Banjo, Polo and Scone

Banjo, Polo and Scone

Featured Image: The first known photograph of the Scone Polo Club players; acknowledge ‘History of the Scone Polo Club 1891 to 1981’ by W A Bishop

Grantlee Kieza writes in his excellent biography ‘Banjo’ about Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s early love affair with the sport of Polo. Citing ‘Polo’ the Sydney Mail and New South Advertiser, 16 January 1892, p. 152 Kieza describes the visit by the Sydney Polo Club to Scone;

“In January 1892 Banjo and his club-mates caught the train to Scone, three hundred kilometres north of Sydney, to play polo against the landed gentry in that picturesque part of the colony. Banjo played well and in the final quarter ‘got the ball out of a hustle, and took it up the field to within  a foot of the goal, when the Scone full-back (No 4) just managed to tip it to the side and save the goal’”.

The locals eventually won, but it was a spirited match that lasted two hours, and the players all worked up an appetite for a convivial dinner at Scone’s Golden Fleece Hotel. The Members of the Committee of the Scone Club in 1891 were J A K Shaw, W B Pulling, A G White, H J Leary and W H Duckham. The Honorary Secretary was F A Parbury on whose Satur Property matches were played. Playing Members of the Scone Polo Club were J A K Shaw, W E White, A G White, V M White, A Ebsworth, F A Parbury, Dr Harry Scott, H J Leary, J J Dodd, W H Duckham, A Davies, W B Pulling and H Wiseman.

It’s just possible that this and other similar rural jousts inspired the spark for Banjo’s immortal ‘Geebung Polo Club’? Admittedly many other clubs and districts claim the right to the original entitlement. However, as author Grantlee Kieza rightly points out many of Banjo’s icons such as ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ and the ‘Man from Snowy River’ are ‘composites’?

It’s eminently possible, even probable, that Banjo Paterson cemented enduring friendships with a number of Scone’s intelligentsia including Solicitor J A K Shaw, Dr H J H Scott and Headmaster of Scone Grammar School W B Pulling. Banjo was known to make several regular visits to the town and district.

The following ‘Geebung Polo Club’ was printed in ‘The Antipodean’ the year after Banjo visited Scone to play Polo against the locals in 1892. ‘Banjo’ also played against the Muswellbrook Club at a venue in Sydney later in 1892.

THE GEEBUNG POLO CLUB by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

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.

It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called the Cuff and Collar Team.
As a social institution 'twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them - just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.

Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken - just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player - so the game was called a tie.

Then the captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him - all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal - and missed it - then he tumbled off and died.

By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, "Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here."
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub -
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.

The Antipodean, 1893