Searching for The Man from Snowy River

Oatley's Cliff Crane believes he has found the identity of the Man From Snow River who author Banjo Patterson always refused to reveal. Picture: John Veage
Oatley's Cliff Crane believes he has found the identity of the Man From Snow River who author Banjo Patterson always refused to reveal. Picture: John Veage

The search is continuing for a missing piece of evidence that would conclusively prove the inspiration for Banjo Paterson's The Man From Snowy River.

Oatley's Cliff Crane, who has researched the life and ballads of Snowy River author A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson for 25 years is on a quest to definitively prove the identity of "the rider" in Paterson's famous poem.

Mr Crane grew up in the Snowy Mountains foothills and feels a personal connection with the writer.

Over the years he has travelled the state doing presentations of Paterson's works and life and times to historical and Probus Clubs.

While many people stepped forward to say they were the inspiration for The Man From Snowy River, Paterson's family said the poem was not based on any particular person.

Despite the Patersons' assertions, Mr Crane said that he knows the identity of the person, 'the rider' whose ride led to Paterson writing The Man from Snowy River.

But he needs to find a particular newspaper article that would prove his claim.

He said his refusal to rule out the possibility that the man was really a woman, as reported in The Leader last November had not only stirred a lot of interest but also a lot of emotion from some who were rather incensed at suggestion of such a possibility.

From The Leader article and other newspapers that copied it, and an interview he was invited to do on the ABC radio show "Afternoon with James Valentine", Mr Crane ended up with 50 volunteers from all over Australia attracted by the interesting challenge to find the lost newspaper article that would support his claim.

There was even one expat reporter based in China.

Directing and coordinating the searching has been a big enough task, but Mr Crane has also fielded scores of other contacts with their contributions of stories handed down through family generations supporting many different people as the real Man from Snowy River.

"Quite a few were about extremely interesting women some have claimed as Paterson's template, including at least two Indigenous Australian women, while there have been a number of Indigenous Australian men mentioned to Cliff as strong contenders," Mr Crane said.

During his search, Mr Crane heard from Jim Stokes of Newcastle who said his surveyor father, Reg met Banjo Paterson in the Monaro in the 1930s and was told by him 'the ride' had been done by a Lachie Cochran on the Cochran's Monaro property Yaouk.

"Jim said this was supported by a man called Angus Cavanagh who Jim later got to know in Inverell," Mr Crane said.

"Angus told Jim he was a great-nephew of Lachie Cochran and Angus had always believed Lachie Cochran was 'the Man'."

Mr Crane thinks otherwise, but he was delighted to tell Jim not only had he known his father Reg when Reg was District Surveyor at Tamworth in the 1950s, but he had also been at school with Angus Cavanagh in Tumut in the 1940s. He has since confirmed Angus' relationship to Lachilie Chchran.

In talking of his claim and search project Mr Crane still refers only to "the rider". He has now got the death certificate for "the rider" and has visited and photographed the lonely, windswept, country graveyard where the death certificate says "the rider" was buried.

"Although there are headstones for most of the plots in the graveyard, there is none with the name of "the rider" and, intriguingly no mention in the cemetery record of any interment of "the rider"," Mr Crane said.

Some of Mr Crane's volunteer searchers, lives disrupted by the fires, or for other reasons, have had to discontinue, but with the missing newspaper article not yet been found, remaining volunteers are still avidly searching for it.

Sunday, February 16 is the day Mr Crane, with or without the newspaper article, will announce details of "the rider", and "the ride" at the Banjo Paterson More Than a Poet Museum at Yeoval, as part of Banjo Paterson Australian Poetry Festival in Orange and Cabonne shires.

More details are available from Cliff at banjocrane@gmail.com