How five major Bundaberg streets got their names

THEY'RE streets most of us will travel on nearly every day. 

Thousands pass through in their daily lives, but do we stop to think about their origins?

We've stepped back into history to look at the origins of five of our street names.

1. Takalvan Street, Bundaberg

There's mystery surrounding the origins of Bourbong Street.

It might have the most contentious debate about the origin of its name, but Takalvan Street is conspicuous by the lack of any information or clue as to its origin.

All that can be deduced from this complete dearth of information is that it must have been named for the Parish of Takalvan.

As can be seen the 1876 map above, it's logical that this must be the case.

Anyone having concrete proof of information to the contrary will be warmly welcomed by Bundaberg historians.

Targo and Woondooma Sts (courtesy Rod Savidge).
Targo and Woondooma Sts (courtesy Rod Savidge).

2. Targo Street, Bundaberg

According to Tom Petrie's book of Reminiscences of Early Queensland (dating from 1837) the name "Targo" appears to derive from an Aboriginal work Taggon or Targan, meaning "the spirit of the rainbow".

JY Walker's book says it's from the native name "Tchago" for the locality of Saltwater Creek and the Burnett River.

With its low-lying areas and Saltwater Creek carrying rainwater run-off for a lot of the CBD, Targo Street has been subject to serious flooding over many years of Bundaberg's history.

Many of the businesses have suffered badly during these floods, and some have never re-built, but it's a testimony to the courage and optimism of Bundaberg people that some businesses refuse to bow to Nature's destruction and tenaciously keep going and serving their town.

Bourbong Street 1929. Courtesy Rod Savidge.
Bourbong Street 1929. Courtesy Rod Savidge.

3. Bourbong Street, Bundaberg

There are many versions of how Bundaberg's main street was named - from Walker's book to a series of letters written to the Bundaberg Mail in 1895 - each with a different explanation. Writers and historians have chosen which version they believe is correct, and confusion reigns to this day as to the 'correct' explanation of the meaning of Bourbong Street.

John Young Walker (1890) - History of Bundaberg:

Bourbon-street, the main thoroughfare and chief business resort, has no connection with the ex-Royal family of France, or with that variety of sugar-cane; but is from 'Boor-bung' a chain of waterholes between the town and Rubyanna. (p.14)

20 Jan, 1895 - Letter to the Bundaberg Mail:

A correspondent writes: - As an old resident of the Wide Bay and Burnett Districts, I was much pleased to find one of your contributors in a recent issue declaiming against the 'g' in our main street.

To old-fashioned folk the modern spelling has jarred on our nervous system severely.

Someone of an imposing elevation of mind probably thought it did or ought to belong to the aboriginal dialect. As there is no such part of speech as 'bour' in native dialect, the 'bong' meaning dead renders the title silly and unintelligible.

The main street of Bundaberg was named Bourbon by the surveyor who laid the principal sections of the town out for a well-defined and perfectly understandable reason.

The first cane planted at Rubyanna came from Bourbon, an island in the West Indies, and that plant bears its French imperial title even unto this day.

Why the name borne on every title deed in Bourbon-street was ever locally altered to a meaningless farcicality is beyond the ken of people who have endeavoured the face the varied conditions of the colony for nearly half a century, long before we aspired to the proud distinction of being dubbed Queensland, which gave entry to those who, ignoring our past records, would box up a French imperial standard with an impossible aboriginal sentence.

It is to be hoped that those who feel any pride in the town will in all cases drop the g in Bourbon-street - even as the Real Property Office is ever likely to do.

25 Jan, 1895 - Letter to the Bundaberg Mail:

Sir - I note in your issue of to-day a paragraph referring to the name of the principal street in your city; possibly I may throw a little light on the subject.

As to whether the proper name is Bourbon or Bourbong I do not venture to offer an opinion, but I've heard it asserted that the name is a native or aboriginal one; if so, the name should be Bier-rabong - meaning plenty dead.

In the early sixties I knew every inch of country between the Burnett and Kolan Rivers from the sea up to Gin Gin, as at that time my brothers and myself had the Colanne Station.

Where North Bundaberg now is the blacks called Bierrabong: neither for love nor money could we ever get any blacks to go near the place.

We knew it was on account of some superstition, but it was a mere chance that revealed the cause.

Two or three of us were one day looking for ebony wood when we suddenly came on a heap of human bones, among which were 15 or 20 skulls.

Now the scrub is all clear I can not hit the exact locality, but it could not have been very far from Waterview.

At first we thought it was an old burying place of the blacks, but I afterwards learned from a black that it was the spot where the native police had come upon a large camp of blacks and dispersed them. Hence the name Bierrabong...
Trusting I've not wearied your readers, Yours, & c., N. Tooth, Maryborough, 18th Jan., 1895.

30 Jan, 1895 - Letter to the Bundaberg Mail:

Sir, - Although our town of Bundaberg is scarcely a quarter of a century old very few of its inhabitants seem to be certain as to the origin and correct name of its main street. I was well acquainted with the late Mr J. C. Thompson, licensed surveyor, who selected the site and named the town and principal streets of Bundaberg.

