Banjo Patterson“And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong, you’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.” Banjo Paterson, 1895
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IMAGINE if Australia’s most famous poet was stuck in a love triangle while he wrote Australia’s most famous song.

Now imagine if the woman Banjo Paterson had the affair with was Premier Ted Baillieu’s’ great-great-aunt Christina Macpherson.

In a new twist which is set to spark controversy and renewed interest in the 117-year-old song, Warrnambool author Dennis O’Keeffe argues the case that the iconic swagman may well have been shot by Bob Macpherson, Ted Baillieu’s’ great-great uncle.

O’Keeffe says he is ready for the backlash which Waltzing Matilda The Secret History of Australia’s Favourite Song is about to create.

“What I say in this book is that Waltzing Matilda is tied up to the shearers’ strikes and that the swagman was a union shearer, who supposedly committed suicide beside the billabong, was murdered,” he said.

“I’ve got evidence that suggests he was murdered by the squatter (Bob Macpherson) or one of the three policeman.”

The book is 20 years in the making and O’Keeffe says the swagman took part in burning down the Dagworth shearing shed, along with 140 sheep, in Queensland with a group of other unionists.

The next morning the squatter or pastoralist Bob Macpherson, whose family owned Dagworth Station, and the policemen stationed at Dagworth, rode into Kyuna and were told the swagman was dead by the billabong.

“Bob Macpherson and the three policeman then apparently road out to collect the body,” O’Keeffe said.

“Within two days there was a hastily-convened inquest and the verdict was the swagman had committed suicide.”

O’Keeffe looked at the inquests from 1894 and had a barrister do a cold case finding.

“He found not enough evidence for any finding, let alone a specific finding of suicide,” he said.

“The finding should have been deceased died by person or persons unknown.

“If our iconic swagman didn’t shoot himself then we have to look at who did and who had the biggest motive.”

The shearing shed was destroyed one week after the infamous attack on the paddle steamer Rodney, which was burnt down.

“No one was convicted of burning the paddle steamer Rodney, which happened just a week before,” he said.

“Could they have shot the swagman and kept it quiet for 100 years?

“The line is ‘and his ghost maybe heard as you pass by the billabong’. Is this the ghost we’re hearing now?

“Maybe there was an oath taken to cover up the death of the swagman.”

O’Keeffe said he had no doubt there would be those who say that it’s impossible to keep this and a love triangle covered up for more than 100 years.

He said in 1894 Christina Macpherson went to Warrnambool’s May Races, where she heard the Warrrnambool Garrison Artillery Band play The Craigielee March.

“On the face of it, it seems strange that Christina Macpherson would be here in Warrnambool and hear the tune and some months later be in western Queensland at Dagworth Station,” O’Keeffe said.

“Dagworth Station is almost as far from Brisbane as Warrnambool is. It’s a huge distance.

“It wasn’t unusual for her to be there, because many Warrnambool families were up and down. The families of Victoria’s Western District were making these trips because they had families up there.

“Towards the end of 1895 Christina’s mother had passed away and her father took her and her sister to Dagworth Station to be together with her brothers for Christmas. On the way there she met her old school friend Sarah Riley and staying as a guest of the Rileys was Sarah’s fiance of eight years, Banjo Patterson.

“During that time Christina played the tune to Banjo. It’s said that playing of the tune awoke the Scot in him and he wrote Waltzing Matilda.

“He not only took a liking to the tune he also took a liking to Christina and they had an affair.

“An affair in those days is most definitely not what we think an affair is today. They were very proper times, it was a very small social circle and they were very proper women.

“Banjo had been engaged eight years to Sarah, which might suggest the relationship was on the way out, but the fact is it destroyed both the women’s lives.

“Sarah left Australia and lived in London and Christina never married.”

In 1995 O’Keeffe interviewed Dianna Baillieu, Ted Baillieu’s’ mother, who said her great-aunt Christina never got over Banjo.

“Dianna told me it was all over him making passes at Christina,” O’Keeffe said.

“She said he was a cad and a rotter and the Macpherson brothers told him to never darken their doorstep again.

“Christina never married either and according to Dianna Baillieu she thought that Christina never got over Banjo Paterson.

“As Dianna said, even though there were great distances the social circle was very small.

“Everyone knew what was going on. In those days you didn’t go with someone and then break it off. Women didn’t bounce back likRe they would today.

“Banjo was probably our first, you might say, pop star.

“By the time he got to Dagworth Station he was about to have his book of poems published and you can imagine what it would be like — a Christmas party with everyone there. Christina played him a tune and something happened.

“I’m expecting backlash from the love affair and that I’m contending that the swagman may have been shot by the squatter or one of three policemen.

“Christina is Ted Baillieu’s great-aunt, Bob is her brother, Ted’s great-uncle, who I’m suggesting may have shot the iconic swag man.

