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Originally titled “Kookaburra laughs while Matilda does a waltz”

It took me by surprise to learn that many of my American friends, were under the assumption the Kookaburra may well be a myth.

With this in mind, I thought I should do them all a favour by sharing some of the facts, along with a bit of our own history!

Australia’s history traces back to the ancient times of Gondwanaland,[Gond·wa·na·land -The hypothetical protocontinent of the Southern Hemisphere that, according to the theory of plate tectonics, broke up into India, Australia, Antarctica, Africa, and South America.] the dinosaurs, the Aborigines right through to the colonisation of the country by the English, the World Wars and the modern era. The past is preserved through the interpretation of those who tell the story. Through the understanding of the past we begin to understand the present and possibly the future.

Even though Australia’s National Anthem is presently “Advance Australia Fair”, in 1974 it came very close to becoming “Waltzing Matilda”.
The latter a song written by our own Banjo Paterson.05997220

Born Andrew Barton Paterson, in [Narrambla Station] near the NSW country town of Orange in 1864.
His earlier years spent near Yass, NSW he attended school in the small town of Binalong, then later in Sydney. Once working as a clerk for a lawyer, Banjo soon became a solicitor. The publication of The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses in 1895, saw him something of a literary celebrity in Australia. His travels took him all over the country, he was a correspondent during the Boer War in S.Africa, then later on became editor for the Sydney Evening newspaper,and the Australian Town and Country Journal. When the first world war broke out, Banjo had hoped to be right there, covering the battle but didnt make it to France, so returned home to Australia, joining the Remount Service which supplied the Australian cavalry with horses. After the War he returned to Sydney, journalism and writing poetry and prose. Paterson is best remembered as the the author of “Waltzing Matilda” – Australia’s unofficial national anthem.  At the time of his death on 5 February 1941 his reputation as the principal folk poet of Australia was secure. His body of work included seven volumes of poetry and prose in many editions, a collection The Collected Verse of A.B. Paterson (1923), a book for children The Animals Noah Forgot (1933), and an anthology The Old Bush Songs (1905), in addition to his many pieces of journalism and reportage. Paterson’s role in Australian culture has been celebrated on the Australian $10 note.

Interestingly I learned that there have been 3 versions of this song, the original written by Banjo, Harry Nathan wrote his around the turn of the century and last, but not least, Marie Cowan’s 1902 version. Here is the most popular sung by all ‘aussies’

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled

You’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Up rode the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
Down came troopers one two three
Whose that jumbuck you’ve got in the tuckerbag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong
You’ll never catch me alive said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Slang terms explained:
Waltzing:walking along a bush track
Matilda:a bedroll
Swagman: an unemployed drifter
Billabong: Aboriginal word for a waterhole
Coolibah: Aboriginal word for a type of Australian tree
Billy: a tin with a wire handle used for boiling water and heating food
Jumbuck: Aboriginal word for sheep
Tucker Bag: bag containing food (tucker)
Squatter: a landowner
Troopers: Policemen

The Kookaburra pronounced kook (ryhmes with book)a -burra

This amazing bird is from the family of Kingfishers, having a stout[fat]yet compact body with a short neck, short legs and a rather long bill. I love this bird for so many reasons. Have you really listened to his laugh? They are known as the ‘laughing jackass’ of Australia.Appearance:
Kookaburras are 17 inches in height, the upper parts dark brown, the wings spotted gray-blue. A white band separates the head from the body. There is a dark stripe through the eye, and the under parts are white. The strong bill is black.
Kookaburras can be found in woodland areas of eastern and south western Australia, through many suburban towns and various water outlets, such as beaches and lakes. Many zoos around the world have fallen in love with this little cutie, which is a great opportunity for the Kookaburra to share its laughter!
The Kookaburra’s rolling, laughing call is one of the best-known sounds in the animal world. The birds raise a wild chorus of crazy laughter as they go to roost in the treetops at dusk, and again wake everyone within hearing just as dawn breaks, so regularly that in the hinterlands of Australia they are know as the “bushman’s clock.”
They’re also handy to have around to keep any rats, mice or snakes away! The Kookaburra seizes snakes behind the head and kills them by dropping them from a height, or else carries them to a perch and batters them senseless with its big bill before swallowing them.
A really fun and educational video:

DID YOU KNOW? Ever wondered how kookaburras learn their distinctive laugh? The young ones sit in the tree practicing. At first they make hideous strangling noises, but hours / weeks of practice later they start to crack a laugh!

See the video here on Blog, and see why Australians treasure this quirky friend of the fauna!
Oh and btw, Steve [croc hunter] Irwin was just one huge fan, like me.Keeping in with this “Aussie” post, thought I’d leave a you with the words to another classic which is all about our feathered-friend, the Kookaburra 🙂

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra! Laugh, Kookaburra!
Gay your life must be

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
That’s not a monkey that’s me

Kookaburra sits on a rusty nail
Gets a boo-boo in his tail
Cry, Kookaburra! Cry, kookaburra!
Oh how life can be