Waltzing Matilda Becomes Australia's Favorite Song

Banjo Paterson Sells the Rights to Waltzing Matilda

The story of Waltzing Matilda didn't end with Banjo Paterson and Christina Macpherson writing the song and gaining popularity as a bush ballad in the Australian outback. In 1900 Paterson sold the lyrics, to what he considered a minor ditty, together with a number of other works to Angus and Robertson publishers for the princely sum of "five quid" (about A$670).

Rights to the Song Bought by the Billy Tea Company

According to records held by the State Library of New South Wales, James Inglis & Co bought a bundle of lyrics from Angus & Robertson in 1902. In this bundle were the lyrics for Waltzing Matilda. James Inglis & Co was a major importer of tea and sold over 680,000 kilos (1.5 million lbs) of tea an year under the "Billy Tea" trademark. They were in search of a catchy tune to promote their tea. Waltzing Matilda, they thought, with a little improvement, would surely fit the bill.

Waltzing Matilda Rearranged by Marie Cowan

Marie Cowan, the wife of one of the managers at James Inglis & Co and a gifted musician, was entrusted with the task of writing a tune to the lyrics. Serendipitously, Marie had heard the original musical tune Christina had written. So she set about recomposing the tune and changing some of the lyrics of the song to better fit the melody. The sheet music and lyrics were then printed and wrapped around containers of Billy Tea and as a promotional gimmick. It wasn't long before the song gained widespread popularity. This version of the song, known as the Marie Cowan version, is the one we hear today.

Waltzing Matilda Goes to War

Waltzing Matilda travelled with Australian troopers to the Boer War, then the First World War where it was sung boisterous by Australian soldiers and picked up by troops of other nationalities such as the British and Americans. Before long it was known throughout the world even though, in most instances, those singing it had no idea where the song originated. For over a century now, it has been a favourite with Australian troops whenever they travel overseas.

Waltzing Matilda is Over a Century Old and Still a Favorite

Waltzing Matilda is one of those rare songs that hasn't aged. It has been with us for over a century as is still popular today. It is frequently used in major public events. Some say that more Australian know the words to this song than possibly even their national anthem.

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