Andrew Barton Paterson: A Memoir

10 June 1949 The Burrowa News

When banjo went to school at Binalong his father managed Illalong, thanks to Mr. Browne.

Half a century has gone by since "The Man from Snowy River" startled, delighted and captured the Australian world - time enough for the author who, in 1895, burst into sudden blaze, to grow dim and small in the Australian awareness.

Already misconceptions of Paterson's life and place are common.

Outright errors even have appeared in print, e.g. he was born at many different places: Boree, Binalong, Moree, Buckenbah, Orange, Illalong, Naramba.

He was ''a city solicitor who spent his holidays in the bush."

He was a "bottom-dog, writing about his mates."

He "learned his ballad making from the anonymous, indigenous, bush songs''; knowing bush life from visits.

"He probably over-romanticised it."

He was "petit-bourgeois."! 

It is time, therefore, to gather the facts of his person and history while those who can supply them are still with us. And these are the facts.

When the young wife - Rose Barton that was of Mr. Andrew Bogle Paterson, of Buckenbah, was near her first confinement, it was felt that the rough home in the bush was no place for the event.

That is why Andrew Barton Paterson was born, on February 17, 1864, at Narambla, near Orange, the home of his grand-aunt, Mrs. Templer.

His father, who had come to New South Wales at 16 with an older brother and a sister from Scotland, was a direct descendant of William Paterson, the Scot who had, to finance William III., founded the Bank of England in 1794; and a son of Captain John Paterson of the E. I. Co.

His mother was a daughter of Robert Barton, of Boree Station, and niece of Major John Baily Darvell, lawyer, of Sydney, and member of the first N.S.W. Legislative Assembly.

The Darvells and the Barton's had come to the colony on the same ship, in 1834.

Shortly after the birth of his son, Mr. Paterson, not doing well on Buckenbah, took up better land in Queensland, droving his sheep over.

The move, owing to wet seasons, was disastrous.

The sheep were shorn on a sandbank in a flooded river, but the wool, loaded on to boats, was swept out to sea and lost. Buckenbah had to go.

Father Bought Illalong.

With a bank loan, Mr. Paterson bought lllalong, in the Yass district, and moved his growing family south; but ill-luck followed him, this time, drought, and the banks foreclosed.

However, Mr. Henry Browne, of Bendinine, bought in Illalong, and made Paterson manager of both properties.

So the loss meant little to the children; Illalong remained their home.

In time there were seven of them: Andrew Barton and Hamilton, and Florence (Mrs. Lumsdaine), Jessie, Edith (Mrs. G. Huntley), Grace (Mrs. F. W. Taylor), Gwen (late proprietor of the Lockley and Paterson Library).

There was much music in this bush home, and books were a necessity.

But when her husband bought complete sets of Scott and Dickens "for the children,"

Rose Paterson was vexed with "such extravagance".

"My dear,'' he rejoined, "I have given them an education."

Mr. Paterson had the trick of versifying; some of his verses appear "by A. B. Paterson,'' in early numbers of The Bulletin; some of Jessie's too.

Hamilton as well as Barty wrote verse, while their grandmother not only wrote verse, but had her verse printed for the family and friends. Barty grew up in a rhythmic medium.

His son, Hugh Barton, a Tobruk ''Rat," has followed on.

Verse of his was quoted by Chester Wilmot in his Tobruk despatches.

But Mr. Paterson was no mere dilettante; he was a very successful breeder of merinos.

He early secured from one of the first shows (Tasmania) special stud rams, and his wool frequently topped the market.

He was a foundation member of the Union Club.

Went To School With Gilberts

Having learned to read and write with the governess, and to catch and saddle his pony, young Barty at eight years used to ride the four miles to the small Public School at Binalong.

Binalong was famous for the bush ranger, Gilbert. ''I sat," he writes, "on a bench by some Gilberts," who no doubt were far from ashamed of their relative.

And indeed he made a brave end, which is told in the bal-lad 'How Gilbert Died.'

Of the bush school, Barty records that 'handers' were the absorbing interest, administered with a stout cane and dealt out on a regular scale:

One on each hand for not being able to answer, two for being late, three for telling lies.''

"Sometimes a fierce snorting Irishwoman would come along and give the master some first-class Billingsgate for beating her poor little boy.

We used to sit with open mouths and bulging eyes while our dreaded pedagogue shrank before the shrill and fluent abuse of these ladies."

On one public holiday the rous-about was permitted to take the little boy to the Bogolong races.

There he saw ''wild men from Yass and Jugiong, and blacks and half-castes . . . and a few from Lobb's Hill, a place so steep that the horses wore the hair off their tails sliding down the mountain."

Surely here we get the origin of the Man from Snowy River who ''Raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed . . . "

For, although there are at least seven claimants for the title Banjo always said he wrote of a type, not of any one person.

Races were then run in heats.

A Murrumbidgee mountaineer came up and took Barty's small saddle.

"It's all right,'' he said to the startled child, "just the very thing; the lightest here.

This is Pardon, and if he wins I'll stand you ginger beer.''

Pardon won first and second heats.

There was no third. "I had the ginger beer.

I had won the race.

Years after, I worked this incident into a sort of ballad - 'Pardon, the son of Reprieve.'

Going home we passed the Dacey's selection.

Old blind Geoffrey, a giant of an English agricultural labourer, hearing the horses, called out, "Who beat?''

''Pardon won, with my saddle on him!'

"Ah cares nought about that!

Who beat? Prodestans or Carthlics?" Vanished days!

(By Florence Earle Hooper). Reprinted from Yass Tribune-Courier.