Writer of “Gundagai” Has Never Been There

15 May 1945 The Tumut and Adelong Times

The composer of "Gundagai" Jack O'Hagan, cheerfully admits that he has never seen the town, although his song has made it famous both here and overseas.

The song originated in the early 1920's, when O'Hagan was first trying to write songs for a living.

He had submitted some melodies to a publisher, whose comments on Jack's Alabama and Dixie titles sent the young man home with burning ears to write a song about Australia. 

He wrote the melody to the words of 'Along the Road to Bundaberg,' but the Burnett River, which flows through Bundaberg, did not have sufficient syllables to fit well with the notes in one line, and he sought through an atlas for a river that would sound more euphonious. 

Finding the Murrumbidgee, he searched along it for a town, to which his track could wind back, and located Gundagai.

The title and words of the song were altered, and on this stray chance the little country town of Gundagai leapt into world fame as the song grew in popularity through the years. 

In this he paralleled Stephen Foster, who wrote 'Swannee River' only after he had discovered the name in an atlas and substituted it for his earlier choice of Pedec River.

O'Hagan says: “Perhaps it s as well. If we came down to reality and lived in the places we write songs about we might not write them at all.''   

He has written over 150 songs, many of which were published overseas.

One of his latest and most successful numbers is 'Little Ships Will Sail Again,' which is recorded by Turner Layton and by Geraldo and his Orchestra.