An entertainment for the 16th Australian Symposium on Gastronomy, October 2008
Down came a jumbuck to drink from the waterhole
Up jumped the swagman and shouted in glee
And he sang as he stuffed that jumbuck in his tucker bag
You’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me.
We all know how this story ends. Even out here in the long paddock the arm of the law is long. It reaches out to collar our swaggie, who, possibly thinking of the prison muck he may be about to be forced to swallow for the term of his natural life, jumps into the waterhole and drowns.
Right there you have the themes of this talk: lives lived by the river and sustained by the river, legitimately and otherwise, as reflected in popular songs. Popular songs like other cultural artifacts often incorporate aspects of daily life in their lyric. Having been brought up singing Old Man River, Old Father Thames, Moon River, and several other songs, and received quite strong impressions of river life in the United States and England, I wondered what I would learn of river life in Australia from popular songs here.