Clancy of the Overflow

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Clancy of the Overflow
by Banjo Paterson
First published inThe Bulletin
MeterTrochaic octameter
Rhyme schemeAA–B–CC–B
Publication date21 December 1889
Full text
Clancy of the Overflow at Wikisource

"Clancy of the Overflow" is a poem by Banjo Paterson, first published in The Bulletin, an Australian news magazine, on 21 December 1889. The poem is typical of Paterson, offering a romantic view of rural life, and is one of his best-known works.

The poem is written in eight stanzas of four lines, lines one and three in a two-feet anapaest with a feminine internal rhyme, and lines two and four in trochaic octameter with masculine rhymes: AA–B–CC–B.


The poem is written from the point of view of a city-dweller who once met the title character, a shearer and drover, and now envies the imagined pleasures of Clancy's lifestyle, which he compares favourably to life in "the dusty, dirty city" and "the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal".

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.

The poem is possibly based on Paterson's own experience.[1] The introduction to Banjo Paterson's Images of Australia by Douglas Baglin[2] quotes Paterson as saying that he was working as a lawyer when someone asked him to send a letter to a man named Thomas Gerald Clancy, asking for a payment that had not been received. Paterson sent the letter to "The Overflow", a sheep station 100 kilometres south-west of Nyngan, and received a reply that read:

Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are.

The letter looked as though it had been written with a thumbnail dipped in tar and it is from this that Banjo Paterson found the inspiration for the poem, along with the meter.

The poem was well-received and raised much curiosity about the identity of "The Banjo". Soon after its publication, Rolf Boldrewood, author of Robbery Under Arms (1882), wrote in his literary column for The Australasian that "Clancy of the Overflow" was "the best bush ballad since Gordon".[3]

Clancy makes a cameo appearance in another popular Banjo Paterson poem, "The Man from Snowy River", which was first published the following year.

There are claims that Clancy was based on a man called Thomas Michael MacNamara, who described the ride with the "Man from Snowy River" (his brother in law Jim Troy) in an article in The Courier-Mail in 1938 [4]

In 1897, Thomas Gerald Clancy wrote a poem in reply to "Clancy of the Overflow", entitled "Clancy's Reply", which paints a far less romantic picture of the life of a drover.[1][5] There had also been a parody in 1892, "The Overflow of Clancy".

In other media[edit]

Clancy was portrayed by Jack Thompson in the movie The Man from Snowy River, and Clancy is mentioned in the musical theatre production The Man from Snowy River: Arena Spectacular – during the recitation of the poem, Clancy is mentioned by Steve Bisley in his role of Banjo Paterson while the poem is being re-enacted in the show.

Contemporary recordings of the poem include Jack Thompson's recitation on Jack Thompson, The Bush Poems of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson (2008) and Jack Thompson, Favourite Australian Poems, Fine Poets Collection, volume 5 (2010).[6][failed verification]

The poem "Clancy of the Overflow" has also been set to music and recorded several times, including:

Proposed film[edit]

In 2004, there were plans to make a movie of "Clancy of the Overflow", a sequel to the 1982 film The Man from Snowy River, but this fell through due to financial reasons. The director was to have been Simon Wincer, who was a co-producer for The Man from Snowy River.[11] Bruce Rowland (who composed the music for both the 1982 film The Man from Snowy River and its 1988 sequel film The Man from Snowy River II, as well as composing music for The Man from Snowy River: Arena Spectacular, was to compose the music for the film. The film was to have been funded by private investors, but the A$22 million minimum investment was not met by the deadline of June 2004, and the film has been shelved indefinitely.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Was Clancy of the Overflow a real person?". Radio National. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  2. ^ Baglin, Douglass (1985). Banjo Paterson's Images of Australia. French's Forest (Sydney): Reed Books. ISBN 0730101002.
  3. ^ The Australasian, 8 January 1890.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 21 December 1938, "Stockman of whom Poet Sang"
  5. ^ "Clancy's Reply" by Thomas Gerald Clancy
  6. ^ Jack Thompson, The Bush Poems of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson, 2008 Archived 27 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Fine Poets, accessed 12 May 2011
  7. ^ "Song: Clancy of the Overflow written by Slim Dusty | SecondHandSongs".
  8. ^ "Wallis and Matilda". Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Under an Australian Sky [sound recording] / Tenor Australis. – Version details". Trove (National Library of Australia). Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Clancy of the Overflow" (2013), Yut Art on YouTube
  11. ^ "Simon heads for the Overflow" by Garry Maddox, The Sydney Morning Herald (1 April 2004)
  12. ^ "Clancy film falls at first hurdle" by Philippa Hawker, The Age (1 July 2004)

External links[edit]