Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Waltzing Matilda (1926)

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'Waltzing Matilda'

Clip description

This is the first recording of 'Waltzing Matilda’, recorded by the Queensland-born tenor John Collinson in London in 1926 with pianist Russell Callow.

Curator’s notes

This first recording of 'Waltzing Matilda’ seems rushed at barely two minutes and the recording itself is almost overwhelmed at the beginning by wear and damage to the disc. Nevertheless, it has more interest than just being the first known recording of the much-loved song. Although it is clearly recognisable as the 'Waltzing Matilda’ sung today, there are subtle differences in the melody apparent – particularly the two 'Waltzing Matildas’ at the start of each refrain and distinct changes in the melody in the second and fourth lines of both verse and chorus.

The recording was made acoustically, with singer and pianist performing in front of a large horn. The sound vibrated a diaphragm which was mechanically connected to a needle which cut a groove in a wax master disc. It was possible to record up to two-and-a-half minutes on a disc at this time, so it’s not clear why Collinson and Callow perform the song at such a cracking pace. The jauntiness of the delivery is particularly at odds with the last verse ('And his ghost may be heard…’) which is often delivered in a much slower and more dramatic fashion.

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 till his billy boiled
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

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waltzing1_bb.mp3

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions. All rights are reserved.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may save, copy, print, distribute or download materials for your own personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes. Commercial exploitation of materials on this website is prohibited.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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