scrap book started by Archibald Meston

Numerous items and published correspondence  from the cuttings scrap book first started by Archibald Meston, then continued by his son Leo. Some of the cuttings of correspondence did not come with dates and may be out of chronological sequence.


Mr. A. Meston, Director of the Queensland Government Bureau, writes:

The controversy concerning the origin of “Ben Buckler” has caused me considerable amusement. It resembles closely a similar discussion of the words “Canberra” and “Burrenjuck,” the former being the name of the young jackass in the two principal aboriginal dialects of New South Wales, and the latter originating in the local mountain called “Barrenjack” from a man named Jack Barren, who was treed there all night by a pack of dingoes.

        The following information may terminate the discussion on “Ben Buckler”:

In the year 1810 two men named James Ives and Benjamin Buckler left the penal settlement, and went away amongst the blacks of Botany Bay and Port Hacking, south, apparently, as far as Illawarra.

        There is no evidence to prove they were free men or bond. These men lived with the blacks for ten years, and Ives could speak fluently the language from Illawarra to the Hawkesbury.

        In 1822, a pamphlet written by Ives (who was an educated man) was published at the Sydney “Gazette” office, and contains the only reliable vocabulary ever written of the aboriginal language from Sydney north and south from the Hawkesbury to the Illawarra. Even over that area there was a common dialect, which differed, however, very considerably in the names of plants and animals.

        “Ben Buckler,” who was a Yorkshireman, was killed, (according to Ives), on the coast somewhere in the vicinity of Bondi, while standing on the edge of a cliff on a shelf of rock, which collapsed. For many years, it was known as “Ben Buckler’s Leap.”

        Our friend, Mr. Wright, of the Mitchell Library, in “The Daily Telegraph,” of last Saturday, mentions Ben Buckler as a corruption of the native word, “Baalbuckalea.” By what mysterious process of philological alchemy was this transmutation effected? There was probably no such word as that in any aboriginal dialect, certainly not in that of Sydney, where the negative was “Beeal” (usually spelled “Baal”).

        That would form the first part of “Baalbuckalea,” but the balance of the word is meaningless. There need be no doubt that the fishing spot known as Ben Buckler took its name from the man who was killed there, shortly before Ives’ pamphlet was written.

        Mr. Wright mentions “Coogee,” as taken from “Koojah,” Illawarra from “Eloeure,” Wagga wagga from “Wargon Wargon,” and Kurnell from “Kundall.” 

To clear up this philological conundrum, I may say here that “Coogee,” which should be spelled “Coojee,” (as Ives spells it), was the name of the “oyster,” and “Koojah” was the name for an offensive smell. Illawarra is compounded of “Illa,” for water, and “warra,” for bad, meaning “bad water,” and was actually the name of a stinking waterhole in that district, and not the district itself.

        Wagga wagga, in the Kamilroi and Wiradjerie dialects, was the name of the crow, correctly “wahga wahga,” sometimes varied as “wahga” and “wah-wa.” Those names for the crow extended over at least ten dialects, and “wahga” and “warr” are traceable far into North Queensland.

        If “Kurnell” came from “Kundull”, then it was A Sydney blacks name, “Coondool” for a canoe. At Moreton Bay it became “Gondol” or “Condol,” which savors of the Venetian “gondola.”

        Cronulla, correctly “Cooroonulla,” was the name of the small thrown nulla, and possibly Kurnell or “Cooroonell,” is a perversion of that word.

        It appears that Ives’ pamphlet, which consist of only 24 pages, is extremely rare. A copy was given to me by an old ex-convict 42 years ago, being obtained by him from the house of an officer to whom he was an assigned servant, somewhere on the Hunter River.

        In my work on the aboriginals, to be completed in about two years hence, the whole of Ives’ pamphlet will be incorporated verbatim. The old man to whom it was given told me very seriously not to part from it, as I would “never see another.” He also gave me a copy of the Sydney “Gazette,” of June 23, 1805, printed by G. Howe, who apologises for the reduced size, and the shortage of paper necessitating printing on an inferior sample. I have a copy of July 22, 1820, “reprinted by Moss and Doust, machine printers, Newtown.”

        That is the issue announcing the death of George the Third. Also a copy of the London “Times,” of November 7, 1805, with a most interesting account of the Battle of Trafalgar, published first in a “Gazette” of the previous day.

        Also a copy of the “Hobart Town gazette Extraordinary,” dated April 6, 1850, containing an official notice from Earl Gray of the death of the Dowager Queen Adelaide, at Stanmore Priory, on the morning of the 2nd of December, 1849, at 7 minutes before 2 o’clock, to the great affliction of the Royal family and of all classes of her Majesty’s subjects.


Meston and the Menura

An Authority on Lyrebirds

Mr. Meston writes as follows:-

“Your travelling correspondent in his article on Herberton has allowed a graceful but too poetic imagination to become responsible for one or two sensational discoveries in ornithology and botany. I will pass over his new Barron River timbers, especially those species not hitherto known there, or anywhere else in Australia, and refer briefly to his mention of the lyrebird in the Barron scrubs. No one but a reporter has so far ever discovered a lyre bird north of the Logan River. The lyre bird of the North has no feathers. He stands from 5ft 6in to 6ft high, and is remarkable chiefly for a miraculous memory which enables him to accurately remember people who never existed and events which never happened. Judging by the average lyre bird’s list of adventures, experiences, and periods spent in various countries and localities, his age may be variously estimated from 100 to 200 years. He has been classified as Menura homo mendaz, a totally different species to Menura superba or Alberta

Aboriginal Words

Sir, Your correspondent, W. E. Hanlon (“Courier,” 25 September 1928) may be correct in stating that “Yatala” is a South Australian aboriginal word, meaning “flooded country.” Some words, however, of alleged aboriginal origin, and their meanings, are not beyond suspicion in regard to accuracy. Lexicons compiled by early missionaries, such as Threlkeld and Ridley – from wild tribes- may be accepted as being substantially correct.

There is no finer study of any single language of the Australian group than that by L. E. Threlkeld, who, for many years, was a missionary among the blacks of the Lake Macquarie district.

His grammar of their language was printed in 1834. The pen is said to be mightier than the sword, but much depends on whose pen and whose sword it is, and in the case of aboriginal words and their meanings, accuracy is dependent on the mental caliber of the aboriginals who supplied them, and of the authority who prepared the collation.

Many aboriginals were not fully conversant with their own language, and they forgot much of what they did know as they became civilised.

They were, however, never at a loss for a word.

“Lumpy Billy” and “One-eye Jack” were well-known aboriginal characters of Brisbane in my boyhood days, and I know from contact with them that they delighted in coining words in order to satisfy the inquiries of budding ethnologists.

I have searched a number of South Australian vocabularies for the word “Yatala” without success. “Flooded country” in the Adelaide and Encounter Bay dialects was tookayerta, tooka being the adjective and yerta meaning ground, earth or country. I do not think that a single word like “yatala” would mean flooded country. The Australian language was descriptive and not deficient in adjectives.

The word for “reeling” or “drunken” in the Wiradhari dialect, which covered the whole heart of New South Wales, was “waggawagga,” and I think it is quite descriptive of that state of man. I commend it to our linguistic nuts as a desirable substitute for “shickered” and “shot.”

The nearest approach to “Yatala” is yathala, the word for “speak” in the dialect of the Dieyeri tribe. This tribe also called the child “koopa,” and a boomerang “kirra” Koopla meant “come, child,” and koopawura “calling children.”

The Dieyeri, with four other tribes, numbering in all about 1030 people, occupied the country 630 miles north of Adelaide. It was bounded on the east by Lake Hope, on the south by Mt. Freeling, and was traversed by Cooper’s Creek in the form of a chain of lakes.

The alphabet of the Australian language consisted of only 16 letters. There was no equivalent of f, j, q, s, v, x and z.

No aboriginal word should be spelt with “c” except where it precedes the letter “h,” as there was no c (soft) in the Australian language.

I am etc,

L. A. Meston,

Bardon, October 1.


Round the Shows

The Opera House

When, about 12 months ago, Mr. Archibald Meston organised  a party of Moreton Bay aboriginals to illustrate his lecture on the aboriginal tribes of Australia – a subject he has made peculiarly his own – he perhaps little thought of the success which would attend he at that time provided.

For several evenings the Theater Royal was literally packed with audiences who not only listened with pleasure to the remarks of the lecturer but also gained some knowledge of the customs of the native races than they could have done through reading the works of the many writers who have essayed the task of describing the ways and customs of a fast disappearing people.

It was at that time doubtless that Mr. Meston, who was assisted by Mr. B. Purcell, conceived the idea that a “Wild Australia” entertainment carried out on a more extensive scale that had hitherto been attempted, would prove successful in the old country, in America, and in the colonies as well. Mr. Purcell was dispatched to the uttermost parts of the colony to get together representatives of different tribes, and he has been very fortunate in collecting some of the finest specimens of a doomed race that could be secured for the purposes of illustrating an ethnological lecture.

The first entertainment was given in the Opera House last evening, and, although the audience was not so large as the occasion demanded, the performance of the aboriginals was received in a manner that could scarcely leave a doubt of the success which will attend Mr. Meston’s enterprise. No effort has apparently been spared to make the entertainment interesting. Instructive, and a faithful representation of the life of the Australian aboriginal races in the wilds of the continent. Several of the men who appeared on the stage of the theatre last night have lately been brought into contact with civilization for the first time and they enter into the corrobborees, combats etc., with a zest which could not have been displayed had the troupe been composed of “tame” blacks such as those with whom the dwellers of Brisbane and the cities and townships of the colony are familiar.