“That’s the truth.”

O’Keeffe said he had no doubt about why the song resonated so strongly.

“Although it’s not our national anthem, it has more of our national character than the national anthem,” he said.

“(In Waltzing Matilda) people recognise the ethos of a fair go. We had come through the convict days with freedom of thought, which is more important than anything else.

“There is no doubt this will make people think differently about it and what it means.”

O’Keeffe said Warrnambool residents should be proud of their connection to Waltzing Matilda and should celebrate it.

“There is no doubt now the tune that Waltzing Matilda was written to was played at the Warrnambool May race carnival, at the end of April 1894 and Christina Macpherson heard that tune and some months later played what she could remember to Banjo Paterson and he wrote Waltzing Matilda,” he said.

“The thing about it is there are very few historical things that we can celebrate which still happen. We’re still running the same race carnival that tune was played at and is connected to our national song. I think it’s something that Warrnamboolians should really celebrate. It’s a wonderful tune.

“Now I’ve got the story out.”

Waltzing Matilda The Secret History of Australia’s Favourite Song is being released this weekend and will be launched tomorrow at Warrnambool Racing Club. For more information or to make a booking, phone 5562 2211.

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Glenelg Shire Council has been fined $6107 for failing to cover up waste at the Portland Landfill as required by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria.
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The council is yet to respond to the fine, but has 28 days to pay the penalty, seek an internal review or take the matter to court.

Under licence the council-operated Derril Road landfill can accept disposal of asbestos waste from households, shredded car tyres, industrial and general household waste.

The EPA states hazardous materials require cover by 30 centimetres of soil at the end of each day to reduce odours, health risk and environmental impact.

EPA south west manager Eve Graham said a visit from officers in November to monitor the landfill’s compliance with licence requirements found uncovered waste and litter beyond the boundary fence.

“Officers saw large areas of exposed waste where minimal cover had been applied,” Ms Graham said.

“In addition to tyres and sheet metal, officers saw pooled waste water (leachate) and litter across the site, with large amounts of windblown waste caught up in the boundary fence, on site vegetation and a small amount of waste beyond the fence line.”

Ms Graham said that in response to the EPA visit, the council had begun investigating alternative daily cover methods to overcome a shortage of cover material at the site.

Glenelg Shire mayor Gilbert Wilson yesterday said the council was disappointed with the fine and would likely question it.

“We’ve been working very hard with the EPA to update our processes at the landfill,” Cr Wilson said.

“It was a surprise.

“It’s one where we thought our processing and procedures were changing quite well but obviously we’re not quick enough in the eyes of the EPA.

“At this stage we’re unsure of what action the council will be taking with that fine.

“We’re certainly looking into questioning the fine.”

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Murray to Moyne cyclists make their way into Port Fairy during last year s event. 110403AS13 Picture: Aaron Sawall CAPTION Murray to Moyne 2011. Pictured are cyclists on Griffith st bridgeMORE than 1200 cyclists will hit the road this morning for the 26th annual Murray to Moyne fund-raiser aiming to reach Port Fairy tomorrow morning.
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Between them they hope to better last year’s yield of $1.3 million for various hospitals and health services.

Riders from as far as South Australian and New South Wales will join south-west and other Victorian teams setting off from the Murray — from either Mildura, Echuca or Swan Hill — and pedal into Hamilton for a welcome sleep tonight before continuing to the Moyne on the final leg.

Since being started by the late Graham Woodrup of Port Fairy in 1987, the event has raised more than $16m.

It began as a fund-raiser for the Port Fairy Hospital Sunday appeal with a race from Mildura. However, it evolved into a more relaxed pace.

An award named in his honour will be presented tomorrow to the riders who display “exceptional effort and inspiration”. Riders come from all backgrounds and experience, with some mere amateurs compared with other more-seasoned competitors.

Teams will be required to average at least 22 kilometres an hour to complete the full 520 distance before noon on Sunday, allowing for stops.

Some teams will opt for two shorter routes, included for the first time this year, to give them opportunity to arrive in Hamilton before dark rather than the normal late-night arrival.

New event manager Jenny Boyer has streamlined the entry system with online bookings and an upgraded website.

“We are looking to increase numbers on the ride and give people who may not want to do the whole gruelling distance the chance to be involved,” she said.

“Shorter rides are very important for that future growth.”

Riders will arrived at their destination at Port Fairy’s Railway Square from about 9am to 11.30am before official presentations at noon.

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Warrnambool’s Louis Herbert will today swap his cricket bat for footy boots when he lines up for the North Ballarat Rebels. LAST weekend, Louis Herbert was playing in the Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one cricket grand final.
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Today he swaps his bat for footy boots when he lines up with the North Ballarat Rebels in the opening round of the TAC Cup competition.

The 17-year-old, in his second year with the Rebels, is a rare find in an era of increasingly professional approaches to elite junior sport.

