The life of the swagman in Australia has long been romanticised through the famous ballad, Waltzing Matilda. Almost our unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda, celebrates the life of a man down on his luck (the swagman or swaggy), who decides to steal a sheep (jumbuck) from a rich farmer (squatter). The underdog has always been popular in Aus.
For the uninitiated, a swaggy was a man who had left home, predominantly in search of work. Often living a true hand-to-mouth existence, these men walked huge distances throughout rural Australia, knocking on farm doors, seeking food, work or both.
The term ‘swaggy’ referred to the swag that they carried strapped to their backs. The swag may have included an old blanket, wrapped in a strip of canvas that was then wrapped around any bare necessities they were carrying.
Rather than Waltzing Matilda, in reality the life of a swaggy was often cold, hard and hungry.Continue reading