Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 13:19 UK

Waltzing Matilda 'not socialist'

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

Songwriter Andrew "Banjo" Paterson
Writer "Banjo" Paterson described his legendary folk song as a little ditty

An outback historian is claiming to have discovered the true story behind the famous Australian folk song Waltzing Matilda.

It has long been thought the anthem was intended as a socialist anthem to back the Great Shearers' Strike of 1891.

But a researcher believes poet "Banjo" Paterson penned it simply to impress a local woman, Christina Macpherson.

Often called Australia's unofficial national anthem, it tells the story of an itinerant making a cup of tea.

The song is the object of such fascination that it even has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Queensland.

Its words have often been interpreted as being loaded with political meaning.

But historian Peter Forrest has put forward a revisionist and much less grandiose theory: it had more to do with affairs of the heart, rather than affairs of state.

He wrote this little ditty, as he described it, to show he could fit the words to the music written by Christina Macpherson, Mr Forrest believes.

The historian says political groups have been wrong to appropriate the song and that there is no evidence to suggest it was ever intended as an anthem for a free and socialist Australia.

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