Monday 18 April 2011

Christina’s Matilda

Christina’s Matilda by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Elizabeth Botté (IP Kidz)
HB $26.00, eBook $13,00
ISBN 9781921479878
Reviewed by Margaret Warner

Who was Christina Macpherson and what was her connection to the famous ‘Waltzing Matilda’?

The front endpaper reveals to the reader the historical nature of the story. The paper resembles an old, faded book and the maps orient the reader to places that are significant. As you turn the pages of this beautifully presented book, the story of Christina Macpherson’s life slowly unfolds. The illustrations are beautifully detailed combining paintings and drawings, maps, photos, posters and programs, letters and sheet music.

In 1895 while Banjo Paterson was visiting Christina’s brother, Christina played a marching tune that she had heard the previous year and Banjo Paterson composed words to go with the tune. Significantly, the song was neither copyrighted nor published at that time. However, when the song was published several years later to promote Billy Tea, a few words were changed and the musical arrangement was credited to Marie Cowan. She did not claim to have arranged the tune, but at that time Christina’s contribution was not known. It took many years before the historian and bush balladist, Richard Magoffin discovered Christina’s contribution to this famous Australian song.

Reading the story of Christina’s Matilda is like looking through an old scrapbook, faded with time with sepia coloured pages with beautiful borders; pages that are filled with personal memorabilia that tell a fascinating story and shed light on the origins of ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

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