Walking in the footsteps of an Aussie icon, famous writer, journalist and poet and creator of the Man of Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda; Banjo Paterson.
Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood.
Born at the property Narrambla near Orange, New South Wales, Banjo was the eldest son of Andrew Bogle Paterson, who was a Scottish immigrant from Lanarshire. His mother was Aiustralian-born Rose Isabella Barton who in the future would be related to the first Australian Prime Minister Edmind Barton.
He grew up in a Sheep farm and spent most of his youth moving around the rural country areas of Illalong and Yass, watching the horseman of the century work the land and travel the main route between Sydney and Melbourne and witnessed many horsing events from the riders of the Murrumbidgee River and Snowy Mountains country who took part in picnic races and polo matches.
This led to Banjo’s fondness of horses and was the inspiration behind a lot of writings.
His early education came from a governess, and when he was able to ride a pony, he was taught at the bush school at Binnalong. By 1874 he moved from his rural town to be closer to the developing city of Sydney, attending the Sydney Grammar School, performing well and both a student and sportsman. It was during this time, he lived in a cottage called Rocked in Gladesville.
This house is now heritage listed and is located in the Banjo Patterson Park. And although it has been converted into a restaurant, the current owners have maintained the original foundations of the building, with only minor adjustments to accommodate for a kitchen large enough for preparing and serving foods, additional rooms where you can sit and dine, and of course public amenities too.
However, none of these additional extensions have impacted on the original design of the colonial cottage, and as you walk through the restaurant there are plenty of nooks and crannies to admire which are all part of the original building.
Original fireplaces, rooms and staircases can also be found inside, along with historical photographs and artwork from the time period of the cottage too.
I am yet to try the food at the restaurant, but the staff were super friendly and allowed my partner and I to take a stroll through the place and see the rooms. I fell in love instantly, but then I have always loved Australia’s colonial history, so I felt connected to the cottage right away.
And as a fan of a lot of Banjo Pattersons work, growing up with his poetry, as my late mother was an excessive fan, along with my late grandmother, the idea that I was walking in the footsteps of one Australia’s greatest writers felt wondrous. So much so, that I have decided to have my 40th Birthday there. It just feels right and the food (though I haven’t tried it) sounds incredible from the menu.
Even if you don’t wish to dine at the restaurant, the surrounding park is worth a visit on a sunny weekend. Located near the waters of Looking Glass Bay, another historical location which was given its name when Governor Phillip and Lieutenant Bradley made an early expedition up the Parramatta River in February 1788.
There they met an Aboriginal tribe along the shoreline. They stopped to meet and greet the tribe and to show them they meant no harm and were only explorers, they presented the leader of the tribe with a hatchet and a looking glass (a spy glass or telescope as referred to today) as a peace offering, before continuing on up the river to explore.
The area is a beautiful location to soak up Australia’s colonial history and enjoy a walk along the water. Paying tribute to the land and its previous owners before it was colonised.
Although Banjo never completed any university degrees in writing or journalism, leaving school when he was only 16 years old. How life experiences and previous education paved a path of success, as he wrote great stories, poems and songs of Australia’s colonial history. Writings which will forever be instilled into our culture for many decades to come.