Nomen what? NomenclatureThat’s the devising and choosing of names and answers the question - Where did that place name originate?
While investigating our family histories I’ve found that so many of my forebears came from a geographically small area and so the recurrence of place names is frequent in birth, marriage and death notices. But what was the source, the origin of those place names?
I’ve returned to one of my favourite sources of information to get some early views on the origins of the place names below: Trove’s digitised newspapers.
In 1908 during the months of May, June and July, The Register newspaper published a series of twenty eight posts under the heading Nomenclature of South Australia. These articles were researched and written by Rodney Cockburn. This series engendered a wide range of discussion in the form of letters to the editor. Whilst reference to many of these places can be found in earlier versions of newspapers, these snippets of information provide a rich, albeit sometimes inaccurate background, to the origin of many South Australian place names.
November of the same year for the sum of 3/6d or 3/10d via post. The book contained revisions and corrections from the original posts. Discussions continued in the newspapers. Writers discussed the practice of adopting names from European countries, debated the appropriateness of naming places after early settlers, officials, their wives and children and some emphasised the desirability of using more of the pre-existing Aboriginal place names.
More recent research in the 1980s and 1990s on South Australian place names, was conducted and published by Geoffrey Manning. The 2012 edition of his work, A Compendium of the Place Names of South Australia, is freely available. This more scholarly work pays tribute to those previous recorders of the place names of South Australia and expands on place names and corrects the misattributions.
So from a combination of these sources and the South Australian State Gazetteer here are some of the meanings of the names of places of significance in my family’s history. I have limited the list to South Australian places for the sake of my readers’ patience!
On the banks of the River Alma in the Crimea the allies gained their first victory in 1854. The name comes from a Tartar word meaning 'apple tree.’ Manning: 2012The Hundred of Alma was surveyed in 1855 and proclaimed in 1856.
By the time my father Edward John Horgan and his siblings Honora Mary and Joseph Andrew were born in the early 1900s a vibrant community of farmers had grown up around the early established Christian churches. Their days at Alma South School are recalled in A building with memories. After my parents’ marriage in 1937 they lived on the family farm at Alma.
—Break of Gauge. —laying of the foundation stone by Mrs Hamley. The bridge was essential for the continuance of the railway network.
Hamley Bridge reminds us of Lieut. Col. F. G. Hamley, Acting Governor, of South Australia from February 20, 1868, to February 15, 1869. That was the interregnum between Sir Dominic Daly's death and the arrival of his successor. Sir James Fergusson. Lieut Col. Hamley was the senior officer in command of Her Majesty's forces in South Australia at the time of Governor Daly's death. He opened the bridge, which, together with the township, bears his name. Cockburn: Part 12
My O’Dea great grandparents, John O’Dea and Maria Crowley had retired from farming at Pinkerton Plains to Hamley Bridge from where grandfather Patrick met and married grandmother Georgina Bennett. After Patrick’s death in Pinnaroo, Georgina returned to Hamley Bridge with her six youngsters and my mother Hannah lived there until her marriage in the Hamley Bridge Catholic church in 1937.
Humphrey's Springs, a mile and a half east of the little postal town of Alma, take their name from James Humphrey. They are on country which, was held by him for pastoral purposes in 1842. Cockburn: Part 13My paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Smyth, was born at Humphrey’s Springs.
“That’s when someone put their cap under a cow or goat when they wanted to get a quick drink” Capunder – how long did I believe this as a child? Did it come from my father or brother? I cannot be sure. Needless to say it does not appear in any study of place names, another childhood belief debunked!
