Our streets of intrigue
There is an interesting story behind so many of Townsville’s byways, as IAN FRAZER reports
ARTHUR and Alfred streets in Aitkenvale honour sons of Queen Victoria, but who were Anne, Patrick and Henrietta?
John Matthew was unsure of the answer when his history of Townsville place names, HighwaysandByways, was first published in 1995, and still has no idea.
The origins of Stagpole, Percy and Hugh streets, in West End, are similarly obscure, 120 years after being gazetted by the then colonial lands department.
Mr Matthew, 80, Townsville City Council’s town planner from 1972 to 1982, has stopped researching street names since the publication of his book.
‘‘I was approached by Thuringowa City Council, after HighwaysandBywayscame out, asking if I would do one for them, but I said ‘no thanks’,’’ he said on Wednesday.
‘‘This one ( Highwaysand Byways) took seven years.’’
He has spent the past decade of his retirement working on a timeline for the city from 1864 to 2004.
He assumes Anne St, Patrick St and Henrietta St in Aitkenvale are testimony to a developer’s whimsy.
Christian names abound in the grid of streets bounded by Leopold, Nathan, Charlotte and Patrick streets in Aitkenvale.
Charlotte and Elizabeth were daughters of Thomas Aitken, the dairy farmer who first subdivided part of his 3500-acre (1400ha) property in 1885.
Arthur, Leopold, Beatrice and Alfred were all offspring of Albert and Victoria.
Nathan, too, has a connection with royalty.
Mr Matthew records that Sir Matthew Nathan (1862-1939) was Governor of Queensland from 1920 to 1925, and quotes from the AustralianDictionaryof Biographythat he conducted a ‘discreet affair’ with Constance Spry, author of books on cooking and flower arranging.
HighwaysandBywayscontains plenty of Townsville minutia for quiz night buffs.
For example, the road to the Townsville tip— Vantassell St — commemorates Miss Gladys Van Tassell, who made the first ascent by balloon in the Townsville district from Gulliver’s Gardens, Acacia Vale, on Sunday, June 22, 1890, before alighting by parachute.
Don’t confuse Thomas Aitken with Tom Aikens, State MPfor Mundingburra, 1944-1960 and MP for Townsville South, 1960-1977, after whom are named Aikens Park, West End, and the Tom Aikens Overpass in South Townsville.
The Murray sporting fields, between Annandale and Idalia, commemorate World War I veteran Lt Col Henry William Murray, VC, (1885-1966), while Murray St, North Ward, honours William Henry Murray, son of Townsville alderman George Murray, who was killed in action in World War I.
Explorers Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills, who died in 1861 on the return leg of their trek from Melbourne to the Gulf, are honoured by street names in North Ward and the CBD.
A couple of other North Ward streets recall Alfred W. Howitt and John McKinlay, rescuers sent to search for the hapless explorers’ party. Howitt found the sole survivor, John King, on September 9, 1861.
But the King St linking The Strand and Flinders St East, between the Criterion Hotel and Reef HQ, is named after the explorer Phillip Parker King (1791-1856), son of Governor Philip Gidley King.
The Lands Department named Townsville’s earliest streets after land and sea explorers.
Hence Denham St recalls the coastal surveying feats of Captain Henry Mangles Denham (1800-1887), not the former State Premier Digby Frank Denham (1859-1944).
Not that State and local government politicians are neglected, especially in South Townsville, Hermit Park and the eastern edge of the CBD.
Merchant and newspaper proprietor Patrick Francis Hanran (1831-1916) was Member for Townsville from 1899 to 1909 and served as mayor for nine years and alderman for 27 years.
He once had six thoroughfares named after him in the municipality of Townsville and shire of Thuringowa.
Anthony Ogden, described in HighwaysandBywaysas a staunch unionist and temperance advocate, served as mayor from 1924 to 1926.
Palmer St and McIlwraith St in South Townsville honour premiers Sir Thomas McIlwraith (1877-1883, 1888, 1893) and Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer (1870-1874), Macrossan St is a reminder of long-serving Townsville MPJohn Murtagh Macrossan (1879-1891) and Perkins St harks back to Patrick Perkins, the Brisbane brewer and Member of the Legislative Council who invented Castlemaine XXXXale.
Ackers St, Hermit Park is named after William Archer Ackers, an auctioneer and agent who became mayor of Townsville in 1903.
Matthew records that Ackers worked in Charters Towers as a stock and station agent before moving to Townsville and that in 1877 he horsewhipped Thadeus O’Kane, editor and proprietor of the NorthernMinerover ‘a scurrilous publication’.
Beattie Cres, Vincent, honours Major Francis William Beattie, commander of the Townsville companies of the Kennedy Regiment in 1892, not his celebrated namesake.
And Mooney St, Gulliver, has nothing to do with Mayor Tony Mooney, having been named after W.L. Mooney, who was killed in action during World War II.
Mr Matthew, who lives on the corner of Mooney and Brighton streets, says street naming is a potentially contentious business.
‘‘People write all the time wanting streets named after them,’’ he said.
In his experience, the council usually takes these requests seriously.
HighwaysandByways, which has been reprinted several times since 1995, can be bought at the city library for $12.
STREET HISTORIAN . . . former Townsville City Council planner John Matthew
Patrick Francis Hanran