Banjo had some old regrets

Diary find

AN author researching the colourful life of his great-grandfather has unearthed a previously unpublished poem by famed Australian poet, journalist and author Banjo Paterson.

Simon Doyle’s ancestral biography Soldier Sailor Surgeon: The Life of George Barber, includes Paterson’s poem The Wail of the Horse-Poet, in which Australia’s first unofficial poet laureate bemoans the fact people won’t shut up about horses when speaking with him.

“Horse horse horse; In country as well as town; Till I wish that the whole of the equine race; Were left in the sea to drown,” wrote the author who had previously introduced Australia to its iconic colt from old Regret in The Man From Snowy River.

Doyle said Paterson chaperoned his great-grandmother Jess Barber to a bush dance, and was so grateful she didn’t talk about horses that he penned the poem in the front of her diary. It remained hidden there until he discovered it while researching his great-grandfather’s life.

George Barber ran a medical practice on Milligan Street in the heart of Perth from 1912 until 1917 when he enlisted in World War I and was sent to Egypt.

There he had the unfortunate job of running the Anzac venereal disease hospital; a particularly busy task given the Anzacs were camped right beside the Egyptian red light district.

For more about Doyle’s book and how to get a copy click here.

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