The highest point of realism is attained; and the audience witness on the stage scenes which in the past only been looked on by explorers who have penetrated far into the interior in those later days, or by old settlers who in the early portion of the colony’s history had the unpleasant privilege to look upon a tribal fight, a war corrobboree, or may be some mysterious rite practised by the blacks.

        Punctually at 8 o’clock, Mr. Meston appeared on the platform, and in a few sentences explained what his intentions were in making a tour of the world with “Wild Australia.” Australian aboriginals had in the past visited England, but those were for the most part semi civilised blacks – men who had been gathered in the townships of the colony- and quite an erroneous impression of the original possessors of the continent had been formed by Englishmen.

The thirty two men and women he had succeeded in collecting were such as were seen by the pioneers of Australia a hundred years ago. All connected with the enterprise – and a two years tour of the world is a rather large one- were Queenslanders (the blacks included), and care would be taken to advertise Queensland in every part of the civilised world, a remark which was received with great applause. Something would be done to open up a market for Queensland members to establish a company to work the dugong fishery and in short to bring before the people of other parts of the globe the many advantages which our colony offers for settlement.

        At the conclusion of Mr. Meston’s brief introductory address, the curtain rose on a typical wild Australian scene, of which the kangaroo, the emu, gunyahs, and aboriginals formed a part, while there was unfolded a most effective panoramic view of the Mulgrave and the Bellenden Ker mountains. The whole troupe of the aboriginals, arrayed in their war paint, executed a war dance, which they accompanied with their weird and savage cries, and for which they were vociferously applauded. The warriors then squatted around the gunyahs, and two of their number set to work to make fire by rubbing sticks together. It seemed rather a slow process, and one which not particularly suit the tobacco loving blacks of the Australian villages; but a steady flame was ultimately produced, and again the audience gave that encouragement, which it may be presumed, even the wild aboriginals will before long learn to expect and appreciate.

A Warrmugga (cockatoo) corrobboree followed. The blacks, armed with weapons of different kinds, ranged themselves in two rows and commenced to dance, the accompaniment being the clapping of the dancers’ hands, the knocking of weapons together, and the shouting of the braves. A realistic combat with shields and nullas was the next item, and it proved a most attractive one, the participants being encored, but they have not yet been instructed in what is expected by the audiences from artistes on whom they shower special tokens of approval.

The lecturer then introduced three of the company, to whom more than usual interest should be attached – the chief of the Prince of Wales Island tribe (the connecting links, as Mr. Meston stated, between the Australian blacks and the Papuans of New Guinea), his wife, and a little boy.

The chief, who is a remarkably fine looking black, condescended to squat in front of the footlights and played on a kind of tom-tom or drum, his broad palm doing duty as a drumstick, and two of the company, singing the while, executed a graceful dance, peculiar to that island. A Rengwinna (iguana) corrobboree and hand and woomera spear throwing brought the first portion of the program to a close.

As an example of the force with which the spears were thrown, it may be mentioned that although the target was only a dozen or so yards away it required the full strength of the blacks to extract some of the spears from the wood.

The second part of the programme was opened with a fish corrobboree followed by a Walka Linga (alligator) corrobboree, and then came one of the most entertaining items of the entertainment, a Prince of Wales Island mask dance, performed to the accompaniment of the drum, by a native arrayed in a most marvelous headdress of tortoiseshell, cassowary and cockatoo feathers, and armed to the teeth with bow and other weapons of warfare. The dancer was most active in his movements, travelling about the stage with the greatest freedom and rapidity. The old chief’s playing could scarcely be regarded as very successful, however. An illustration of pre-hensile toe-work with spears was then given, and this was followed by a Rah Minister corrobboree. A series of very effective tableaux, illustrative of the massacre of a bushman, the tracking of the murderer, and the doom which overtakes him and the members of his tribe, as is civilizations results in the case of aboriginals, brought the entertainment to a close.

The descriptive remarks were appropriate and useful, but to a lecturer so full of his subject as Mr. Meston is, there is a great temptation to say rather more perhaps than is quite agreeable to a section of the audience. Mr. Meston and his assistant, Mr. Purcell, have to be congratulated on his enterprise. The entertainment is novel and very enjoyable, and during this week the Opera House will no doubt be visited by many thousands of the residents of Brisbane and its vicinity.

Native Names

Sir,- In your “Answers” column of your issue of 24 April 1931, in reply to “Curious,” it is stated that “Bunya” is the native name for a species of palm tree. Surely this is a misprint, unless the araucaria can be classed as palms. The bunya pine tree )Araucaria Bidwilli) was discovered by Andrew Petrie while he was exploring for timber for the Government, and it was named after the botanist, Bidwill.

In “Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland,” the word is spelled “bonyi,” after the style approved by the Royal Geographical Society, and it is stressed that the final letter is pronounced an “e” in English. Matthews, who was an authority on the language of the natives of the ranges where the bunya was first found, spelled the word in like manner, with the “o” articulated as in the word “son,” and the final letter as “i” in “ravine.” Tom Petrie was the son of Andrew Petrie, and could speak the local and other dialects. Matthews obtained his knowledge of the language back in the 1860s, before it was corrupted pigeon English or foreign accent.

I cannot agree with Mr. L. A. Meston’s statement (“Courier” 9 May 1931), that the wonga pigeon is confined to the rain forests of the coast, for its habitat is quite widespread. It was, to my knowledge, quite plentiful, only a few years back, in the Bunya Range, Darling Downs, in the vicinity of Chinchilla, and in some of the Northern central districts. It is, however, generally to be found in thickly timbered country, probably for the reason that it is capable of making only brief flights, especially in fat condition.

I am, Sir, etc.,

F. J. Watson.

Toowong. May 9, 1931.

Native Words

Sir, When in doubt play trumps, was a much quoted law in the old game of whist.

Evidently with writers about the aboriginal, there is a law which reads, “When in doubt, quote water.”

Nearly every time the “Courier” is asked for the meaning of some native words, some “abo” expert chips in with an answer with the word “water” in it.

Thus we have had running water, calm, broken, deep, shallow, and about 50 other different waters handed to us.

No one has sent in whisky and water; I wonder why?

The latest addition to these waters appearing in the “Courier” columns by correspondents is “Wooloowin,” meaning some kind of water. In my opinion, Wooloowin is an instance of mis-spelling. Talking about this word with the late Mr. Archie Meston, I suggested that it was wrongly spelt, that, perhaps, it should be Wooler-wun, Wooler, to talk, wun, high up.

His reply was, “Well, now, I believe you are right. I can just picture a scene; the blacks on the Wooloowin hills at night screeching and yelling to the blacks on the Albion flats –talking from the hills.”

Some time afterwards, we tried the word Wooloowun on an old black chief, and got no response. But, to our “Me wooler wun to-night,” the old black replied, “What you going to talk about?” We were quite satisfied over the word.

It may interest your “abo” writers to know that since the last letter on Degilbo appeared in your columns, I have gone all over Queensland, from Warwick in the south to cairns in the north, also out west, and I made it my business to hunt out blacks wherever I could, and put three questions to them: What part were they from? What was their word for stone? What was their name for rock? I got quite a collection of words, and I want to emphasize that in the whole collection, there was not one word that resembled in sound the much discussed Degilbo.

I am up against those “Courier” correspondents who claim that Degilbo means a rock.

I am, Sir,


Ingham May 20, 1931.

Aboriginal Place Names

Sir, In the “Courier” (23 May 1931) “Overlander” draws attention to several aboriginal place names. He quotes Nerang as meaning “little.” The word for “little” in the dialect of the Koomboomerri blacks of the Nerang River was bitcha-gul-ung. Their neighbours across the range – the Wangerriburras – called anything little “bidjung.” This word was used for the same purpose by practically every coastal tribe on and between the Albert and Richmond rivers. I state, without any hesitation, that Nerang did not mean little in any Queensland dialect. It is, or rather, “Neerang,” was, the word for the shovel-nosed shark on the Nerang River.

“Overlander” may be interested to know the dialects in which the word Nerang did mean “little.” In the authoritative list of words from the Sydney dialects, published by Lieutenant-Colonel Collins in1802, the word for little is “gnar-rang.” In 1792, Captain John Hunter recorded it as “narrang.” It was used by the natives of Port Jackson, the Hawkesbury River, and Broken Bay. In her interesting article on Wongawallar, Miss Isobel Hannah records the correct meaning of Pimpana. This name was known to the blacks as Pim-pim-ba, or Bim-bim-ba, pim-pim meaning “soldier birds,” and ba “there,” or “place of.” It was applied to some swampy country between hills, where apparently soldier birds were plentiful.

The word Yarraman, for “horse,” apparently was coined by the natives of Port Jackson. It is probably constructed from yara, “to run fast,” and man, meaning “with.”

In a facetious letter, “Bobsiv” discusses the meaning of Wooloowin. My father published the meaning as “the generic word for fish on the Clarence River.”

This meaning is confirmed in Curr’s work on the Australian Race.

