Friday, September 01, 2006

Billabongs and Coolabah trees

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolabah tree.

So goes the most wellknown of Aussie songs, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ but when you ask even us, many people just don’t really know what a billabong is! It’s a kind of cut of part of a river, a pond, a meander that silted up, so the water isn’t flowing.
Anyway, I reckon lots of us writers and artists tend to camp by billabongs for too long, and don’t get the pure water flowing by. We just muck about beside the stagnant pond. A billabong could be a metaphor for many aspects of life – it certainly feels like it at times.

From Burarra Gathering website - A billabong ('bill-a-bong') is a body of water, like a large pond. A billabong forms when a river changes its course, leaving a section cut off from the new river. When the river floods every wet season, the water in the billabong flows again as it connects up with the main river. Because of this the water stays fresh and supports an abundance of life. Eventually the river breaks through the base of the loop and the extra bit that detaches forms a billabong. Billabongs can also be formed when a pool of water is left behind when flood or tidal waters recede.

The word billabong comes from the Wiradjuri ('weir-add-jeer-ee') language of south western New South Wales: bila meaning 'river' and bang meaning 'continuing in time or space'. Billabong is now in common use throughout Australia.

The picture of a billabong is from and it reminds me of the location of the film Ten Canoes.

The coolabah tree is a kind of gum tree, and the red wood is excellent for carving from the burls.


Blogger The Moody Minstrel said...

It sounds to me like a "billabong" is what we septics refer to as a "watering hole" or "swimming hole", with the "g" clipped, of course...

In fact, I looked at an "Aussie English Dictionary", and it defined "billabong" as "watering hole".

Thanky kindly, ma'am.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I really didn't intend to get into the semantics of the word - I was really thinking of its relevance to my life - how I roam and wander like the modern equivalent to a swaggie, then watch the water of a still pond instead of getting into the serious streams of life!
At least I don't go around nicking other people's sheep to barbecue, though I do knick pictures off the internet very often.

10:17 PM  
Blogger The Moody Minstrel said...

Well, why not? One man's stagnant pool is another man's fertile cradle of life!

5:35 AM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Mallees and coolibahs, I'm beginning to think that all aussie trees are some sort of gum tree eh? Except for the wattles, that is.

Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tuckerbag?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

It's typical I suppose that our favourite song is about a misfit, a homeless, unemployed older man, who steals a sheep, then when the authorities are closing in on him, he commits suicide! Some dumb kind of hero he is! Is it our Irishness or our convict past, or our weird kind of humour that makes this song so popular? Part of it is our lack of respect for 'authority' and our concern for the very ordinary luckless guy.

11:35 PM  

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