Kapunda - A corruption of the Aboriginal cappieoonda - ‘jumping water’, probably related to a spring, supplying the town of Kapunda when it was laid out in 1844; another source asserts that it means ‘place of smoke’ and, in an interesting article on nomenclature in 1921, Mr N.A. Webb suggests the name is derived from the Aboriginal kappaunga - ‘the locality of the quail’; further, it has been recorded that Charles Hervey Bagot took up land in the area which he called kunangga derived from ku – ‘shelter’ and nangga – ‘good’ Manning: 2012My O’Dea forbears came to Kapunda in 1854 and spent some years as carters before taking up land in 1863 at Pinkerton Plains. Gt-gt grandmother Johanna (Fitzgerald) Horgan, gt-grandfather John Horgan and his wife gt-grandmother Honora O’Leary and four of their children are all buried at St John’s near Kapunda.
Under the subheading Crumbs of nomenclature, Cockburn often included single sentences where limited information was available. With this entry he summed up:
Navan, a township of the past between Riverton and Tarlee, is after the Navan in County Meath, Ireland . Cockburn: Part 19Indeed he could not have foreseen that the Navan of 2017 is but a small chapel and graveyard. At this place my parents, Horgan grandparents and many other relatives from the past, occupy the now hallowed ground.
My great grandfather’s brother, John Smyth, attended the seminary at Navan in County Meath and after he arrived in Australia he became the Vicar-General of the Catholic church in South Australia until his early death in 1870. Some members of that Smyth family, my father’s first cousins Fr. Edward Smyth and his sister Mary are also buried at this Navan.
William Pinkerton who arrived in the Rajahstan in 1838 and took out an occupation licence on the River Light on 15 August 1844. Manning :2012Sometimes listed as Pinkerton’s Plains, Pinkerton Flat and previously confused with an area near Quorn in the Hundred of Pichi Richi.
At this Pinkerton Plains between Wasleys and Hamley Bridge, the O’Deas farmed. Paternal gt-grandparents Smyth, and maternal gt-grandparents O’Dea are buried in the old Catholic cemetery of St Benedict’s at Pinkerton Plains.
—A Big Man.—In 1911 grandparents Patrick O’Dea and Georgina Bennett moved to Ngallo, Victoria just over the border from Pinnaroo. My mother was born in Pinnaroo in 1912. Patrick was a victim of the 1919 influenza epidemic and died in a private hospital there.
Pinnaroo is a native word used to express "big man." Curiously enough, it runs through the vocabularies of nearly all the tribes north or south. John McKinlay, the explorer, was dubbed 'Pinnaroo wildra' by the blacks — meaning "big man with a cart'' Cockburn: Part 20
In an unpublished history, Mrs R.B. Scholefield said that ‘James Masters came to the Gilbert Valley… accompanied by Charles Swinden, Dr Matthew Moorhouse and John Jubb Horner’: (See Washington Gardens) In connection with the naming of Riverton I quote from a letter from the late Gilbert Horner, a grandson of J.J. Horner: ‘My grandfather often told us he named the town… Mr Masters remarked that the Surveyor General had written and announced his intention of laying out a new town… and asked for a name to be recommended. “What about calling it Hornertown?”, suggested Mr Masters. My grandfather, however, would not consent and said, “Call it after this little river”. ‘So the name of “Gilberton” was sent in [and refused] because the name had already been chosen [for an Adelaide suburb]. Mr Masters then called on Mr Horner and again suggested Hornertown [to which he replied] “If they will not accept Gilberton, call it Riverton”.’John Jubb Horner was both the first flour miller and postmaster in the Gilbert Valley. Manning: 2012Many of my McInerney relatives have lived in and around Riverton for many years. For my last three years of primary school I attended the convent school run by the Mercy nuns of South Australia. Both of my parents died in the Soldiers Memorial Riverton Hospital.
—A Governor's Cousin.—After the sale of the Alma farm at the end of 1939 my parents moved to Snowtown with their first child. Their stay lasted only 2 years and a return to the Horgan farm south of Tarlee was effected after grandfather Andrew’s two brothers died in 1941 and 1942.