“Bobsiv’s” resultless search on Degilbo does not surprise me. The blacks who could have enlightened him were ushered into the Silences about 40 years ago.

I am, Sir, etc.

L. A. Meston.

Bardon. May 23. 1931

Aboriginal Place Names

Sir, It is extremely gratifying to find such interest being taken in the meanings of place names of aboriginal origin, as is evidenced in the number of letters on this subject now appearing in the “Courier,” and it is to be hoped that those who posses any first hand knowledge of the subjects will not be backwards in coming into print. The old pioneers who are competent to throw light on the obscurities of aboriginal nomenclature are rapidly passing hence, and with them dies all reliable information of this nature.

Friendly discussion is desirable, and it is up to those who possess any knowledge to pass it on. Through the rather rapid utterance and guttural tone of the aboriginal, many faulty names have been perpetuated by the whites, and, in addition to this, the early bushmen, who are responsible for most of our place names, were in most instances very poorly educated, and gave little heed to accuracy of pronunciation or orthography.

“Bob Siv” is pleasantly satirical regarding those place names which are said to mean “water” with various qualifying adjectives, and I am inclined to agree with him that these poetical or aesthetic appellations are far fetched as the aboriginal was more of a utilitarian than an aesthete, and in naming places he generally used some distinguishing outstanding natural feature for that purpose. The meaning of the names of many places, however, have been lost to the aboriginals themselves, and, although they give meanings to other place names, the origin of such meanings has been lost.

As an outstanding instance of this, the place name “Mudgeeraba,” I was told by the blacks, meant “tell lies,” but none could say why the place was so named, nor the story of the Ananias after whom the place acquired such distinction for unveracity.

Many names have suffered mutilation, as, for instance, “Tamborine,” which the blacks told me should be “Jambreen,” their name for the native lime tree, and, similarly, the survey name of the southern end of Stradbroke Island is “Moondarewa” instead of “Moonjerabah” (mosquito).

“Tallebudgeraba” was a name they told me they did not recognise, their name for this locality being “Maybree,” (the name of a tree).

The popular meaning of this place “good fishing” is wrong, the dialectical word for fish being “tchaloom,” and “punyarra” for “good.” Some time back the “Courier” published a letter complaining of the mispronunciation of the name “Auchenflower” – the same growl might be applied to many aboriginal names.

For instance, a spot at Tweed Heads was known, in the early days, as “Tchoongurrabaingalrandeean” (pelican’s playground). This word, like Auchenflower, suffered oral mutilations, and not more than 75% ever got the name right. In fact, it degenerated in time to “Sugar-be-l-nan.” The subject, however, is too big for the space of a letter. I may add that my experience of this extreme S. E. corner of our State dates back to 1863.

I am, Sir,

W. E. Hanlon.

Balmoral. June 6. 1931.

Native Names

Sir, Mr. L. A. Meston hopes (“Courier,” 5 June 1931) that his opinion concerning the old Brisbane blackfellows will be accepted in preference to that of the late Tom Petrie! What next? And what induces Mr. Meston to make such wrong statements about Tom Petrie’s knowledge of the blacks? Even his father (the late Mr. Archie Meston) was a neophyte compared to Tom Petrie in aboriginal lore.

To Tom Petrie, Mr. A. Meston owed much of the reliable information he possessed about the blacks. I remember, in those distant days, the old squatters chairs at Murrumba, occupied by the abovenamed gentleman, and wishing that the dad would write down his knowledge, instead of imparting it to Mr. Meston, who, as clearly indicated later, did not correctly remember everything told him. Even in those days, information divulged was fairly old history to Tom Petrie (for I cannot remember him without grey hair in his beard), while, of course, it was quite fresh to Mr. Meston.

Tom Petrie died in his 80th year, in 1910. He was but a few months old when he first saw Brisbane. His own brothers and sister were the only other free white children in Brisbane. Blacks of all ages were numerous, so no wonder he learned to speak their language so fluently as I have often heard him speak it. Of course, he knew the meaning and correct pronunciation of every word.

In the face of the above, Mr. Meston’s statement about the confusion of dialects in Tom Petrie’s time savours of the ridiculous, for it practically is equivalent to saying that there was always confusion. If we cannot take Tom Petrie’s pronunciation of native words as correct, where are we going to get an older authority? There was none, except his brothers. I am pleased to say that Mr. F. J. Watson accepts Tom Petrie as the authority. Mr. L. A. Meston’s  perplexity over Wooloowin or Kuluwin is evidently due to his modern information. Ask and aboriginal to say the word six or eight times, and his use of “w” or “k” will be about equal. Many other words are the same. A noted example is “Poyungan,” the name of a Fraser Island creek. No Fraser Island black could say “Poyungan” six times in succession. As often as not it would be “Boyungan.” The way to secure correct pronunciation was to travel with the natives and note the unconscious intonation. In passing, I must challenge Mr. Meston’s dictum about emu, jackass, kangaroo, and native dog. My experience is that it is a matter of knowing the habits of these birds and beasts. A dingo gets just as thirsty as any dog, but you must know him if you wish to see him drink.

I am, sir etc.

W. R. Petrie,

Petrie, June 18. 1931.


Tallebudgera and Tamborine

Sir, Dwellers in Sydney Town in the years immediately succeeding 1788 were disturbed occasionally from their early morning slumber by the cry of “mo-gra-boodjerree, sounding along the street. Through this cry they were apprised of the presence of a representative of the Court of King Bongaree with a dilly bag of fish. On looking into the bag they probably saw a collection of mullet, whiting, and mackerel, as these were chiefly the fish vended by the natives of those days. If they had asked the dusky fisherman the native name of the fish he would have told them that the mullet was “worrijal,” the “whiting “talle,” and that “all pfeller fisa” was mogra.

        When Queensland was still in the swaddling clothes the words “Tallebood-jerre” (whiting good) were carried northward and applied to a creek at Burleigh Heads. The foregoing is one version of the origin of the place name Tallebudgera.

        Another version was given by those sable warriors with whom Mr. W. E. Hanlon foregathered when the locks were brown on his head. They indicated that Talle-budgera is a barbarism, and that it should be Challubujora. The root of this word is challubal, and the meaning is not suitable for application to the delightful watercourse bearing the name Tallebudgera. That tally meant “wood” or “tree,” and chaloom “fish” in the dialect spoken at Burleigh Heads, and, that the word budgera was used on the Richmond and Clarence Rivers, but did not mean “good” in the dialect spoken there, are facts that cannot be disregarded in a summary of the position. The historic Port Jackson word for “good,” namely boodjerree or budgery, was never spelled budgera by the authorities on the Australian language.

        There is no confusion in regard to the place name Tambourine, which was pronounced Dumbirin, the meaning “yam in a cliff” being derived from dum “a yam” and birin “a cliff.” The mountain itself was Wanggalbooin.

Mudgeri-ba was not as Mr. Hanlon suggested, associated with lies. I also refrain from attaching the meaning of this word to the charming spot so named. A lie in this locality was unglurra and a liar was unjurraning. The truth was ungjurrajumm (without lie).

In the Turrubul dialect of the Brisbane River, the generic word for fish was kuiyur- commonly pronounced kooyar by the whites. This word was used for the same purpose by many tribes covering territory, on and between the Cape River and Bathurst. The verbal boomerang thrown by “Bobsly” in my direction was of the type that, failing to reach his objective, returns, and strikes the thrower.

It carried the words “Mr. Meston says that Woola or Wooler is not to be found in any coastal tribe’s language,” whereas I have never discussed this word either verbally or in writing.

I am, sir etc.

L. A. Meston.

Bardon, June 22. 1931.

Aboriginal Words

Sir – The word “kanimbia” for which you were seeking a meaning recently , meant “Hidden valley” in the dialect of the Kurig-gai tribe, whose territory extended from Bulli to Port Macquarie and westward to a line drawn north and south through the Blue Mountains. The Kanimbia Valley is probably so called because the end of it is closed in by mountains whose shadows make darker the already scrub darkened valley. The word may have been used as an adjective meaning “dark” or “hidden,” in the same way as “yarra” which meant “flowing” was used as a generic name for river in southern New South Wales and Victoria Yarra-yarra was flowing-flowing. The beard was wallo-yarra (hair flowing from the chin). The names of some British rivers, such as Yare and Yarrow, and our own Yarra-yarra, may have had a common origin. Yarra (or “yarrh”), was a far flung word in Australia. Among the Dieyerie people of Central Australia, whose hunting grounds are traversed by Cooper’s Creek, it meant “this side nearest.” On the Queensland side of Cooper’s Creek, it was the word for throwing stick called “womra” by the Sydney blacks. In the extensive Wirad-hari of New South Wales, it had the meaning “to speak,” and on the Darling River it meant “word.” There is also the Yarra-yarra Plain on the Lachlan River, the name being derived from “yarra” a gum tree. In pronouncing the word, the “rr” was well trilled, as it was in “warr-billy” ( a wrestling of blackfellows).

You quoted from Tom Petrie’s book the word “kabooltur” as the original name of Caboolture, “kabool” meaning carpet snake and “tur” the ground. If “tur” is not a misprint, then it was the expression Tom Petrie heard for ground, as he was a reliable observer.

Ridley and my father acquired their first knowledge of the dialects of the Moreton Bay blacks from him, and they checked the words and their meanings through to the blacks available during their time, and found them to be substantially correct.

