31 March 2011

Christina’s Matilda

by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Elizabeth Botté

IP Kidz. Australian, History, Children, Picture. Hardcover RRP $26.00

Everyone knows (or should know) who wrote the words to Waltzing Matilda – Banjo Paterson. But who wrote the music?

Christina’s Matilda is the story of Christina Macpherson, a woman born to a wealthy family in Victoria in 1864. Her story is interesting, not only in relation to the famous song but her family were the last people to be held to ransom by Mad Dog Morgan.

When Christina’s mother died, she moved up to Queensland to be with her brothers and father on their large property, Dagworth. In the early 1900’s Christina met up with an old school friend, Sarah Riley who was engaged to Banjo Paterson. They spent many evenings entertaining with songs and poetry and readings.

Over the course of one such evening Christina played a tune by ear that she had heard at a race and Banjo started to write the words. The two spent the evening collaborating and ended up with the first verse of Waltzing Matilda.

But Christina was not recognised as the original composer when the publisher organised for another woman, Mary Cowan, to create a tune to go to the words. It wasn’t until 1983 that Christina Macpherson was acknowledged for her part in the history of the song.

This is a fascinating story where the use of historical photographs brings the story of the swagman to life. Australia has a wonderful and colourful history and Christina’s Matilda is a great book to read, to look at, and to learn from.

The Reading Stack reviewed Elizabeth Botté’s The Giggle Gum Tree in August 2009.


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