Waltzing Matilda


I’m willing to wager a groat or three that you’ll all know this and have been happily singing along from the start, although that might make me guilty of assuming everyone’s age. Still Jon says, “I lived in Australia for a year as a kid but unfortunately didn’t pick up any Australian folk songs, although we did all have to learn the national anthem. I can’t remember it now so here’s the unofficial national anthem.” Familiar yes, but like any good song it has a perhaps surprising history and you can read a good Wiki page here. Bert Lloyd has the Brit folk claim to recording what he calls a fairly hackneyed song, although Jon names Lou Killen as his source and you can see the usual detail of their respective recordings, plus some more including sleeve notes at Mainly Norfolk.

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21 Responses to “Waltzing Matilda”

  1. Carole Garland says:

    We couldn’t have it as a National Anthem (obviously) because it celebrates law breaking, but most Aussies prefer it to our rather turgid Advance Australia Fair. I’ve never heard it sung this slow though

  2. Shelley says:

    Yes, I’m singing along. That speed makes is easy to harmonise too (fancy a duet Jon?)

  3. Phil says:

    I wonder how long it’ll be before someone mentions the Eric Bogle song?

    (Oh. Never mind.)

  4. muzza says:

    Jon’s version is too slow for me…………..I like a “Tankard swinging” pace…with perhaps a bit of “Walking the Bulldog” thrown in……..but…the nice thing about this site is that it is inspirational and you hear new songs and the Mudcat and Wiki threads set the hares running and before you know it you are actively engrossed in folk song EVERY day.

  5. muzza says:

    Hey Phil…….not long…………I do a FANTASTIC version of the Eric Bogle song on Youtube…………will Eric ever forgive me!

  6. LadyD says:

    I liked it…but then I like the Rolf Harris version. 😉

  7. Ellie May says:

    My friend, Gidge and I do a local Kentish song called the Recruiting Sergeant which is sung to this tune.

  8. StephenH says:

    I actually like the slow pace of this song. I used to sing it , at their bedtime, to my two daughters, when they were little. The tune I used was an alternate to this one – I thought I got it from an AL Lloyd recording. Thinking about it now, it seems a bit of an odd bedtime song when one considers the fate of the swagman. Of course, my choice may be explained by the fact that my Mother and Grandmother used to sing to me, when I was little: “Down went McGuinty to the bottom of the sea/and he must be very wet/for they haven’t found him yet/and they say that his soul goes a’roving ’round the bend/dressed in his best suit of clothes”

  9. Jane Ramsden says:

    Well sung, Jon, tho’ I’ve never cared much for the song (save for the echo of it in Tom Traubert’s Blues) but your individual rendition & tempo help one listen better to the words.

    My father used to sing a bit of it to me as a child at bedtime too, but more memorably, the song about the cherry without any stone, ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ and ‘You shall have a fishy, On a little dishy, You shall have a fishy, When the boat comes in…’ served up with a whole (if one was lucky) boiled sweet fish on a saucer! You used to get them in some sweets to weigh out called Yorkshire Mixtures, but many got broken in half, in which case, I preferred a mermaid’s tail to a head! There, a Yorkshire folk memory from your Australian song.

  10. Lenora Rose says:

    I still think of Australia as the one country without a national anthem, because when I was there, lo, 25 years ago, they didn’t, and you remember the things you learn as a child. I heard Advance Australia Fair, as it was on a collection of songs about Australia, but it had no cachet. And yes, most people preferred this.

  11. Yehudit says:


    was very popular in East Coast US folk circles in the 70s….

  12. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    A year on and I’m not quite as reserved as I was……….(now a blatent egotist!)
    In his comment above, Phil mentioned the “Eric Bogle song” and I jumped on the bandwagon…..saying,….hey I sing that one…allbeit I nearly go into “Walking the Bulldog” during 3rd chorus……….I’ll have to have another go at turning the bedroom into a squatters veranda, stick the old hat on the head, get the old rifle out and blaze away at “Waltzing Matilda”…….is nothing sacred.

  13. Terry McDonald says:

    I’ve just noticed Ellie May’s comment from last year about a ‘Kentish version of this song called the Recruiting Sergeant.’ Presumably she means Pete Coe’s creation that starts ‘A bold grenadier went marching down through Rochester…..’

  14. Jane Ramsden says:

    Still not mad on the song, but have newfound respect for the lyrics of Eric Bogle and the sadly recurrent ‘My Son, John’ lost legs’ theme contained therein. Thanks, Yehudit, for that Wiki link. I can see why the song might have been very popular in the ‘love and peace, man,’ ban the bomb days of 70s. Those lyrics are certainly powerful. Your chosen tempo might well be more appropriate for Eric Bogle’s words, Jon.

  15. John Biggs says:

    Eric Bogle wrote ‘The Band Played Waltzing Mathilda’ to highlight the futility and waste of war. (We buried ours and they buried theirs, then we started all over again.) The irony of using Australia’s National Tune, by which thousands of men and women have marched off to war, was lost on most of the right wing media and he was savagely attacked in the press for being unpatriotic.

  16. Joe Fineman says:

    It has also been worked into “Waltzing with Bears”.

  17. Diana says:

    A great Aussie song but the tempo should have been upped a little in my humble opinion.

  18. Muzza(NW Surrey-UK) says:

    Just ask me who hopes to getalong to Farnham Maltings on Oct 22 to see Fay & the Hurricanes’………who else would pick the Dr.Who seat K9

  19. Diana says:

    It had to be you, it had to be you Muzza – there I was singing a little song to you then. Well it sounds like it should be quite a good seat and if not you can always retreat into the Tardis. You will enjoy the show I am sure. I have to wait till the 18th of November for Bellowhead.

  20. old Muzza (NW Surrey) says:

    I am not a number…….I am still here, clinging to the wreckage

  21. OldMuzza*NW Surrey UK) says:

    See three comments above….
    Drat…I never made it to seat K9 to see Fay and the Hurricanes and had to give my ticket away.
    Ha….only just clinging to the wreckage.

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