But Ridley has handed down to us “kabuldar” (or “tar”) the “a” being pronounced as in father. The word “dar” or “tar” is recorded in other Australian dialects as “dyah,” “tyar,” “tha,” “tcha,” “jar,” and “yar.” These different spellings, which no doubt represent the same word, illustrate the difficulty in catching the correct pronunciation. It is also hard to differentiate between “b” and “p.” We have been spelling the name of the most commonly known Australian tribe as Arunta for a half century or more, and now Dr. Basedow finds it to be “arunndia.”

You said that Tom Petrie gave “ku-ta” as the word for dark honey. It was also pronounced “Koot-tha,” “Koot-cha,” and “got-cha,” – “k” and “g” being used indiscriminately by the blacks.

The Nerang word “kudja” recorded for honey may have been the same as the “Turrubul” (or churrabul) word “ku-ta.”

In the Stradbroke and Moreton Island dialects, honey was “kubbye” and “kooemba” and on the Albert River “bunyarra.”

In the Dippil dialect “kubbye” was the honey from the large bee. The wild dark eyed warriors, tall and straight as their spears, who could have told us the meanings of the words in their language of which we are in doubt, were ferried across the Styx “woorookooroobra” (long ago).

I am, sir etc,

L. A. Meston.

Bardon. August 3. 1931.


“Motorist” (Toogoolawah) – F. J. Watson (Toowong) states that the name Bli Bli is a slight corruption of the native word “bilal” in duplicate. The word is the aboriginal’s name of the she-oak (Casuarina glauca), and should be pronounced with the first vowel almost silent. The name has been commonly corrupted into “belar.”

Nomenclature of Queensland

Sir,- Regarding the place name, Mahoo-ballan, or Mow-ballan, in a recent nomenclature list of Queensland, the latter name is nearest to the correct spelling and pronunciation . It is derived from the Wacca words Mow or Mau- the vowels sounded as in “owl” in the English word how – and ballan meaning bald, the words conjoined meaning, in this instance, bald head. The word ballan was also applied as a noun to any natural clearing in the bush such as a flat or small plain.

Incidentally, I may remark that the place name Gundiah, mentioned in a previous issue as being derived from the native word Goodiah, meaning “goodbye,” seems to me to be the outcome of someone’s fancy. The common equivalent to “goodbye” of the natives in this locality was “nal-yan-an-dee,” meaning, as nearly as possible, “I am going.” The name, Gundiah is probably derived from the name of a division of the Kabi tribe i.e. the Gundi-burra, who occupied the territory in the vicinity.

I am, Sir, etc.

F. J. Watson.




LEYBURN- A town on Canal Creek on the darling Downs, 30 miles from Clifton. It was selected and named by William Grey, a pioneer, who took the first load of beer and spirits into Warwick over Gorman’s Gap.

LIGAR RIVER- A tributary of the Gregory River, it was named by William Landsborough on December 29, 1861 in honour of Mr. Ligar, then Surveyor General of Victoria.

LINDUM- A suburb of Brisbane on the Cleveland line, two miles from Wynnum. Edward Kekl, of Brisbane, gave the name (the Roman name for Lincoln) to his farm, and that was adopted for the railway station when it was erected.

LIZARD ISLAND- On the night of August 11, 1770, Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks slept on this island, which is near Cooktown, and named it Lizard Island because of the enormous number of small lizards they saw there. The island is memorable as the place where Mrs. Watson and her child died after escaping in a half tank from the blacks.

MEKAREE – A town on the Yaraka line from Blackall, 427 miles from Rockhampton. It was a native word for the brigalow tree.

MELAWONDI- A railway station on the Mary Valley branch line, 20 miles from Gympie. It was the name of a native tribe.

MELTON HILL- A residential suburb of Townsville; it was named after John Melton Black (general manager for Robert Towns and Co), who lived there in 1865.

MEMERAMBI- A town on the Nanango line, seven miles from Kingaroy. The native word, “me-me-ram-bi,” was applied to a pretty bushy tree that grew in the district. It was adopted by the early settlers as the name of the district.

MAHOO-BALLAN- The highest peak (usually, but inaccurately spelt Mowballan), of the Bunya Mountains. It is a native name, derived from two words, “mahoo,” meaning head, and “ballan,” a plain, indicating the top (or head) of the Bunya Range, without any trees on it.

MALABAR- A township on the Atherton Tableland, about 80 miles from Cairns. It was the native name for the upper waters of the Johnstone River.

MALBON THOMPSONS RANGE- A spur of the Dividing Range in North Queensland, named by George F. Dalrymple, on October 15, 1873, after his sub-inspector Malbon Thompson, second in command of the Queensland Government’s North-east Coast Expedition.

MANLY- A suburb of Brisbane; it was named after Manly in Sydney, probably because it was at the time the principal seaside resort.

MANNUEN CREEK- A creek in the Kingaroy District; named about 1849 by Haly of Taabinga from the native word “mun-num,” given to a green vine that grew on waterholes.

MAPOON- A mission station in North Queensland; named by the Rev. J. Nicholas Hey in 1891, from the native word for a stretch of sand on which the station was built.

MARAMI CREEK- A tributary (50 miles) of the Staaten River that flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria; named by Frank Jardine on November 12, 1864, from the native word for a small cray fish that abounded there.

THARGOMINDAH- A pastoral town on the Bullo River, about 140 miles west of Cunnamulla, and 670 miles west of Brisbane. The name was given to a cattle station before the town was established, but its meaning is not recorded.

THEEBINE- A town between Gympie and Maryborough; it was the native name for a species of fish.

THEODORE- The terminus of the Dawson Valley railway; it is an irrigation area, and was named after a former Premier of Queensland.

THINOOMBA- A town on the Gayndah line, about 20 miles from Maryborough; it was the native name in that district for the ti-tree.

THIRSTY SOUND- An inlet near Bowen; it was named by Captain Cook in May, 1770, because his crew had failed to find any fresh water in the neighbourhood.



Commenting on a paragraph in the “Courier,” stating that the blue Maltese Cross of the Queensland badge was chosen by the first Governor of Queensland as a compliment to his wife, who had been born in the Ionian Islands, Miss Isobel Hannay, of Clayfield, points out that the badge of Queensland was not adopted until November 15, 1876, when the Hon. William Wellington Cairns was Governor, nine years after Sir George Bowen had left our shores.

The Government notification of that date was as follows:

His Excellency the Governor, with the Advice of the Executive Council, has been pleased to direct that for the future, the badge of the colony to be emblazoned on the centre of the union flag for use by the Governor, and to be inserted in the Blue Ensign for the vessels in the employ of the Queensland Government shall be as hereinafter described: Argent on a Maltese Cross Azure a Queen’s Crown Proper.”

That was signed by James R. Dickson, as Colonial Treasurer.

“The cross,” Miss Hannay adds, “appears in different form on the ensigns of many countries, and throughout the ages it has been adopted by various orders of knighthood and used in Heraldry. The White Cross of eight points on a black ground, which is the true Maltese Cross, the device of the Order of the Knights of Malta, was their standard in 1121, A.D., when, with hospitallers of  Jerusalem, they became a military body 400 years before they settled in Malta.

It is interesting also to note that in the earliest days of history, that cross was a symbol of leadership, for in the British Museum can be seen representation of Azzur-nazir-pail, King of Assyria, 885 to 869 B.C., wearing a cross similar to the Maltese Cross of today. Why our cross should be blue is a matter of conjecture, but possibly it was considered the emblem of a Queen’s land (Queensland) people.”



When motoring me to the races yesterday, I asked Mr. J. R. Baker if he knew the origin of Morialta, the name of the old home of the Bakers.

        He said he always understood that it was an aboriginal term given to the place by his grandfather, John Baker, and meant running water.

        “Luchorpan” contends that it is Irish.

He writes:- “If the name, according to George French Angas, is Moriatta, it is also an Irish word, denoting position, as atta means a site. So instead of Morialta, the great house of the height (cliff or glen side), we have Moriatta, the site of the great house.”

        Thos. E. Fisher, Wayville, writes:-

“Dear Rufus – Your reference to Morialta carried me back to the early sixties (1860s). On leaving the Pulteney Street Grammar School, I secured a position in the office of the late Hon. John Baker, M.L.C., who lived at Morialta. I remember his son-in-law, Sir R. D. Ross, at that time Speaker in the House. He was often in the office, also Sir Richard Chaffey Baker, and another son, John Baker. During the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh, it was arranged to hold a blackfellows corroboree on the park lands, in honor of the Duke’s visit. The Hon. John Baker suggested that the blacks appear in their war paint. This caused quite a stir, and there were letters to the press, protesting against the aborigines appearing in public in their wild state. Others contended that it would have been absurd for the blacks to appear in top hats and dress coats.


Talking of blacks, reminds me that a reverend gentleman who hides his identity under the nom de plume of “Sagart,” has introduced that famous blackfellow, Tommy Walker, of the Adelaide tribe, into his letter.

        Tommy Walker was a wonderful mimic, and he delighted to give an imitation of Samuel Beddome, presiding at the Police Court, and fining the said Tommy for drunkenness.

