The origins of Waltzing Matilda

The town of Winton is hosting an inaugural Waltzing Matilda Day on Friday 6 April.  This day recognizes the anniversary of the first singing of Waltzing Matilda.
Uncertainty surrounds the origin of Waltzing Matilda.  Most accounts accept that they arose from a local legend concerning a swagman who drowned on the property in 1892, but it could be more important than this. Like many other western Queensland properties, Dagworth Station was the scene of conflict during the second major shearing strike in 1894, and it was at the height of the disturbances that Samuel Hoffmeister was found to have accidentally shot himself dead on the property on 2 September. Although Paterson’s fictional character was drowned in a waterhole, given the level of violence which had occurred on Dagworth Station the previous year, there is a strong possibility that Hoffmeister may have inspired Paterson’s verse.

Queensland State Archives holds the inquest documents into the death of Samuel Hoffmeister.

"Certificate of Particulars" form of the inquest held into the death of Samuel Hoffmeister on 2 September 1894, dated 5 September 1894. Queensland State Archives. Digital Image ID 2812

Niles Elvery
Manager, Public Access
Queensland State Archives


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

From Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre Matilda Ann Waugh was born near Tenterfield on 10th April, 1887. She was a daughter of Philip and Mary Hurtz. She learnt to play the piano and would often sit on the knee of the famous bush poet, 'Banjo' Paterson, and play to him when he passed through town visiting her father. He told Matilda and her parents that he would compose a song with her name in it, and this he surely did!