A Childhood Song

As a child in primary school after lunch was song time.  We sang all kinds of songs.  One of my favorites was Waltzing Matilda.   I have always been intrigued by this song but I had no idea what the words meant. “Once a jolly swagman walked into a billabong.  Under the shade of a coolibah tree. ” Who or what was a swagman?  what on earth was a billabong or a coolibah tree?   Living on a Caribbean island, I had no clue what the song was talking about.   Here was this man  singing and waiting for his billy to boil – you come -a waltzing-Matilda with me.  I loved the tune.   It was jumpy.

I checked my Miriam-Webster dictionary, but could not find those terms. Then hooray for the internet and Google.  So let me share it with you.  I learned that it is an Australian Bush Ballad that was written in 1895.  The song is about a tramp who wanders from place to place looking for work.  One day he found a sheep that belonged to a rich cattle rancher. He killed it, ate some of it and put the rest in his bag.  Unfortunately, the rancher came by and he had three policemen with him.  The swagman did not want to be arrested so he jumped into the water hole and drowned.  After his death people said that they could hear him singing the chorus waltzing Matilda as they passed by.

Now, my favorite song makes a lot of sense.

By Unknown – New South Wales Government Printer, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1221739





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