Place names attract intrigue
LOCAL history can be a matter of interpretation.
In August 1921 the Royal Australian Historical Society got together with New South Wales teachers to undertake local history research.
In particular, the society hoped that teachers in charge of upper primary school classes would encourage collective class research in the localities where their schools were situated. History would be collected, arranged and written by the students in co-operation with their teachers.
The RAHS considered such an effort carried out by NSW schoolchildren under the supervision of their teachers “would save from oblivion much of the history of our state which otherwise might be entirely lost”.
Pioneers still residing in their original settlement and who had witnessed its development were interviewed. One headmaster asked the senior pupils of his school a weekly question on how a certain place was named and the children then talked to their parents, old residents and others about its origin.
In 1922 some of the collected local lore was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and a paragraph on the Tweed was reported.
“Murwillumbah, says the local historian, is Aboriginal for ‘I am satisfied’. Dunbible Creek got its name from the following incident: An old pioneer was reading his Bible on the (creek) banks. When he had finished he was crossing the creek on a log bridge when the Bible fell into the creek. His Aboriginal companion remarked, “Done Bible, boss” and Dunbible it has been to this day.”
The story about how Dunbible got its name has a number of local versions, and whether it was a preacher on a crossing or a settler on a log the common theme centred on losing a Bible in the water.
The meaning of Murwillumbah has been interpreted as “place of many possums”. The local inhabitants would most certainly have been satisfied because there were so many possums in the place.
Early white settlers all had their particular ways of recording what happened during their lifetime. Those who were literate wrote about their experiences in letters, diaries or journals, while others passed down things they had seen and heard as family stories. The same major event could be remembered by a number of witnesses in a number of different ways depending on their interpretation.
In 1917 The Tweed Daily published the following article on how the small Tweed settlement of Kunghur was named.
“Many have been the queries as to how many of the places on the Tweed got the names by which they are known. In the majority of cases the answer is that Mr Joshua Bray was responsible for them. Certain it is that Mr Bray named very many places and usually some incident is recounted as the reason for the same.
“One of these, Kunghur, on the South Arm, is a name associated with one of the most important happenings in the history of the Tweed – the importation of the first lot of cattle via the inland route.
“It was in 1864 when Mr Joshua Bray, accompanied by two Aboriginal boys, Abraham, son of King Sandy, of one of the Tweed tribes; and Grasshopper (evidently not of royal blood), was bringing over a big mob of mixed cattle from Tunstall Station, Richmond River, down the South Arm route through what is now known as the Parish of Kunghur, that the incident occurred.
“Night overtaking them, they camped on the road with the cattle ahead of them. During the night the cattle doubled back, thus necessitating retracing the route the following morning to get them. The route, then just a bush track, was indeed a bad place to lose cattle, but after some hard travelling they got ahead and mustered them at the camp, to find 10 were missing.
“The boys then got to work and Abraham, finding tracks around the side of the mountain, followed them, regaining a few while the other boy tracked the balance. Again counting them Abraham exclaimed that: We kunghur (got them) all now.
“Mr Bray was naturally pleased and said: ‘We will always call this place Kunghur’, and so it has remained.”
Such stories make for interesting reading in old local newspapers.