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The poet who beat Don Bradman to No.1

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About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.

When it comes to great Australians, you don't get many that are more true blue than Don Bradman. Or do you?

I am not a sports fan and I generally avoid any lauding of sportsmen and women. To me, they are little more than entertainers.

Don Bradman - number 2?.

Don Bradman - number 2?

Don Bradman was the notable exception. But then, he was much more than a sportsman.

Don Bradman was an inspiration to millions of Australians when they needed one. He was among Australia’s favourite sportsmen.

In a sports-mad nation, it might surprise you that in a ''The Greatest Australian'' list published by populist media outlet News Limited, he rated number two.

Now, I realise that this highly subjective, but I would certainly agree that Don Bradman would rate behind the person chosen as number one on this particular list.

So, who do you think was deemed as The Greatest Australian of all time?

He was the man who wrote these words, and those that follow:

It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,

He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.

He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop,

Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop.

"'Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark,

I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.


It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub,

That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.

They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,

And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;

But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash -

They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:

And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,

Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.

And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:

They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.


There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far

Had mustered at the homestead overnight,

For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,

And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.


It was, of course, Banjo Patterson.

The Man from Ironbark, The Geebung Polo Club and The Man From Snowy River were great -- and most certainly quintessential Australian poems.

For me, Patterson’s best poem, of his many hundreds, was Mulga Bill's Bicycle.

Mulga Bill's Bicycle

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;

He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;

He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;

He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;

And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,

The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,

From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.

I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,

Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.

But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;

Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.

There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,

There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,

But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:

I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'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.

It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,

It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:

The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,

The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,

As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.

It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,

It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;

And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek

It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:

He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;

I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,

But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.

I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve

To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.

It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;

A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill.

Why it is my favourite? Your guess is as good as mine.

And as for whether Banjo is the greatest Australian, who knows?  But he was certainly great!

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