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Happy Birthday Banjo Paterson

HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
edited February 2012 in The bottom bracket
Today is the birthday of Banjo Paterson – born this day in 1864 - Australia’s national poet, the man who gave the world Waltzing Matilda, The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow, and gave cyclists the immortal ballad of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle.

A few years ago I did a feature about Banjo for National Geographic – and for my cycling blog today I’ve done a post about him and, specifically, Mulga Bill’s Bicycle

Here’s the link: ... s-bicycle/


  • GiraffotoGiraffoto Posts: 2,078
    This has given me pause for thought. I always got the impression that Mulga Bill had taken the bike home and then tried riding it:
    ‘Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
    That perched above Dead Man’s Creek, beside the mountain road.
    He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
    But ‘ere he’d gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
    I never thought that his misadventures had started at the door of the shop, although he says
    I’ll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight.
    He may have been boasting when he said it. . .

    It makes all the difference to how you picture it: does he come to grief in private, with no witnesses except a horse that you hope hasn't wandered too far, or does he put on a show for the townspeople?
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  • Most entertaining read - well done, although it was on the history channel that they found another verse

    "Atop the rising hill he rode in haste to make it home
    His sweat besotted brow was all a-glistening as if chrome
    When half way down the hill he felt his back wheel jump and jiggle
    'Curse this bike and Haribo, and most of all blame wiggle"

    But cursings not much good at all when going at full speed
    Headlong into a marsupials butt, oh cruel fate indeed,
    If only he'd gone to planet X, or ribble or CRC
    His final resting would not have been the censored of a wallaby.
    The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns
    momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
  • GiraffotoGiraffoto Posts: 2,078
    Good point - the marsupials. His high-speed excursion into what might now be called a technical section causes wombats to burrow and wallaroos to scramble for safety: more evidence of a rural setting.
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  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    I believe the real-life town was meant to have been Bourke, in far western New South Wales - my understanding is that Banjo based the character on a stockman he knew out there.

    Funnily enough in most of the art and illustrations that are based on the poem, Mulga Bill is riding the more visually interesting, and dated, even in 1896, Ordinary (pennyfarthing) when in fact it would have been a 'safety' he was riding.

    My impression is that he rode it straight away from the shop - a spectacle for all to see. He was on his way home. I don't know if you've travelled much in rural Australia, but out there you don't need to go far out of town to be in the bush and it would have been a hell of a lot closer then.
  • GiraffotoGiraffoto Posts: 2,078
    Hoopdriver wrote:
    I don't know if you've travelled much in rural Australia
    I've been to Eaglehawk a couple of times!

    Come to think of it, he didn't have any way to get it home first - he'd already sent the horse packing. Being supremely confident in his ability, he'd probably want to dazzle the townsfolk with his prowess, too. Funny that I'd never considered that . . .

    He probably wouldn't have got the first dozen yards on an Ordinary, but in 1896 what mod cons would his bike have? Pneumatic tyres? Rim brakes, or more than one brake?
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  • HoopdriverHoopdriver Posts: 2,023
    He'd have had pneumatic tyres for sure - they were an 1885 invention by a Scottish veterinarian named Dunlop (although a Monsieur Michelin, in France was working along similar lines) and it was the more cushioned ride these new-fangled tyres offered, together with the altogether safer design of the 'safety bicycle' with its two same-sized wheels, that made cycling so popular with the masses. And yes, they had brakes - although Mulga Bill seemed to have panicked and forgotten to use them, or else didn't understand how to - having disdained all advice before mounting up. A great lesson in hubris, is Mulga Bill...
  • RideOnTimeRideOnTime Posts: 4,712
    Happy Birthday, mate (belatedly).
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