Review Blog

Jan 23 2014

Christina's Matilda by Edel Wignell and Elizabeth Botte

cover image

IP Kidz, 2011. hbk ISBN 9781921479878. ebk ISBN 9781921479885.
This fascinating title by Edel Wignell focusses on the story behind the story of our unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda. As Wignell asks, why is Paterson's role in the creation of this song so well-known when that of Christina Macpherson is almost unknown, even though it is just as vital? Wignell then tells us the story of Macpherson beginning with an encounter with bushranger Daniel 'Mad' Morgan at the family home of Peechelbar in Victoria, her childhood in a large wealthy Melbourne household, and her eventual meeting with A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson at the home of her brother on a station on the Diamantina River about 128km from Winton, Queensland.
Evenings were a time for entertainment - Paterson sharing his poetry and Macpherson playing the piano, including a tune called Craigielee that she had heard at the Warrnambool Races some time before and which had stuck in her mind. Paterson was well aware of the plight of many shearers displaced by the Great Shearers' Strike in 1894 and the stories accompanying the hardships they endured, and it wasn't long before he penned the words of Waltzing Matilda to fit the tune. Wignell then traces the story of the song through to its place in the Australian identity today, including the work of Richard Magoffin who relentlessly tracked the song's origins, eventually being able to identify Christina's contribution in 1983.
The story is accompanied by a variety of illustrations including paintings and drawings, maps, photos, posters and programs, letters and sheet music, each adding to the authenticity of the story and providing insight into the times that inspired the lyrics and the history of the song. Perhaps the most interesting is a facsimile of an extract from a letter from Christina which explains how the song came to be. Each sepia page is bordered with exquisite line drawings by Elizabeth Botte which enrich and enhance the story.
While it is written in a style and language accessible to a newly independent reader, its use of primary sources to support the text would be a great way to introduce the importance of these sorts of sources to support research and provide evidence, an integral element of the historical skills strands of the Australian History Curriculum for Year 7.
This is a resource that needs to be on library shelves and a story that needs to be known by everyone old enough to sing the song!
Barbara Braxton

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