September 2008


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.

From the front page

Image of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in September. Image © Dan Himbrechts / AAP Images

Gladys for Warringah?

In attempting to take down an independent MP, Morrison is helping pro-integrity candidates across the country

Image of Oscar Isaac as William Tell in The Card Counter. Photograph © Focus Features

Debt burden: Paul Schrader’s ‘The Card Counter’

The acclaimed writer-director indulges his experimental streak in a thriller that inverts the popular conception of the gambling man

Still from ‘No Time To Die’

The Bond market: ‘Dune’ and ‘No Time To Die’

Blockbuster season begins with a middling 007 and a must-see sci-fi epic

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during Question Time earlier this week. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Go figure

How did Labor end up with an emissions-reduction target of just 43 per cent?

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

Online exclusives

Image of Oscar Isaac as William Tell in The Card Counter. Photograph © Focus Features

Debt burden: Paul Schrader’s ‘The Card Counter’

The acclaimed writer-director indulges his experimental streak in a thriller that inverts the popular conception of the gambling man

Image of The Beatles and Yoko Ono during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions. Image © Apple Records / Disney+

‘Get Back’ is ‘slow TV’ for Beatles nuts

Despite plenty of magical moments, Peter Jackson’s eight-hour epic is the work of a fanatic, and will likely only be watched in full by other fanatics

Image of John Wilson in How To with John Wilson. Image courtesy of HBO / Binge

Candid camera: ‘How To with John Wilson’

Both delightfully droll and genuinely moving, John Wilson’s idiosyncratic documentary series is this month’s streaming standout

Image of Clint Eastwood in Cry Macho. Image © Claire Folger / Warner Bros.

Slow motions: Clint Eastwood’s ‘Cry Macho’

Despite patient filmmaking, the 91-year-old director’s elegiac feature is unable to escape the legend of the man