        “Sagart” writes:-

“Dear Rufus – Though not having the pleasure of your personal acquaintance, I never miss your very interesting columns, and recent references to South Australian place names were not the least attractive. The correspondence on this subject reminded me that I had never heard of an aboriginal name for the whole continent, so, meeting an old friend, who had known Tommy Walker, I enquired, ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘I once put that question to Tommy, and he informed me that it was “Skirragohiffirm,” but he

professed not to know its meaning. Can any of your host of friends enlighten me, as I should say that it is important for many reasons that it be preserved.”

        “Skirragohiffirm” seems more Irish than aboriginal, but knowing Tommy Walker’s delightful sense of humour, I can imagine him giving as the answer “Eringobragh” or what would be more after his own heart, “Filemupagin.”

         In my pocket-book I have a beautiful portrait of Mary Pickford, and another of Tommy Walker’s heavily-bearded lubra, Ada, and whenever anyone quotes Kipling’s line, “The colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady are the same thing under the skin,” I produce the photographs to prove the contrary.

Native Names

Meaning of Indooroopilly

Sir- Mr. J. A. Fihelly was apparently in a facetious mood when he penned that note on the origin of the name Degilbo.

        The delusion related therein was obsolete even in the days when the fleet-footed Jack Fihelly was frantically pursuing brown leather over the playing fields of Queensland and New South Wales. It is therefore long overdue for permanent burial with other obsolete delusions on aboriginal nomenclature.

        Degilbo station was formed on Degilbo Creek by W. H. Walsh in 1847. His son, A. D. Walsh (Dalgety & Co.), has recorded the pronunciation of the station name as Dee-gulbo and the meaning as “stony mountain.” A. Meston in his Queensland Railway and Tourist Guide shows it as Dargil-bo meaning “big stone.” Other observers have given variants such as Tackeel-bo, Tuckeel-bo, and Dagul-bo, the meaning in each instance being associated with stone. There was just as much variation between the aborigines in the pronunciation of their words as there is among ourselves in the pronunciation of English words. The meaning of Indooroopilly was recently given in your columns as “running water” whereas this word is derived from Yindooroo, meaning leeches. It was applied to a small creek or inlet from the river that was infested with leeches.

        While doing research in the Mitchell Library on the Australian language, I noted that one observer had recorded the meaning of Ballina as “blood flowing from the wounded,” whereas Mr. Peppercorn, the surveyor, who laid out the town, named it from a town in the north of Ireland. The name Lismore was derived from the same quarter.

        I have before me a copy of the Australian Anthropological Journal containing the vocabulary of the Minkin Tribe on the Leichhardt River. The native word for water and rain is seriously given as “Watah.” This compares more than favourably with Tom Petrie’s word “Warra” for “a large sheet of water.”

I am, Sir, etc.

L. A. Meston.


Sir, The observations of your correspondent, “Bobsiv,” on the structure and meaning of aboriginal words are invariably precise and interesting.

His letter in today’s “Courier” indicates that Degilbo should read Thargil -ba, meaning “stone there” or “place of stone.”

It is questionable whether “d” occurred in the Australian language at all.

The majority of old blacks found “t” much easier to pronounce than “d”. We have also recorded dackeel-bo (Mrs. Ridley), meaning “stony ground,” dee-gulbo (Mr. A. A. Walsh), meaning “stony mountain,” and dagil-bo (Mr. A. Meston), meaning “big stone.”

To mean “stony ground,” the word would be Thargil-tha or Thargil-dha. Accepting words for mountain as being applicable to the mountain only, we construct Thargil-toonba and Thargil-buru for “stony mountain.” What “bo” means I do not know. The word “tuk-keel,” used by some of the old Degilbo blacks for “stone,” is synonymous with “Bobsiv’s” “Thargil.”

        Because I wrote that my father was familiar with all the Queensland dialects, your correspondent, Mr. T. R. Hall, concluded that I meant that he could converse freely in about eighty dialects. As a matter of fact, he spoke only about four fluently. One may be familiar with the structure and words of a language without being able to converse in it. Also he apparently does not know that the same word had different meanings in different dialects. Koonoowarra or Goonoowarra was a word for black swan in Victoria, and meant something else in Queensland. I wonder if “Bobsiv” can tell us what the blacks of his boyhood days called the Degilbo Rock. This is a savage peak of ribbed granite towering in solitude and silence over the surrounding hills, one of Nature’s broken columns on the grave of a dead past.

I am, Sir, etc.,

L. A. Meston.


December 23.


Sir, I have read with great interest the letters relative to the origin of the word “Degilbo.”

In one letter by Mr. L. A. Meston, he said that his father, the late Mr. A. Meston, was an authority on both Northern and Southern tribes of aboriginals. I cannot confirm or refute his claim so far as it relates to the Southern tribes, but there is one Northern tribe of which the late Mr. A. Meston wrote about, and the statements made by him concerning this tribe certainly do not confirm his claim to the title of distinction.

        Shortly after the tragic explosion in the Mount Mulligan colliery in 1912, there appeared in a leading Sydney paper an article about this disaster under the name of A. Meston. As an example of composition it was fine, but some of the statements about the aboriginals were entirely wrong. The article in question said, among other things, that the native name for Mount Mulligan was “Narrow-woolgin”  and that the natives who lived on it were called the “Bullunburra” tribe. It also said that the word Burra in that locality meant tribe.

        All that was incorrect. The tribe that formerly inhabited this mountain was known as Wakoora (two syllables, with the accent on “Wa”). In that locality there was no such tribe as Bullunburra, nor does the word “Burra” mean tribe. In the dialect of the Wakooras, there is a word “Boora,” which means ground. Bullunburra, as mentioned in the article under review, was the name given by the natives to a hill situated on the late John Byrne’s station on the Walsh River, and the tribe of aboriginals who lived there was the Woom-barm-barra (three syllables, accent on the second).

        The correct native name for Mount Mulligan was “Gnarra-bull-gun,” (the “Gn” is a dipthong, and the accent is on Gnarra). This letter is not written with the object of belittling Mr. Meston, but with the intention of correcting information given about the place where I spent 40 years of my life.

I am, Sir, etc.,

Old Hodgkinson.

Darling Downs.

December 23.

Native Name

Sir, Under the above caption, Mr. F. J. Watson (“Courier,” January 13) reintroduced to your readers our old friend “Degilbo.”

Apparently he had returned from Baramba after critically examining there the scions of the native race.

        Their verdict was that the name was Dugilbo, and that it meant “big stone there.” Apparently the members of the Baramba Commission are descendants of the Kabbee speaking tribe that used the word dugil or tukkeel for “stone.”

        It is a dialectic variant of the Maryborough and Fraser Island word “tuckee.”

        Torquay, a coastal village near Pialba, was called Tuckee-thalba by the blacks, the free meaning of this name being “place of stone.”

        The mountain in the Biggenden district known as “The Bluff” was Dhakke-bodhakke meaning “stone.” Here again we meet with “bo.” What did it mean? There is no answer from the Silences. I am of the opinion that “bo” is an adjectival suffix, and that “Degilbo” (or “Dargilbo”) is an adjective meaning “stony.”

I am, Sir, etc.

L. A. Meston.

Bardon. January 17.

Aboriginal Name for Southport

Sir, - It is stated in “Nomenclature of Queensland” that the meaning of the place name Millmerran is not recorded. When residing in the locality some years ago, I was informed that the word was the aboriginal name of Mount Domville, and that its meaning was “see all about” originating from the extensive view of the surrounding country that may be seen from the summit of the mount.

        In regard to the name Millaquin, the fact that the meaning of “spearhead” could not be confirmed has doubtlessly  given rise to the idea that the name is a corruption of the word “milking.” There is a story that the word is derived from the aboriginal name, or nick name, mil guin, of a blind blackfellow who once frequented the locality. Some colour is lent to this story by the fact that in the local dialect mil guin means blind, and that the first owners of the Millaquin sugar refinery, Messrs. Cran and Co., adopted as a trade mark on their golden syrup cans a picture of a blackfellow in the act of falling with a spear piercing his eye.

        Moondarewa is described as a corruption of moonjerrah, meaning mosquito. The word mundhara – accent on the first syllable – in the language of the blacks between the Logan and Tweed Rivers means mosquito, and mundharaba, place of mosquitoes, was their name for the vicinity of Southport.

I am, Sir, etc.,

F. J. Watson.


Nomenclature of Queensland

Some Native Names

To the Editor of the Courier Mail,

Sir, - I am in agreement with your correspondence, Mr. F. J. Watson, that doubtful meanings are shown for some of the native names in the nomenclature of Queensland.

        In his last interesting contribution to this subject he refers to Talgai – the word in several dialects for dead trees. On the Brisbane River, it was heard as dulgai, and on the Downs and at Wallangarra (“Wollungararra”) as talgai.

        Tambourine – “yam in a cliff” – is derived from dum, “a yam,” and bireen, “a cliff.” It is admitted that a word similar in sound to Tamborine was used for the wild lime tree.

        Some of your readers may remember the Wonkomarra tribe of the Bulloo River. At the time- about 1863- that this district was first settled by white men this tribe could muster about 120 warriors, but in 1883 their number was recorded as 50. Smallpox, which wrought havoc among the Australian blacks from 1789 to 1840, did not reach the Bulloo. The old Wonkomarras could have told you that Thargomindah is a version of Chagoominda, meaning “porcupine stop here,” literally “the place of the porcupine.”

        You have recorded that “the Commissioner for Railways named Tugun, and that it is pronounced Toongoon, and means ‘sound of the waves.”