Snowtown derives its name from Thomas Snow, M.A., Private Secretary to Governor Jervois. The Snows, two of whom were out here, were cousins of His Excellency. Cockburn: Part 22
Stockport was laid out in 1856. The section on which the town stands was originally held by Samuel Stocks, jun., of Stockport, England who died in 1847. Cockburn: Part 23There goes another childhood belief. There were pens and races for loading cattle and sheep (the stock) onto the trains at the Stockport railway yards so an assumption that the name came from that practice could possibly be viewed as a natural progression.
|The old Stockport station|
Stockport loomed large in my five years at boarding school. It was the station where we boarded the train bound to Adelaide and where Dad would meet us on that one “free” weekend a term as well as at the end of each term.
- The town is situated 38 kilometres north of Gawler. Land in the area was held first under occupation licence by George A. Anstey in 1845, while sections adjacent to the present day town were taken up by Messrs E. Prescott, James Lewis, P. Conway and Thomas Colbert in 1866. By 1868, section 987 was owned by Edward Prescott (1829-1910) which he subdivided into 85 allotments ‘adjoining the terminus of the Roseworthy and Forresters Railway… being the very nucleus of the lines of northern traffic…’ The auction was advertised to take place at the ‘Forresters’ Hotel at Gilberton (sic) on 15 June 1868. (See Gilbert Town)
Of significance is the fact that Prescott named one of the streets ‘Oldham’ and, in August 1869, when an extension was made to the town, all lots (nos. 86-118) were purchased by Nathaniel Oldham.
These facts suggest a close friendship between Prescott and Oldham who had a family connection with Ireland and, therefore, it may have transpired that Oldham suggested the name ‘Tralee’ to Prescott who, as an expatriate Englishman, corrupted it to ‘Tarlee’.
To give further credence to the ‘Irish influence’ Prescott named another Tarlee street ‘Hallet’ (sic) and John Hallett was a co-subdivider of nearby’ Navan’, also a town in Ireland, that is in close proximity to ‘Tralee’. The ancient name of Tralee in Ireland was Traleigh - ‘the strand [shore] of leigh’ and derived from its situation from the point at which the River Leigh discharges itself into the broad sandy bay of Tralee.
About 7.5 km south of Tarlee my Horgan ancestors from County Kerry, Ireland took up farming in 1858. My parents returned to this farm from Snowtown in 1942 and it was here that I spent my childhood.
Rodney Cockburn says that, in 1908, Mr J.O. Taylor asserted that it was a contraction of the Aboriginal word tarralee and referred anyone in doubt to Mr Prescott who laid out part of his farm as the town of Tarlee. However, he preferred the following explanation: Tarlee is a name which has given considerable trouble in tracing. It is believed to be a misspelling of Tralee, the chief town in County Kerry, Ireland. ‘Tra’ is Irish for ‘strand’ or ‘beach’ and the Irish Tralee is built on the River Lee [sic] and the tide goes up as far as the town. There is a popular ballad entitled ‘The Rose of Tralee’… Navan and Tralee are close to one another in Ireland and so are Navan and Tarlee in South Australia, which gives colour to the suggested derivation of the latter.
In May 1869, the village was described as comprising ‘an inn, blacksmith’s shop and Methodist Chapel.’ Manning: 2012
These are just a few of the place names in our family history. If you are interested to know more about South Australian place names the references below provide a wealth of detail.
ReferencesA Brief History of South Australian Nomenclature and an Analysis of Perpetuated Myths - 1893-1990 – (An address given by Geoffrey H. Manning at the Family History Award Dinner of the SA Genealogy and Heraldry Society on 23 June 1990) accessed 11 Dec. 2017
Manning, Geoffrey A Compendium of the Place Names of South Australia rev. ed. 2012 – originally published as The place names of our land: a South Australian anthology, Modbury, South Australia : Gould Genealogy & History, 2010 accessed 11 Dec. 2017
Nomenclature of South Australia This Trove list compiles the posts written by Rodney Cockburn in 1908 related to the place names of South Australia
South Australian Gazetteer roads and place name search
1908 'Advertising', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 18 November, p. 4. , viewed 11 Dec 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56998197