13 June, 2011

What's in a name?

As European settlement spread along the Barwon River, through Wathaurong territory, the new arrivals needed names to identify their surroundings and the new structures they were building. Sometimes - as in the case of the Barwon River - they used derivatives of local Wathaurong names such as Barre Warre N Yallock or  Jillong (Geelong). Connewarre is derived from the Wathaurong Koo N Warre meaning mud oyster.
The edge of Reedy Lake
These names were descriptive. Sometimes descriptive names were given in English too; Reedy Lake is indeed reedy, Salt Swamp is salty, a breakwater was constructed at Breakwater and the Barwon Bridge on Moorabool Street in Geelong was so named I presume, as it was the first bridge built across the river, however it was also known as Kardinia Bridge. Kardinia is an indigenous word meaning sunrise.
Often, the colonists named their places and structures for important colonial or European figures. As I have mentioned, the current bridge across the river on Shannon Avenue is the Princes Bridge - named for Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria and shortened from the original Prince Albert Bridge. Queen's Park and its bridge were named for Queen Victoria herself.
It seems that there was some dispute even at the time these structures were being built, over the adoption of names. There were those who favoured the "Old Country", preferring to use familiar names which reminded them of home and the people there, then there were those who preferred the use of traditional aboriginal names such as Balyang for the bridge at Shannon Avenue or other names of local significance such as Levien's Bridge for the Bridge at Queen's Park. (B.G. Levien was an early settler who operated a punt on the site.) This article published in the Geelong Advertiser on 12th December, 2011 gives a great description of the passions which were ignited amongst the locals when it came to the battle over naming rights, with the Addy leading the charge against the monarchists. 150 years later and history clearly shows who was the winner of that particular battle!
Baum's Weir in Flood
The area a little upstream of Baum's Weir was known to the Wathaurong people as Boonea Yallock meaning a place to catch eels. Whilst I know that the weir was built to supply water through the channel which runs to the paper and flour mills downstream of Buckley's Falls, I have not been able to discover who the weir was named for. And of course, the falls themselves were named for the escaped convict William Buckley who lived in the area with the Wathaurong people for many years.
 Likewise, Pollocksford and the bridge now located there, were named for an early squatter in the district.
This tradition of naming structures and places after people of significance or using Wathaurong names, continues today. But who were these people? The McIntyre Bridge is named for John M McIntyre, Engineer-in-chief of the Geelong Water Works. The Yollinko Aboriginal Park and Yollinko Wetlands directly across the river take their name from the Wathaurong word meaning yesterday.
This site was of particular significance both to the indigenous population who harvested plants and hunted in the area and to the European settlers who took their water from a pump on the west bank of the river between Yollinko Park and Prince's Bridge.
As the walking trails were developed along the river's edge through Geelong, a number of other names were adopted. Beginning near Yollinko Park is the Stan Lewis Walk. It extends along the west bank of the river as far as Queen's Park. So, who was Stan Lewis? Stan was the superintendent of maintenance - I presume for either Barwon Water or its precursor, the Geelong Water Works.
On the opposite side of the river, downstream of Queen's Park is the Rotary Walk, which recognises the contribution of the Geelong West Rotary Club to the development of recreational facilities for the community along this part of the river. Upstream of Queen's Park and on the same side of the river is the Zillah Crawcour Park. This space recognises the contribution made to the City of Newtown from 1957 to 1977 by Priscilla Crawcour who held a seat on the council and was also elected as mayor during this period. Upon her death in March, 1977, she was serving her third term in the office. Zillah recognised the importance of women in government through her role on the Victorian Branch of the Australian Local Government Women's Association (ALGWA) which was established in 1963, following on from a similar earlier organisation.
Heading back downstream, we come to Landy Field - the major athletics venue for the region. The facility is named for John Landy who was the most prominent Australian athlete of his day. Born in Melbourne, Landy was educated at Geelong Grammar after which, he joined the Geelong Guild Athletic Club, of which he became a life member in 1958. It was here in 1949 that his running career really took off. In 1954, Landy was the second man in the world behind his toughest rival Roger Bannister, to run a sub-four minute mile which he did in world record time. Landy Competed at both the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, taking the Olympic Oath on behalf of the athletes at the latter games.
In addition to his running, Landy held a number of positions, including his appointment as Governor of Victoria on 1st January, 2001. He held the post until 7th April, 2006. Fittingly, he is a keen naturalist and served on the Land Conservation Council of Victoria during the 1970s. No doubt he approved of moves which were afoot to develop public open spaces along the banks of the Barwon River.
The development of the trail which now links Baum's Weir to the Breakwater, was in no small part due to the efforts of one man - Wal Whiteside, whose name is remembered in the "Wal Whiteside Walk" which stretches down towards Breakwater from Landy Field.
Wal Whiteside (or Wally Whiteside as I always heard the name as a child) was chairman of the Geelong and District Water Board from 1971, being re-elected in 1979 and 1983, having previously worked for the Board as a senior engineering assistant, prior to being elected as a commissioner on the Board in 1959 with one Len Sprague (more of whom later). Whiteside and Sprague were part of a new wave of up and coming  commissioners whose enthusiasm and skill drove the development of many of the projects established during the 1960s and beyond, which secured the water supply for the Geelong region. The largest and most far-reaching of these projects was surely the construction of the West Barwon Dam which was completed in 1965 after more than 14 years of planning and construction at a cost of 2.5 million pounds. The dam today provides the majority of Geelong's water and was the largest project undertaken by the board to that point in time. Another important project was the overhaul of the Black Rock water treatment plant which occurred in 1988.
End of the Wal Whiteside Walk at Breakwater
They were also at the heart of controversial issues such as the decision as to whether Geelong's
As time passed, the public became more interested in the recreational opportunities provided by the river and also the various water storage facilities. This was reflected in the introduction of public amenities at West Barwon Dam and various other sites. In recognition of his contribution to the Board over many years, the picnic facilities at West Barwon Dam were named the Len Sprague Reserve.
Along the length of the river in Geelong, significant effort was produced to buy back land which would be used as a public facility. It was this initiative which resulted in the walking trail which today extends from Baum's Weir and Buckley's Falls to Breakwater, including the reclaimed and re-vegetated section of industrial wasteland which now bears his name.


  1. Priscilla (Zillah) Crawcour was my mother, and I wish to correct the above reference to her. She was in fact a councillor from 1957 to 1977, when she died in the office of mayor (her third time) in March 1977.

    Priscilla Pescott.

    1. Hi Priscilla. I've ammended the post as you indicated. Thanks for the clarification.



    2. Dear Priscilla. Can you please contact me regarding any Jewish roots you still have. A new Jewish congregation has started in Geelong to which we would like to invite you. (03) 98197160. Tanya Warms

  2. Re: Baum's Weir..."I have not been able to discover who the weir was named for." Named after Gottfried Baum once owned the land from south of Barwon River to Waurn Ponds.
    I spoked to Ken Baum last week about my parent property back in 1930's. He's descendant to Gottfried still living in an old brick house built in 1857.