What’s in a name? A brief history of Tasmania’s changing place names


Posted

March 25, 2018 08:00:14

Lutruwita has had many name changes — from Van Diemen’s Land to Tasmania and back again to lutruwita.

It is not unusual for towns and landmarks to undergo a few name changes as explorers, invaders and locals come and go.

Dutch explorer Abel Tasman dubbed the island state Anthoonij van Diemenslandt in 1642 as he sailed around it, partly mapping the coast.

Tasmania replaced Van Diemen’s Land as the name for the state in 1855, a year after the colony passed a constitution to fully separate from the colony of New South Wales.

But a few Dutch names for landmarks in Tasmania are still used today, such as Storm Bay in the south-east and Maria Island (Ma-rye-a) and Schouten Island (Shoo-ten) on the east coast.

And, unsurprisingly, the English colonisers named a lot of towns and landmarks after people and places in Britain.

The first camp site of Risdon Cove was named after William Bellamy Risdon — he was the second officer on the ship Duke of Clarence, which brought the first camp.

The municipality of Clarence was named after the ship.

And John Hayes, captain of the Duke of Clarence, liked his English place names too.

He named the River Derwent after the river of the same name in Cumbria, while the mountain that overlooks Hobart was named Skiddaw, after a mountain in England.

Skiddaw never stuck, however, with the mountain renamed Mount Wellington after the Duke of Wellington.

Originally called Hobart Town or Hobarton, Tasmania’s capital was named after Robert Hobart.

He was the fourth Earl of Buckinghamshire, also known as Lord Hobart.

But he preferred the pronunciation of his last name as Hub-bart. No strong O sounds for the lord.

Hobart Town was shortened to Hobart in 1881, with no record of how it was said in the 1800s.

In the late 1800s there was a push to name places with Tasmanian Aboriginal words.

This was not an early push for dual naming like we have today, but rather a bid to “preserve” bits of Indigenous language by naming places with words that often have nothing to do with the location.

This is why we have Moonah (Moo-nah), which means gumtree, Lenah Valley (Len-ah) aka kangaroo valley, and Neika (Nee-ka), said to mean hill.

But some Indigenous words used as place names were fitting to the location, such as Liawenee (Lye-a-ween-ee), which means frigid or cold.

Due to its elevated location in the central highlands, Liawenee often has the honour of being the coldest town in Tasmania.

The importance of getting it right

Wayne Smith has written and researched Tasmanian place names for decades.

He first got interested in the topic as a child living in Fern Tree.

“I lived on Slab Road at Fern Tree,” he said.

“They had to change the name of it because the post office was misdelivering things to Cygnet [which also had a Slab Road].

“So they finished up calling it Westringia Road after a native plant.”

However, someone got it wrong on the road sign and the road has been called Westringa Road ever since.

Misspellings have not just affected roads.

Just north of Hobart is the small town of Bagdad.

“It confuses a lot of people because it’s spelt incorrectly,” Mr Smith said.

“It is named indirectly after the biblical Baghdad.

“It was part of a whole series of places that were given biblical names — Bagdad, Jericho, Jerusalem.”

The Jordan River also flows through the town of Jericho, in Tasmania of course.

There are also a few place names with Indian connections dotted around the Hobart region, with Mangalore near Bagdad and Howrah across the river from Hobart.

“A lot of our early surveyors and road builders were ex-Indian officers, and when they came out they delighted in bestowing a number of Indian names on us,” Mr Smith said.

In 2013 the Tasmanian Parliament introduced a policy for dual naming some landmarks to recognise the Indigenous names for the landmarks.

This has resulted in locations in lutruwita/Tasmania (loo-tru-wee-ta) such as kunanyi (koo-nan-yee) added to the sign for Mount Wellington, wukalina (wook-a-leen-a) at Mount William, putalina (poot-a-leen-a) at Oyster Cove and larapuna (lara-poon-a) at Bay of Fires.

Topics:

human-interest,

aboriginal-language,

history,

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jericho-7030,

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