One day, in the early part of June 1873, soon after my arrival in the district, whilst coming up the river in a boat with Mr Thompson, who was then the owner of Rubyanna, our conversation turned on the name of Bundaberg and its streets.

Bourbon-street, he said, he named after the sugar cane, which was then a favourite cane, and supposed to be rust-proof. It is only the last few years the g has been added, without any claim to the position whatever. -
Yours, &c., James Drinan, Electra, 23rd January, 1895.

Janette Nolan ( 1978) - Bundaberg - history & people

J.Y. Walker held that Thompson and Edwards in naming the streets euphonized local Aboriginal words, and that Bourbon originated in boorbung denoting the chain of waterholes which used to stretch between Rubyanna and the town...some believe that Bourbong is the phonetic spelling of the French Bourbon.

This was the name given to one of the few varieties of cane grown before 1875...Thompson, with his plans for a sugar plantation and mill, may have decided that Bourbon was an auspicious name for one of Bundaberg's main streets.
(p. 86)

Neville Rackemann (1992) - Bundaberg - from Pioneers to Prosperity

The naming of Bundaberg's main streets was left to the surveyors.

It was assistant surveyor Edwards who preferred Aboriginal names.

The main thoroughfare was named Bourbong Street. Many people, especially senior citizens, are under the impression that up until the late 1930s the spelling had always been 'Bourbon'; this is incorrect…

Up until 1940 the (use) of 'Bourbong' and 'Bourbon' was near enough to equal. From 1941 on, I found no reference to 'Bourbon' Street.

Regardless of the spelling of Bundaberg's main street, it is extremely doubtful whether it had anything to do with an old French royal family or a variety of sugarcane.

In all probabilities the name is derived from an aboriginal word boorbung, the name for a chain of waterholes in the Rubyanna area.

This is borne out by the fact that Robert Strathdee's selection in the vicinity of the lagoons was once recorded on a survey map as 'Boorbung'. (p.48)

Bundaberg Regional Library. Lib News, v4 #3: Nov 2013 - Apr 2014
Bundaberg Mail. January 20, 25 & 30, 1895.
Nolan, Janette. 1978. Bundaberg: History & people. UQ Press, St Lucia.
Rackemann, Neville. 1992. Bundaberg - from Pioneers to Prosperity. BCC, Bundaberg.
Walker, J. Y. 1890 (1977). History of Bundaberg. Dryden Press, Sydney.

Walker Street (Lady Chelmsford Hospital). Courtesy Rod Savidge.
Walker Street (Lady Chelmsford Hospital). Courtesy Rod Savidge.

4. Walker Street, Bundaberg

Walker Street was named after Alexander Christie Walker, who was one of the first settlers in town, and made his first selection, the Bingera station block of 200 acres, as early as 15 November 1869.

The Walker family came from Gayndah (they'd settled there in 1850) and Alexander was one of Bundaberg's outstanding pioneers.

According to The Central Qld Herald 15.8.1935, in an exploratory trip down the Burnett River before Bundaberg was founded, Mr Walker hit upon the site for Bingera station, and sent his son Mr A.C. (Christy) Walker to stock it.

  In addition to the Bingera Station, Alexander Walker also purchased in January, March and July 1870, three selections in the parish of Kalkie, totalling 500 acres.

  Alexander Walker was also a member of the Bundaberg Progress Committee, formed in 1873 which was the forerunner of the Divisional Board, then the Municipality.

He was the first person to cut a track from Bingera to the new township of Bundaberg, and also, at his own expense, started a regular mail run from North Bundaberg to Maryborough via Bingera Station.

He remained a huge part of Bundaberg's development until his accidental death in 1879.

(Information courtesy Sue Gammon, Bundaberg Library)

Sidney Klein with his children Elaine, Beverly and Kevin at the family home he built in FE Walker St. Photo courtesy of Wendy Klein-Carter Photo Contributed
Sidney Klein with his children Elaine, Beverly and Kevin at the family home he built in FE Walker St. Photo courtesy of Wendy Klein-Carter Photo Contributed Wendy Klein-Carter

5. FE Walker Street, Bundaberg

Interesting stories can be found lurking in the oddest of places, as a routine inquiry into a street name at the council has revealed.

The inquiry concerned the meaning of the letters FE in FE Walker Street, Bundaberg.

This is the name given to the eastern end of Walker Street from Boundary to Ashfield Road.

Inquiries showed that FE stood for Franklin Estate.

The Franklin after whom the land was named was a landholder of the area, and one of the streets running into Walker Street is named Franklin Street.

So why give Walker St east of Boundary Street an additional name?

In 1942, as part of the street numbering for outlying areas, local businessman Mr W. Winchester contracted, with council approval, to provide street numbers for anyone who wanted them.

Earlier numbering on Walker Street had started at Boundary St and moved west.

Rather than renumber the whole of Walker Street, when it came to numbering the extension east of Boundary it was decided to give the area a different name.

Apparently it was never registered as a council meeting decision though, simply an office matter.

FE Walker Street actually finished at the city boundary a mile and a half east of Boundary Street.

The road is then known as Smythe's Road, and is in the Woongarra Shire.

(Bundaberg News-Mail July 8, 1968)

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