        What evidence has the Commissioner produced to show that the meaning Tom Petrie gave for Tugun (Toogoon) namely “sea waves,” is incorrect? Toogoon was also used to denote a “mark or sign,” such as “a chop on a tree to show the road,” and as a verb “to show.” To the Tweed River tribe, a cloud was Toongoon, and the ocean and the boom of it were toomgoon. The latter word, as the natives pronounced it, is markedly imitative of the booming sound of the ocean.

        You have stated that warrigal was the name for a wild black. This word, and also wandi and walcha, were common names of the dingo, in all cases the word being equivalent to our “wild,” the dingo being the wildest of all animals known to the natives. It is doubtful whether the natives recognised degrees of wildness among themselves before the advent of the white man.

I am, Sir, etc.,

L. A. Meston.


Lingual Comparisons

Dr. Basedow admits that our Australian aborigines blend with the white fella and make a better mixture than the whites and any other known coloured race.

In fact, three removes by union with Europeans and the mixed blood produces white folk. The aborigines are, no doubt, descended from an Aryan race, I have found, for instance, a curious connection in their language, especially nouns, with the Irish Celtic.

Here are a few examples from hundreds I could quote. Of course, I am speaking of the Narrinyeries. I call particular attention to the curious resemblance of the sibilant “ees,” and “eens.”

        Aborigine: Krinkerees (whites), coolees (heads), kaupees (noses), plumbees (ears), skimbees (arms) – we have “arms akimbo” as an expression- turakees (legs), peelees (eyes), pannkagees (throwing sticks etc.)

Irish – Tranleneens (straws), shillalies (fighting sticks), sheebeens (low public houses), caubeens (caps), dodeens (ropes), macrees (hearts), spalpeens (naughty boys) colleens (girls) banshies (ghosts).



BINGHAM- A small township at the mouth of the Mary River. It was named in 1875 after R. Bingham Sheridan, who was harbour master at Maryborough.

BINGO CREEK- A tributary of the Delaney Creek at Durundur; “Bingo” was a native name for a flying squirrel.

BINNA BURRA- A tourist resort on the McPherson Range, near Nerang. It is a native name for a beech tree.

BIRDSVILLE- A town on the Diamantina, about seven miles from the South Australian border. Percy Bird and George Field started a store at the place – then a coach junction- and called it Birdsfield. In sending a consignment of goods to them, in 1882, G. and R. Wills, of Adelaide, addressed it “Birdsville”; and that name prevailed.

BIRKALLA-A railway station near Innisfail; a native word for the district – meaning “level country.”

BIRNAM- The range and watershed between the Logan and Albert Rivers. Named by Allan Cunningham in July, 1828, after the famous Birnham Hill and wood in Scotland (mentioned in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”) for “I found here some new and interesting plants.”

DELUHRA CREEK- A tributary of the Cadarga Creek, near Mundubbera. Deluhra was the name of the actual meeting of the waters, but it is said the native name of the district was Dooloo, meaning a variety of quinine bush that grew in the neighbourhood.

DESPOND CREEK- A creek in northwestern Queensland, named by Frederick walker, an explorer, on November 5, 1861, because “the party has dug for water but has not found any.”

DIAMANTINA- A river, 468 miles, which rises northwest of Longreach and flows towards the border, where it joins the Georgina River. It was named by William Landsborough and George Phillips, in 1866, in honour of Diamantina Roma, wife of the first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen.

DILLALAH- A well-known pastoral holding and settlement on the Warrego, about 40 miles from Charleville. The principal waterhole on the original property was called “Tullulah” by the blacks, meaning a galah (species of cockatoo), but Edmund Bignall who named the place in the early 1807s, changed that to Dillalah, thinking it “sounded better.”


Aboriginal Names

Sir, May I be allowed to venture an opinion on Mr. L. A. Meston’s remarks (“Courier,” January 1), on the interpretation of the aboriginal word “burra.” With all due respect to the late Mr. A. Meston, who probably had a greater knowledge of Queensland aboriginal dialects collectively than any other white man, at least of those who produced any literature on the subject, I do not quite agree with his interpretation of the term in question. So far as their tribal names mentioned by Mr. A. L. Meston are concerned, the term probably defines indirectly a tribe, but, directly, it means a place or territory. The word, or affix, is difficult to define in English.

        The aboriginal had a very limited vocabulary, and meanings of word are varied by the aid of inflexions and gestures. Plurals of nouns are, in some cases expressed by repeating the noun, and sometimes by the use of the word in question.

        The adverb of place is defined by placing the letter “a”, with its short accent as in the exclamation “ah,” after the noun, the letter being usually preceded by a consonant in euphony with the preceding syllable, as in the case of Toowoomba, from twoom, a yam, and ba, there, and Caboolta (misspelled Caboolture) from cabool, carpet snake, and ta, there or place of.

        The affix sometimes includes the letter n, as in the case of the name Maroon-dan, place of the sand iguana, and Gigoomgan, place of cockatoos. The sound of ah repeated defines plurality, quantity, or magnitude, as in the usually mispronounced place name in Mundubbera, which should be Mundo-ba-ra, from mundo, a bank or ridge, ba, there, and, the last letter repeated, large, high, or many. The word in question is a combination of the two syllables “ba” and “a,” with the vowels lightly accented, which being pronounced in quick succession, gives the sound of barra, the translation to burra being easily understood.

        In many place names, this affix is misaccented by the white man, and in some cases has been distorted out of recognition as in the case of the name of the town of Bundaberg in which the last syllable has evidently been translated from bara to burra, thence to borough, burgh, and berg.

I am, Sir,

F. J. Watson.


January 1.



Sir, Mr. Ted Hastings, now living in Maryborough, and well known as a judge of horses at many Queensland shows, was one of the stockmen on Degilbo station in the early days, and he is perfectly satisfied that the origin of the word is aboriginal and is from the word “Dargilbo”- a big waterhole surrounded by rocks or basalt, like a small waterfall in a deep creek, just below the present railway bridge at Chowie. It was about two miles from the head station. Mr. Hastings got this information from an old blackfellow named King Jacky, who wore a brass plate given to him by the then owner of the station, Hon. W. J. Walsh.

Degilbo was known by that name before 1855, when the station house was built. Both sources explode the theory that the engineer who constructed the line gave the place the name “Degilbo,” seeing that the name was in existence long before the line was made. The first time I heard the word was about 55 years ago.

I am, Sir etc.,

Hugh G. Hood.



Sir, Referring to the recent discussion in the “Courier,” by A. L. Meston, “Old Hodgkinson,” H. G. Hood, and myself, on aboriginal place names etc., the orthography of aboriginal words appears to vary, not only with the different communities of a tribe, but also within individuals of such communities. When it is taken into consideration that there existed on the coast, from the southern border to Gladstone, at least four distinct tribes of blacks with dozens of different tribal communities, the spelling and pronunciation may take many forms. Take, for instance, a class name relating to marital law; T. Petrie gave it as turwan. A. Meston as turroine, a writer on the Kabi tribe as dherwain, an interpreter of Kamilroi in Northern New South Wales as dirraween, and I have heard it pronounced by blacks of the Kabi tribe clearly as turro-een.

        Many words, as pronounced by the aboriginals, commence with a sound like a combination of d and t. Several interpreters have interpreted this as dh, although it sounds to me as dth. Other words begin with a sound as of a combination in consequences of which one interpreter gives the name of the native bear as gulla and another gives it as kulla. In most cases, the vowels are very lightly accented so that the word meaning stone may be written as dhakke, dagi, tukkee, and torke, with but little difference in sound.

        Regarding Mr. L. A. Meston’s recent statement that I practically agree with him that burra-burra means a tribe, I may say that I am not entirely in accord with him. Quoting a letter on the Kabi tribe, the word bora, in which the o has the sound of o as in on, and which is analogous to Mr. Meston’s burra, is attached to the word relating to a community within a tribe.

        This writer instances many names of communities of the Kabi tribe, included in which are Witya-bora, at Kilkivan, Kili-bora near Baramba, and Baiyam-bora at Yabba.

        I am still of the opinion that the words interpreted as bora, bara, and burra, are synonymous, and are adverbial affixes, relating to place, but which are difficult to define in English. Bo seems to be a verb meaning to come, the combined form meaning come there, literally, of that place.

        Regarding Mr. H. G. Hood’s interpretation of the word Degilbo, “Courier,” 6 February 1931, it would be interesting to learn as to where his railway friend obtained his information, as Degilbo station was established on the creek of that name by W. H. Walsh, in 1847, about fifty years before a railway reached that locality. I think that any attempt at interpretation of aboriginal dialects is inconclusive, for reasons above shown, and the fact that the patois now used by aboriginals is now a mixture of dialects interspersed by corrupt English. Moreover, I do not think that any one can satisfactorily interpret into English any aboriginal dialect, unless he can converse in that dialect, and thoroughly understand its orthography and syntax. It is regrettable that so many pioneers who learnt aboriginal dialects could not interpret them through insufficient knowledge of English, and therefore being unable to grasp the grammar of the quaint phraseology of the blacks; and as I do not claim to be perfect in either accomplishment, I will now retire from the discussion.

I am, Sir, etc.,

F. J. Watson.

Toowong. February 15.




