MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER: Banjo Paterson act so convincing, even Geoffrey is fooled

Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson. Pictures: KYLIE ESLER
Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson. Pictures: KYLIE ESLER

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Sometimes when Geoffrey Graham gets into character to play Banjo Paterson, he becomes so immersed he feels he is him.

And so it seemed at the Jack Riley memorial service at Corryong’s Man from Snowy River Festival yesterday, commemorating 100 years since his death.

While performing Paterson’s poem The Man from Snowy River in front of Jack Riley’s 138-year-old homestead, his lips curled and he cracked his whip with wild passion.

“Taking on another persona can be incredibly powerful,” said Mr Graham, who’s performed at every festival since it began in 1995. 

Once while in a scene depicting the end of Paterson’s life, Mr Graham’s hairs stood up on the back of his neck when the voice of an old man came from his mouth. 

“I thought, that wasn’t me talking,” he said.

“It’s quite an uncanny resemblance, people say ‘you look more like Banjo Paterson than he does’.” 

Mr Graham is of similar weight and height to the man he’s played since he was a child.

They also had a similar career path, married in their late 30s and his middle name, Walker, is the same as Paterson’s wife’s maiden name.

“There are a whole pile of things that are quite strange,” he said. 

Mr Graham, wearing a three-piece suit, bow-tie and Stetson hat, said it was a highlight every year to perform in the country his idol’s most famous poem is set.

“It’s a mecca for a lot of people interested in Banjo Paterson,” he said.

One such fan was Bernie Jones who travelled from Moree to the festival for the first time.

“The fellow who recited the poem was really good,” he said.

“I like all Australiana. As soon as I read a book, I’ve got to go where it’s set.”

Mr Graham will play Paterson throughout the festival, including the re-enactment of the poem, moved from tomorrow to 9am Sunday because of the rain.

Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse and Jinx the dog as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson.

Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse and Jinx the dog as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson.

Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson. Pictures: KYLIE ESLER

Geoffrey Graham leads Cherry the horse as he plays the character of Banjo Paterson. Pictures: KYLIE ESLER

Shirley Vains from Russell Island, QLD, at the Man from Snowy River museum.

Shirley Vains from Russell Island, QLD, at the Man from Snowy River museum.

 Bernie Jones from Moree, NSW,  at the Man from Snowy River museum.

Bernie Jones from Moree, NSW, at the Man from Snowy River museum.

Geoffrey Graham in character as Banjo Paterson.

Geoffrey Graham in character as Banjo Paterson.

 Father Brian Carey who was playing the part of Father Patrick Hartigan in the Jack Riley memorial service.

Father Brian Carey who was playing the part of Father Patrick Hartigan in the Jack Riley memorial service.

Jack Riley memorial service compere Marita Albert.

Jack Riley memorial service compere Marita Albert.

Caitlan Klippel, 12, from Sacred Heart School, playing the part of Sister Mary MacKillop and Sister Pat George.

Caitlan Klippel, 12, from Sacred Heart School, playing the part of Sister Mary MacKillop and Sister Pat George.

The Jack Riley Memorial Service included actors Stewart Ross (who played the Bringenbrong Man), Tom Saunders (who played Joe Byrne), Geoffrey Graham in character as Banjo Paterson, Father Brian Carey (who played Father Patrick Hartigan), Tim Weeden (as the Jingellic Man), Sister Pat George (as herself) and John Whitehead (as the Khancoban Man).

The Jack Riley Memorial Service included actors Stewart Ross (who played the Bringenbrong Man), Tom Saunders (who played Joe Byrne), Geoffrey Graham in character as Banjo Paterson, Father Brian Carey (who played Father Patrick Hartigan), Tim Weeden (as the Jingellic Man), Sister Pat George (as herself) and John Whitehead (as the Khancoban Man).