Ararat - That once jolly swagman will be making an appearance in the historic Edgarley woolshed this month, brought to life by Ararat bush poet Colin Driscoll.
Mr Driscoll will be part of the cast of 'The Man they call the Banjo', a musical about the secret love story behind Australia's favourite song, Waltzing Matilda, which featured on ABC TV's 'Landline' in August.
The musical tells the story of the secret love affair between Banjo Paterson and Christina Macpherson, who collaborated on writing the now famous song.
Written by Felix Meagher and Dennis O'Keefe, the musical is based on history, Mr O'Keefe's ground breaking research and subsequent book 'Waltzing Matilda - The Secret history of Australia's Favourite Song', plus a little bit of fiction thrown in to make it interesting.
Mr Driscoll said the secret behind the Waltzing Matilda story is fascinating and comes out of 25 years of research by Mr O'Keefe, who is a close friend.
Waltzing Matilda was written by Banjo Paterson early in 1895 at Dagworth Station in Queensland, and the music was composed by Christina Macpherson, the sister of Robert Macpherson, the station owner.
Much of the intrigue surrounding Waltzing Matilda comes from the love triangle between Banjo Paterson, Banjo's fiancee Sarah Riley and her friend Christina Macpherson, a secret that was kept for more than 100 years.
Banjo and Sarah travelled to outback Queensland in 1895 and soon after their arrival Sarah had hoped to announce their wedding date.
But then Christina, a friend of Sarah's, sang Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea - a tune she had heard at the Warrnambool Races and which is the tune Waltzing Matilda is loosely based on - and everything changed for the three.
With the collaboration of Banjo and Christina on the song, which lead to flirtation between the two, the course of history for all three changed irrevocably.
A background to this is the political turmoil of the time, including the shearers' strikes which gripped the nation.
More intrigue is created through the song Waltzing Matilda itself, specifically the suicide of the 'swagman', who jumped into the billabong to avoid being captured by the troopers for stealing a sheep.
This character is believed to have been based on a shearer by the name of Samuel Hoffmeister, who was heavily involved in the shearers' strike of 1894 and who allegedly burnt down a woolshed on the Macpherson property, Dagworth Station. Soon after he was found dead near a billabong with a gunshot wound to the throat. An inquest found his death to be suicide, through drowning, however, testimony from witnesses placed doubt on the finding, which exists to this day.
"Dennis doubted the suicide of the swagman," Mr Driscoll said.
Through Mr O'Keefe's research, the coroner's report was eventually changed to reflect that Hoffmeister had died of a gunshot wound inflicted by a person or persons unknown.
"Dennis has woven all this into the story and whether it's fact or fiction, it doesn't really come out who caused the death of the swagman," he said.
Mr Driscoll, a well known bush poet whose own poetry style can be likened to that of 'The Banjo', became involved in the musical when he was asked to fill in for Mr O'Keefe for the play readings when Mr O'Keefe became ill, and has been involved ever since.
The Man they called the Banjo was previously read in concert at a number of venues including the Provincial Hotel in Fitzroy and at the Port Fairy Folk Festival this year as well as at Flagstaff Hill in Warrnambool and Coles Woolshed near Camperdown where it received rave reviews.
"I opened my big mouth and said there are so many woolsheds around the country that could host this," Mr Driscoll said, hence the coming performance at Edgarley Woolshed near Willaura.
In addition to Mr Driscoll the play features a cast of professional actors and musicians and continues to evolve with each performance.
The Man they call the Banjo will be performed at Edgarley Woolshed, situated near Willaura, on Saturday October 26. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased at www.trybooking.com.au. For further information contact Heather Fleming on 5354 1348.