September 2008

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

‘Banjo’ Paterson & Rudyard Kipling

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

In March 1900 in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State, Andrew ‘Banjo' Paterson attended a dinner hosted by the commander of the British forces occupying the town. The 36-year-old Sydney solicitor and poet was in South Africa to cover Australia's contribution to the stoush against the upstart Boers and he found himself seated beside the greatest literary celebrity of the Empire, the laureate of imperialism himself, Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling was not unaware of his dining companion's accomplishments. ‘The Man from Snowy River' and ‘Clancy of the Overflow' had made Paterson a national figure in Australia and the cantering cadences of his verse had much in common with Kipling's own galumphing style.

Paterson found Kipling "a little, squat-figured, sturdy man of about 40", a nervous, energetic gabbler with a tendency to Americanisms, a result of his long residence in Vermont. At first they talked books and newspapers, then politics. Kipling couldn't understand why there were so many radicals in Australia. Paterson "didn't feel equal to enlightening him". Kipling thought the Australians should stay on after the war to keep the Boers in line. Paterson didn't think the country worth fighting over - water was short and Cecil Rhodes had snaffled the best land.

A year later, Paterson called upon Kipling at his home in Sussex. Fancying himself a motoring correspondent, Kipling had just taken delivery of one of the newly invented machines, a Lanchester. Piling into the car, the two men hurtled about the South Downs like a scene from The Wind in the Willows, taking in views of the sea and raising a trail of leaves.

Pulling up outside a butcher's shop, Kipling pointed to a lamb carcass in the window and asked Paterson to guess its weight. Bush-born and raised, Paterson was only two pounds off the mark. Astonished, Kipling told the butcher to henceforth "buy all the Australian lamb you can get, and keep the money in the Empire." The butcher reckoned his customers were not much interested in the Empire, a sentiment seconded more politely by Paterson with the suggestion that Australians, likewise, "would always put Australia first".

Kipling's blustering certainties were cruelly punctured in 1915 when his son, John, was killed at the Battle of Loos six weeks after his eighteenth birthday. "If any question why we died," he later wrote, "Tell them, because our fathers lied." The Banjo had signed up, too, although past 50. He drove an ambulance and looked after the horses. He died of a heart attack in 1941, and his ghost may be heard as you pass by the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens in North Ryde.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: September 2008

September 2008

From the front page

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Chequered careers: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Good Lord Bird’

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Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the novel’s nuance


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

An indigenous game

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

A tale of two sittings

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Operation tom yum

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Saving yourself


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit.

Chequered careers: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Good Lord Bird’

Among October’s streaming highlights are stories of a teenage chess prodigy and a zealous abolitionist

Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the novel’s nuance

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

The Corp’s bride

Despite a widely supported petition, the government is too scared to take on the Murdoch empire


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