Sir, After Mr. Meston’s long outpour in Saturday’s “Courier,” no doubt I shall be expected to “lie low,” or acknowledge my shortcomings on bended knee; but – let me whisper it – strange as it may seem, Mr. Meston is able to make mistakes, and possibly there are a few among my friends who will not think me absurd when I actually stand by all I said in my former letter to the “Courier.”

        Please let me draw attention to the fact that I did not say the Brisbane River was called “Meeannjin.” That was the name of the Garden Point from the bridge round to Creek Street, taking in the settlement.

I gave in my last “Waar-rar” as the Brisbane blacks’ name for river, but it was mis-printed “Warr-ral.” “Warril” comes from Ipswich, and means creek. Mr. Meston is evidently unaware that information may be taken incorrectly. I am sure that some of your readers may even know that errors are simply made in that way. Ridley gathered a lot of information but did not mean him to gather all that Mr. Meston says he has gathered. I repeat again that the “Turrubul” tribe extended from the Pine to the Logan, and in some old notes of mine, taken before my memory failed me, I find that I have said the same thing.

It is quite true, however, that there were three different languages spoken between Brisbane and the Glasshouse Mountains. Also, I was correct when I stated the blacks about Brisbane were a mixed lot. Does Mr. Meston imagine the different tribes never visited each other? Now, with regard to the statement, I am supposed to have made, that 200 blacks composed the “Turrubul” tribe, I said in my former letter : “It is something new to me to learn that the tribes of North and South Brisbane spoke different dialects.” That is so, but the blacks composing the “Turrubul” tribe certainly did not all congregate together in one spot, but camped in lots of about 200 each, and they would visit one another. And when I spoke of only one or two old men being left alive, I meant of the old aboriginal tribe who camped at North Brisbane, and who were boys when I was a boy.

I was not aware before that I have been in the habit of speaking a mixture of three or four languages. We have always to live and learn it seems. Does it not sometimes strike Mr. Meston, though, that he is a mere baby compared with me in his experience of the blacks? To quote from that gentleman’s letter: “Durramboi’ told Ridley that his dialect went from the Glasshouses to the Burnett, where it joined Wacca-wacca. This was quite correct.”

        Is it not amusing! If Mr. Meston says it is correct, it is correct! “Durramboi” came nowhere beside Mr. Meston in his knowledge of the aboriginal, neither does Tom Petrie, especially now his memory is failing poor old man! But methinks perhaps Mr. Meston’s memory is going also. One would not think a clever man as he is could be absolute master of a dialect at the age of 21 and not be able to recall fifty words! In my own case I find that one does not easily forget what at one time formed part of one’s whole life. If what Mr. Meston says is correct, Mr. Ridley and I must have misunderstood one another. That gentleman himself thanked me for my information, and said that he could always get the blacks to understand what I told him.

As for the word “Wukka,” I never did think it was a Brisbane negative; it came form the Burnett. “Guggaar” was the Turrubul negative. And so on with the rest.

Mr Meston does not explain why he called the “Turrubul” tribe “Bo-obbera.” In conclusion, I would say that I have not the time nor the inclination to keep up this correspondence, so it will perhaps be better if Mr. Meston and I agree to differ on certain points.

I am, Sir, etc.,

Thomas Petrie.


2nd September.

Native Names

Sir,- I have taken much interest in “Nomenclature of Queensland” published in the Courier Mail, but, having made a considerable study of the native languages of southeast Queensland, I am of the opinion that the meanings given to a number of aboriginal place names are not correct.

        For Obi Obie, or Ubi Ubi, the meaning given was “Plenty, plenty.” Ubi or Wubi (W almost silent, u as oo in ‘woody’, I as in ‘it’) the name given to Mount Ubi cattle station, afterwards changed to Kenilworth- meant, in the local (Kabi) language, an evil spirit. The meaning of Pialba, was given as a bird, but I think it is from bai-yi-ba meaning a battle ground or, literally, a fighting place.

        You say that the meaning of Talgai is unknown. It was, in the local dialect, a word meaning dead trees.

        The meaning of Tiaro is given as “a flower”; it is from tau-wa meaning, in the Kabi dialect, dead trees. This locality was originally the habitat of the Tauwaburra (dead tree people) a division of the Kabi tribe.

        The name Tewantin was given as meaning “dead trees,” this would be in the same language , Tau-wandan meaning the place of dead trees or logs. Tirroan (near Gin Gin) was named from Tur-ro-in, a smart aboriginal of Gin Gin cattle station of which the locality was originally a part. The word is really an aboriginal class name.

        Torquay is given as being named after Torquay in England. This, no doubt, is correct, but at Torquay is a rocky reef on an otherwise entirely sandy beach some miles in length, which was known to the blacks, and, through them, to a number of early white residents as Turkkee, meaning “The Stones,” and possibly, by this and the seaside location, the present name was inspired.

I am, Sir, etc.,

F. J. Watson.



        The following are names whose meaning have been inquired for by various widely scattered correspondents since the appearance of my last article in the “Herald.”

        A well-known Walgett resident wants the origin of that town. There was no such aboriginal word. In the original spelling, the double “r” was taken to be double “t” by the Lands Office and the unfortunate mistake has become permanent. The actual word was Walgerr, spelled Wolgeer by Ridley, who gives the meaning as “a high hill,” but he gives the name of “yong-un” to the porpoise at Moreton Bay, where “yung-un” was the dugong.

        Yass was just as unfortunate as Walgett. The original word as “yarr,” but the two “r’s” were taken to be two “s’s” and that mistake has also become permanent. In one dialect, Walgeera was a name of the black cockatoo. There was no sibilant sound in any Australian dialect. Had the aboriginals an alphabet, it would contain no q, w, f, v, x or z.

        Yarr (Yass) in Kamilroi, Wiradjerie, and at least three other dialects, was “look out,” “beware,” “stop there.” “Warr” had also partly the same meaning. The old bullock drivers who said “Warr-wooee,” spoken very slowly, to steady their teams, were really using a pure aboriginal expression, meaning be careful, go slowly, be steady. Our I. W. W. friends of the “go slow” tactics might appropriately call themselves the “Invincible Warr Wooees,” and so adopt a genuine aboriginal title, without changing their initials.

        Myee, a name given to the daughter of one of our Governors (Lord Carrington), in the Kamilroi dialect, was “a little girl” from babyhood to about eight years, but in at least two other dialects, it was the name of a small green frog which has a call very like the word, if drawled in a falsetto voice.

        A word in one dialect may have quite a different meaning in another. As one specimen, take the word “canyahra,” the numeral “one” at Moreton Bay, but from Townsville to Cooktown, the name of the large crocodile (crocodillus porosus). The word Keera given to a mountain near Woollongong, was one of the many names of the white cockatoo (cacatua galleria) “Keera,” “keearra,” “kyatta,” “karahra.” The well-known steamer Kyarra bears one of these names. Henry Kendall refers to the light that “shimmered on the cone of Kerra,” but the Keera pointed out to me as Kendall’s mountain is a distinct table-top, and not a cone.

        The same poetic licence induced the poet to arm our aboriginals with “the nulla, the sling, and the spear,” though the sling was unknown in Australia, the nearest being that of the expert aboriginal slingers of Noumea, recalling the famous ancient Balearic Island slingers in the army of Alexander the Macedonian Conqueror. Narra-been and Deewee-deewee were the aboriginal names of the well-known lakes near Manly. “Narra-been” was the swan (Cygnus atratus) and “deewee-deewee” was a widely spread name of the little grebe (Podiceps Minor), well-known in England and here also as the “dabchick.”

        On my first visit to the Narrabeen Lakes in 1872, they were covered with swans and dabchicks. Five aboriginals who were camped there called the honeysuckle (the “wallum”) “gnarrabeen,” but they were not speaking the old Beeallba dialect of the Sydney blacks. They knew more Kamilroi, and the Awaba (Ahwabah) of Port Macquarie.

        Goondiwindi is a Queensland town, from which the eclipse of the sun is to be witnessed. It lies 294 miles by rail from Brisbane and 135 from Warwick. The name comes from the old Waccaburra dialect of the Darling Downs, and is the word for “to-morrow.” One black asks another “Wanya gneen yanman?” (“where are you going?”) and the other replies “Gni yanman Brisbane goondiwindi,” (“I go to Brisbane tomorrow.”)

        Ballina is a town at the mouth of the Richmond River. The surveyor gave it the name of the Irish Ballina, on the Moy River in Sligo.

        Bungarie Nora, on the coast north of Broken Bay, is merely Bungarie’s Rock, so named in honour of Bungarie, a once well-known Sydney aboriginal in the days of the first settlement. He accompanied Flinders on a voyage north in 1799, and on August 14, in that year, he landed on the south end of Bribie Island in Moreton Bay, and met the Bribie blacks, a tribe called Joondoburrie, now extinct, but trouble arose, from some misunderstanding, and Flinders’ party shot one or two aboriginals, the place being still called “Skirmish Point.” Bungarie also landed with Flinders on the north end of Great Sandy Island, now Frazer’s Island, and had a friendly meeting with the blacks at a spot pointed out to me by old Frazer Island aboriginals in 1874.

        Coola-patamba, first mentioned by Stutchbury, the geologist, about 1856, and said to be the name of a hill, comes from “coollah,” in the Wallwoon dialect, a name of the black eagle (aquila audax), “patamm,” to drink, and the affix “ba,” nearly always, as an affix, equivalent to our adverb of place, “there.” The whole word actually meaning “the eagle drinks there,” or “the place where the eagles drink.”

