police Force the same year and served in central and western Qld. for the next 30 years.

Austin married Minnie Maria Todd at Rockhampton on 7/8/1895 and they lived at Ilfracombe then moved to St. Laurence in 1896, Clermont in 1908. Surat in 1911 and finally Windsor in 1914. Austin retired from the Police Force in 1914.


Eleanor a school teacher married William Daybell, a Police Officer in 1925, they had Laurie b. 1926 and Marjorie b. 1933. Eleanor died 1985 William died 1986.
Laurie Hughes died 4/4/2017
Marjorie Thompson died 26/4/2017

Todd's cottage, Todd's Rd. C 1910


Waltzing Matilda Todd's Cottage 200

Todd's Family home in C 1910 was located in what is now Lawnton. When the photo was taken the veranda was on the front with a skillion on the side.

James Todd migrated from County Durham, England and bought 14 ha of land adjacent to the North Pine River on which he commenced farming in 1864. He married and between 1866 and 1893 they had 12 children. The fourth child Minnie later married Austin Cafferty.

More land was purchased and by 1886 they had 336 ha of land on which they operated a dairy farm.

The cottage was built by James Foreman at sometime in the 1880s on the north side of the road which was later named Todds Rd.

Todd's cottage restored. Photo taken in 2016.


Waltzing Matilda Todds Cottage Restored

The cottage continued to be used by subsequent owners the Mumford family until they donated it in 1972 to the local community. It was relocated and re-erected in 1984 at its present site, the Old Petrie Town Historical Village, Dayboro Rd. Whiteside.

At some time a veranda added to the side of the cottage replacing the earlier skillion roof.

Chermside Connection No. 2


Waltzing Matilda Marge and Brian

Until 2017 both of Austin's granddaughters, Marge and Laurie were living in Chermside. In fact Marge was a member of Chermside & Districts Historical Society Inc.(CDHS).

The photo shows Marge with her Husband Brian Thompson.

Marge and her sister Laurie both passed away in 2017.

Eleanor was Marge's Mother;
My Grandmother;
Brian's Mother in Law.

Conclusion


Ross Fitzgerald and other historians agree with and promote this theory i.e. that Paterson probably wrote the lyrics broadly around the Dagworth events. A few historians correctly point out that it cannot be proven but do not say the theory is wrong or propose any more credible alternative. I find the theory quite persuasive, but I am biased of course. There is however no doubt about whether the events took place, and that Banjo stayed at Dagworth shortly after he wrote the song there. The only aspect that cannot be guaranteed is whether those evens were Banjo's inspiration for his song. There is also no doubt about Marge's connection to those events via her grandfather Austin Cafferty eg.

-- Inquest Documents
-- Immigration Records
-- Qld. Police Service's Book of Names.