In a hectic summer, the South Warrnambool midfielder combined heavy footy training commitments with holding down a spot in Nestles’ division one cricket side, which was undefeated before being beaten by West Warrnambool last Sunday.

Herbert, whose father Peter was a member of nine Nestles cricket premierships after a footy career that included being signed by VFL club Fitzroy, said he was excited about today’s season-opener against Murray Bushrangers in Ballarat.

He said his preferred game was “definitely footy”.

“I just love it a lot more,”he said.

“I feel like I am better at footy than cricket. I grew up in the Western Waves (elite junior cricket program) system but this year I decided footy was the go.

“I have more of an opportunity in footy than cricket. In cricket there is only the 11 and there are 500 to 600 AFL footballers.”

Herbert’s dream is to make it to the AFL one day and he understands the opportunities he gets this year with the Rebels will shape his future prospects. After playing four games last year, he is hungry for a full year in the midfield or across half-forward, with his long-range aim an invitation to a draft camp.

Standing 187 centimetres tall and weighing 74 kilograms, Herbert has the perfect build for a midfielder. He is also quick.

In the off-season, he revealed he had undertaken an intense running and weight training program which had seen him add 5kg to his light frame.

But mixing his two sports hadn’t been without challenges. “It’s been tough over summer,”he said.

“There have been practice matches while the cricket finals were on. There was a practice match at Geelong and I had a semi-final. The coach said it would be hard to pick me round one if I didn’t play.

“I played cricket and fortunately I’ve still been picked for round one.”

Selection for today’s game was one of his pre-season goals but now that has been achieved, he is well aware the hard work is just beginning.

Herbert, who was in the top five bottom-age players for speed over 20 metres last year, covered the distance in 2.94 seconds in testing recently. He is the second-quickest player on the Rebels list.

“We are the fittest TAC Cup side in the competition and quickest over 20 metres,” he said.

Herbert is one of six south-west players in the Rebels line-up today. He will be joined by South Warrnambool teammates Will Pomorin and Liam Youl, Koroit’s Haydn Drew and Marty Gleeson and Portland’s Jaydon Stiles.

The Rebels and Bushrangers open a double-header TAC Cup fixture at 11am at Ballarat’s Eureka Stadium, with the Geelong Falcons and Bendigo Pioneers clashing at 1.30pm. The Geelong Falcons also have a strong south-west flavour today, with Cobden’s Daniel Watson and Sam Cunnington, Kolora-Noorat’s Nick Bourke, Terang Mortlake’s Lewis Taylor and Xavier Lourey, Colac’s Darcy Lang and Brody Mahoney and South Colac’s Dylan McCarthy all named in the side.

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NORTH Warrnambool Eagles is the latest club facing a shortage of junior footballers, with officials making an impassioned plea for teens to sign up.
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Eagles junior committee president Glen Scriven is leading a hunt for under 16 footballers to ensure they field a side when the Hampden league junior season begins in 15 days.

He said the club, which has sighted 15 different players on the track at various times in the past month, consistently had just nine or 10 at training.

“A couple of times we’ve only been able to get seven or eight there and a few of the boys have started to get anxious and it looks like we might have lost a few,” Scriven said.

He said the Eagles’ joint under 16 coaches Wayne Billings and Luke Howlett had done a “power of work” recruiting but were still short of numbers.

He said the club, which started the year with a list of 20 potential players, did not have enough to commit to the season.

“We are trying to help out the kids we’ve got. We are trying to do everything we can to have a team for these boys because they are a terrific bunch of boys,”he said.

“We’ve decided we have to do everything we can. We are getting on the front foot. There is no point burying our heads in the sand, there are too many good kids to let down. We are determined to get a team.”

The season starting at the end of the school holidays hasn’t helped.

Scriven said the Eagles had strong numbers in both under 14 and under 18 levels, but not under 16s.

He said a number of under 14 players had opted to head to District league clubs where they could play under 14½ last year but hadn’t returned.

Scriven said the Eagles were not prepared to rely on getting permit players from District league clubs, nor would it push kids to play outside their age group.

“I am not a fan of sending 13 or 14-year-olds up to play against older and bigger bodied kids,”he said.

“We are all about developing kids and I don’t think that (pushing kids up) is really good for the development of kids to have them playing three or four years outside their age group.

“Ideally you want them playing in their own age group. It’s not about winning, it’s about enjoying yourself, being competitive and learning.”

He appealed to anyone willing to play to contact the club or attend training on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Bushfield at 4.45pm.

The Eagles aren’t alone, with Terang Mortlake needing more under 14 players, according to club president Frank O’Connor.

The shortages come after the Warrnambool and District Football Netball League this week introduced new rules for 16-a-side under 17 matches because seven of the 12 clubs didn’t have enough players.

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