        “Uralla,” “yaralla,” “yuralla,” “durallie,” were words to indicate a fight, or fighting, one or other appearing in several dialects, “durallie” being the most widely spread, extending from Sydney to Moreton Bay.

        “Wonona,” “wonoona,” “wonoma,” and “woonona,” were names of sleep from Shoalhaven to the Clarence, and reappear again 1500 miles north, like “banna” and “woronora,” another remarkable coincidence.

        Bulginbar, the name of a North Coast steamer, comes from the old Clarence dialect. About 1868, one of my schoolmates, John Frederick Small, son of a squatter at Ulmarra, and still alive, and well, near Dalby, in Queensland, had a racehorse he named Bulginbar, remarkable for breadth of beam, like a Dutchman, and the name clearly indicated his abnormal dorsal expansion. The name could only be suitable for a steamer much wider across the stern than midships, like a Chinese river scow.

        Parramatta comes from “parra,” the eel, and “matta,” water, eel water, both words in the old Sydney dialect. At Moreton Bay and Frazer Island, the eel was “yulu,” a name also common to the porpoise.

        Cabramatta was from “matta,” water, and “cabbra,” the old Sydney blacks’ name for a long soft worm, with a hard head, that bores into and destroys dead logs or any timber lying in fresh or salt water, known commonly as “cobra,” very destructive in wharf piles. It is a Teredos worm, probably allied to T. navalis, of which there are many varieties known as isopods, cheluria, pholas, spheroma, martesia, having a world-wide range. The cabbra was a dainty dish with the aboriginals, who ate it raw, as we do oysters, to which it has a similar taste. The favourite cabbra was found in swamp oak or forest oak (Casuarina), the blacks placing logs of that timber in the water until riddled by cabbra, and then chopping them to pieces with the old stone tomahawk, “mogo,” before the advent of the white man’s steel.

        About 21 years ago, when camped beside a semi wild tribe on the shores of Weymouth Bay, an old dark lady brought to me about a pint of “cabbra” she had cut out of a dead mangrove. It was in a bark coolamin, and floating in a rather uninviting bluish water from the stain of the wood. Washing it in clean sea water, I boiled half in a billy, but ate the balance raw, being a very pleasant dish in both states. These dead-wood eating worms grow up to as much as two feet in length. They avoid tea-tree, turpentine, cypress pine, and several other timbers.

        An old and esteemed resident of Armidale, Mr. J. F. Thomas, at present in Sydney, writes to ask the meaning of “Moombilleem,” said to be the aboriginal name for Tenterfield, a town about to celebrate its municipal jubilee next month, and whose first Parliamentary representative, in the first Parliament of New South Wales, was Robert Meston, my father’s brother. The word was known to me at an early age. The Tenterfield blacks spoke a branch of the great Yucumbill dialect, which included all New England and the coast from the Clarence River to the Logan. Over that area the blacks clearly understood each other, though differing widely in many words. One of the well-known Wyndham family spoke fluently the New England dialect, which he spelled “Ucumble.” Our first meeting was when I was a youth, and he was fishing with a lot of blacks in a branch of the Gwydir. Our last meeting and final parting was on Boyne Island, near Gladstone, in Queensland, where he and an old maid sister lived for many years, two very interesting and very remarkable people.

        In the Tenterfield dialect “moom” was a word for death, and “billa” and “billeem” were a large and a small creek, so that Moombilleem was a small, dead creek, actually a dry creek except in wet weather, the word having exactly the same meaning as billabong, which is from “billa,” a creek, a widely spread word, and “bong” for death, common at Moreton Bay and elsewhere as “bong” or “boang.” In “billabong” the adjective follows the noun, as usual in aboriginal dialects, but is first in Moombilleem. The two words would be equally understood by blacks as billembong, bongbilleem, billabong, bongbilla, or billamoom or moombilla.

        From “moom” comes Moomin Creek, and Moombooldool in New South Wales, and Moombra, correctly Moomburra, on the Upper Brisbane River.

        Woolloomooloo is one of the few aboriginal words correctly spelled, but the blacks pronounced it slowly “Woollooh-moollooh.” It was the name of a whirlpool, whirlwind, or anything whirling round, and was used also to denote windmills along the heights above Woolloomooloo in the old convict days.

        At South Brisbane, Woolloongabba is from “Woolloon,” whirling round, and “capemm,” water, actually whirling water, correctly Woollooncapemm.

        Woolloomooloo, at Sydney, became Wooloon Woolloon at Brisbane.



To the Editor of the Courier Mail

Sir,- As there is apparently some controversy regarding the origin of Tambourine and Wonglepong, may I be permitted to point out that they were place names long before the white man deposed the black in those localities.

        The small hill on which stands Tambourine Hose, the residence of Mr. Cecil Delpratt, was the spot the natives designated “Tambreen,” from the yam, used by them for food, being found there. It meant “yam in a cliff.” The late John Allen, of Mundoolun, was my authority, and he showed me the place which his ancestors had named. He also gave me the following story, which, he said, had been told around the camp fires for many generations:

        Long ago the tribe were camped on the bank of the Logan River; a great noise was heard, and the earth trembled. Louder than thunder, it terrified the aborigines, who hurriedly fled, never stopping until they found themselves in peaceful and beautiful surroundings at the northern summit of Tambourine Mountain. Here their fears were calmed, and henceforth the localities became “Jimboomba, the place where the noise was heard,” and “Wonglepong” “sound forgotten.”

        John Allen, whose native name was Bullumin, the last of the Wangerri-burra tribe, and probably the best educated aboriginal of his day, remained the faithful and trusted retainer to the Collins family for almost the whole of his long and useful life. It is interesting to recall that on November 8, 1845, Mr. Thomas Dowse, afterwards first Town Clerk of Brisbane, was granted a licence to depasture stock beyond the limits of location at “Gimboomba,” and on that day Mr. H. P. Hicks, was similarly assigned ‘Tambourine.” In May 1848, Mr. Donald Coutts obtained “Tambourine,” then consisting of 15,000 acres, which he stocked with 750 cattle.

        Mr. Hicks and his partner, Mr. Whitting, were also the first owners of Tabragalba, which, in 1846, they sold to Mr. Dugald Graham. Tabragalba was another legend among the blacks. A great hunter, much esteemed for his prowess, lost his nulla nulla, to which his great skill was ascribed, but although the whole tribe searched diligently, it could not be found. Without the nulla nulla, the hunter lost both his prowess and reputation, which were never regained. For many years descendants of the original tribe gathered on the flat by the river opposite where is now the homestead, and the story of the hunter was told. At last, the weapon, in a petrified state, was discovered, and the spot named “Tabragalba,” meaning the place where the big nulla nulla was found.

        Mr. Graham sold Tabraglaba to Mr. James Henderson, whose son subsequently lived at Kinghorn, Tambourine, and was for some years chairman of the Tambourine Shire Council. In 1866, Mr. Henderson sold the station to the late Mr. de Burgh Persse, and the family of that public spirited man can well be proud of their seventy years occupancy of Tabragalba.

        Mundoolun, native name of the death adder, has been continuously occupied by the descendants of Mr. John Collins, for 94 years, and Queensland has much for which to thank these two families in pioneer exploration and public service.

I am, Sir, etc.,

Isobel Hannah.



To the Editor of the Courier Mail

Sir,- I can support Mr. A. McConnel’s statement in the Courier of the 23rd last, as to the meaning of the place name, Indooroopilly. It is derived from the words “nyinderu” and “pilla” or “billa,” the former word meaning “leech,” and the latter meaning “creek” or “gully.”

        There seems to have been some confusion as to the initial letter of the word, and the peculiar aboriginal dental dipthong “necessary” has, no doubt, led to the use by the whites of the letter “y” only, or to the initial letter being entirely dropped.

        Inter alia, I may mention that the place names, Yeronga and Yeerongpilly, are derived from the word “yarung” meaning sand, or fine gravel, as distinguished from “darra,” meaning stones. The former name should be Yarunggra, the accents being on the first and last syllables, and the latter should be Yarungpilly, the first meaning sandy or gravelly, and the latter, sandy creek or gully.

        The generally accepted opinion drawn from the interpretation in “Tom Petries’ Reminiscences”  that the latter name is derived from “yurong,” meaning “rain,” is, I think, incorrect. This word was used by the natives north of Brisbane River, but to the south thereof, the word was “kuwong,” the letter “u” being a half-vowel, giving the a sound almost like kwong.

I am, Sir, etc.,

F. J. Watson.


August 26.


The presence in Rockhampton of Mr. A. Meston, Director of the Government Intelligence Bureau at Sydney, recalls the fact that some years ago, he made what has been regarded as a record ascent of the Berserker Range.

        Mr. Meston started out on horseback from the Commercial Hotel, and galloped out to a German settler’s farm near Frenchman’s Creek, left his horse in the yard, ran through the scrub to the foot of the range, divested himself of all his clothes with the exception of a pair of drawers and a singlet, and ran up the mountain to the summit.

        On reaching the top, he immediately lighted a fire of some dried grass and the dead top of a young bloodwood. Persons who were watching from the balcony of the Commercial Hotel saw the smoke rise just one hour and 25 minutes after his departure form the Hotel.