Waltzing Matilda Centre

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Waltzing Matilda song words written, at the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton

Waltzing Matilda Centre is a tribute to the unofficial Australian anthem by Banjo Patterson, and is also the Tourist Information Centre for Winton.

The famous bush song ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is thought to be inspired by the suicide of a shearer in 1894 at Combo Waterhole, about 150km north-west of Winton.

Waltzing Matilda is composed from a variety of stories associated with the shearing strikes. With words of Aboriginal origin, such as billabong, jumbuck and coolabah, the song is uniquely Australian.

The centre was first built in 1998 after centenary celebrations of Banjo Patterson’s song written in 1895. A collection of Australian memorabilia and interactive displays was lost in a fire in 2015 from an electrical fault.

The current centre was completed in 2018 with new interactive displays and memorabilia. When standing under things it triggers audio and video presentations. A statue of Banjo Paterson survived the fire and is on display out the front.

The melody was written by Christina Macpherson. During a visit to Dagworth Station, Banjo heard Christina playing a Scottish melody on a zither, an instrument that happened to be the only one at the station, left behind by a bookkeeper.

Christina Macpherson was not aware of any lyrics for the melody and Banjo thought the tempo of the tune fit the song well. Copies of the original manuscripts and a zither are displayed in Waltzing Matilda Centre.

Waltzing Matilda is the main focus of the centre but it also covers much more. Stories of the evolvement of the Matilda Country, the people and its long history are included.

Dinosaurs and fossils is one of thing that bring tourists to Winton, especially for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum Brown Sign link and the Lark Quarry dinosaur stampede monument Brown Sign link. Some fossils and information about dinosaurs in the area are on display.

Aboriginal history in the area is covered including tools and the massacre in Bladensburg National Park where 200 Aboriginals were killed at a waterhole, which became known as Skull Hole.

Opal industry is represented with some beautiful examples of opal on display.

The Waltzing Matilda Centre is an excellent place and we could spend lots of time there. There was plenty of interesting things to learn. For example, the tucker-bag is a reference to a sack given to a shearer when he is terminated and is given provisions to make it to another shearing shed. This is where the uniquely Australian term “getting the sack” comes from.

The original song is different to the one commonly known today. Below is the original words:

Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabongs,
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.”

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.

Up came the jumbuck to drink at the waterhole,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee;
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
“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.

Up came the squatter a-riding his thoroughbred;
Up came the policeman – one, two, and three.
“Whose is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tucker-bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with we.”

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.

Up sprang the swagman and jumped into the waterhole,
Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree;
And his voice can be heard as it sings in the billabongs,
“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.

Waltzing Matilda written in 1895, by Banjo Patterson

The more typically known words are below, with the “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling.” changed to “Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda” the most notable change. Another interesting change is “Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree” to “You’ll never catch me alive said he”, putting less emphasis on the swagman’s suicide and making him more appealing as a hero of resistance.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Up rode the squatter mounted on his thorough-bred
Down came the troopers One Two Three
Whose that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
Whose that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker-bag
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman sprang in to the billabong
You’ll never catch me alive said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me

Banjo Patterson, lyrics of Waltzing Matilda

To get there:

Brown sign for Waltzing Matilda Centre

From the west (Cloncurry or Boulia) along Landsborough Hwy, veer left (straight ahead) with the brown sign for Waltzing Matilda Centre when reaching Winton onto Elderslie St. The Waltzing Matilda Centre is 850m on the right.

From the East (Longreach) along Landsborough Hwy, turn left when entering town to head towards Cloncurry. Follow for 1.2km and turn right into Elderslie St with the brown sign for Waltzing Matilda Centre. Follow Elderslie St for 550m with the Waltzing Matilda Centre on the left.

From the north (Hughenden) along Kennedy Development Rd, cross over the railway line and continue for another 1.3km before turning right into Elderslie St at the sign for Town Centre. Waltzing Matilda Centre is 100m on the left.


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