Scottish Place Names
- Canberra, Australia
Of the names of the 132 suburbs in the Canberra-Queanbeyan area, 48 (36.4%) refer either to place names that can be found in Scotland or to Scottish family names. Of course, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 27 (20.5%) of these appear to be uniquely Scottish.
Canberra is a planned city, created in the early twentieth century as the capital of the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia. A few of its suburbs have names that were already in common usage before the city was founded, for example, the names of homesteads or early settlers. However, the vast majority of Canberra's suburban names honour Australian politicians, explorers and cultural or sporting personalities. The Scottish-related names are therefore a comment on the Scottish diaspora across Australia as a whole and should not be interpreted as referring to Scottish settlement of Canberra itself. The proportion of place names in Canberra that have a Scottish connection appears to be the second highest of any major city in the world outside Scotland - exceeded only by Dunedin in New Zealand. This reflects the sizeable number of Australian explorers, politicians, colonial administrators and other famous people who were either born in Scotland or whose roots were Scottish.
The picture above is of the Old and New Parliament Houses in Canberra is via Wikipedia.
Official suburbs and other localities with names that are definitely or most probably of Scottish origin, whether directly or indirectly, are:
- Ainslie - Ainslie is a Scottish surname, which apparently comes from Annesley in Nottinghamshire, central England. The suburb was named for James Ainslie, an early pioneer and the first overseer of Duntroon Station (see Campbell and Duntroon below). According to Wikipedia, Ainslie worked at Duntroon for 10 years before returning to Scotland.
- Bruce - there are places called Brucefield in Clackmannanshire, Fife, Highland and West Lothian, Brucehaven in Fife, Brucehill in Aberdeenshire, West Dunbartonshire and Stirling, Bruceland in Moray, Bruceton in Perth & Kinross, Brucewells in Aberdeenshire and Bruce's Cave, Stone and Well in Dumfries & Galloway. Bruce is also found as an element in place names in England, but not nearly so commonly as in Scotland. Bruce is a Scottish surname of Norman descent. The famous Robert the Bruce (his statue is shown here), victor of the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 which secured Scotland's independence from England, was crowned King of Scotland in 1306 in defiance of King Edward I of England. The Canberra suburb honours Stanley Bruce (1883-1967), the eighth Prime Minister of Australia who was created Viscount Bruce of Melbourne and Westminster. He was born in Melbourne, his father being a prominent businessman of Scottish descent.
- Calwell - According to the House of Names Heraldic website, Calwell is a Scottish family name, one of the many variations of Caldwell (a Renfrewshire name derived from the Old English words 'caeld' and 'welle', meaning 'cold well'). This suburb was named for the Right Honourable Arthur Augustus Calwell (1896-1973), leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1960 to 1967. He was born in Melbourne, of mixed ethnic descent (Irish on his mother's side; Welsh and Scots-Irish on his father's). The Scottish connection is very remote, through his Ulster Protestant paternal great-grandfather in Pennsylvania, USA.
- Campbell - the Campbells were once the most powerful of all the Scottish clans. The Canberra suburb was named for Robert Campbell (1769-1846) who was Sydney's first merchant. He built a homestead in what is now Canberra, naming it Duntroon (see below) - possibly after a Campbell castle in Argyll.
- Chisholm (Scottish Borders, spelt Chisholme). Chisholm is a Scottish clan, whose origins go back to the thirteenth century. The clan takes its name from a place in the former border county of Roxburgh, with a branch later established in the Highlands, west of Inverness. This suburb actually commemorates Caroline Chisholm (1808-1877), the New South Wales philanthropist and social worker who strove to improve the employment and accommodation prospects of women and the family life of convicts. The connection with Scotland is very indirect since Caroline (née Jones) was born in England, her husband possibly having some Scottish ancestry.
- Dunlop (East Ayrshire). Dunlop is also a Scottish family name. The Canberra suburb honours Sir Edward ("Weary") Dunlop (1907-1993). Sir Edward was revered by former WW2 prisoners of war, both as a medical doctor on the notorious Burma-Thailand railway and for his work among veterans in the post-war years. As pointed out by the ACT Planning and Land Authority, he was awarded an OBE in 1947 and a COA in 1987 and was president of the Alcoholism Foundation of Victoria.
- Duntroon (Duntroon Castle in Argyll & Bute). The name of this suburb and its military college is taken from the property (or the house) owned by Robert Campbell (see above), who received a grant of 5,000 acres in 1834. According to Reed (1973) "One account says that he was related to the Campbells of Duntroon Castle, Argyllshire; another that it probably originated with the sailing vessel Duntroon, a picture of which is to be seen in the Commandant's room at Duntroon House."
- Fadden (Scottish Borders). This suburb honours Sir Arthur William Fadden (1897-1973), the 13th Prime Minister of Australia, during 1941. Sir Arthur was born in Queensland, the son of Irish-born parents. The fact that Sir Arthur's grandfather was a Presbyterian minister strongly suggests that his ancestry was probably Scots-Irish.
- Fisher - Fisher occurs as an element in several Scottish place names, examples being Fisherton in South Ayrshire and Fishertown in Highland. It is found even more commonly in English place names, but in the case of the Canberra suburb, the connection is definitely Scottish. The name recalls Andrew Fisher (1862-1928), the fifth Prime Minister of Australia (1908-09, 1910-12 and 1914-15), who was born in Crosshouse, a mining village near Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland.
- Forrest (Dumfries & Galloway and North Lanarkshire; also several other places in Scotland and one just over the border in Cumbria with Forrest as an element in the name). The Canberra suburb was named for Sir John Forrest (1847-1918), the first premier of Western Australia and his brother Alexander (1849-1901), both of whom were explorers and whose parents were both born in Scotland.
- Fraser - there is a Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire and a Fraserford in Dumfries & Galloway, both based on this Scottish surname (that's the Fraser tartan shown here). This suburb commemorates Melbourne-born James Reay Fraser (1908-1970), Vice-Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the ACT between 1957 and 1970. The Australian Dictionary of Biography provides no details on Fraser's likely Scottish heritage, mentioning only his Danish heritage through his mother.
- Gilmore - there is a Gilmorton in Aberdeenshire, Gilmourton in South Lanarkshire, Gilmerton in Edinburgh and Gilmorehill in Glasgow, among other references in Scotland to this family name. Glasgow University (illustrated here) is located on Gilmorehill. Black (1996), the authority on Scottish family names, states that Gilmore, Gilmour and Gilmer are Scottish surnames derived from the Gaelic 'Gillie Moire', meaning 'servant of (the Virgin) Mary'. The name originated in Cumbria at a time when Gaelic had spread that far south. The name of this suburb honours Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962), OBE, whose maiden name was Mary Jean Cameron, and whose father was born in Inverness-shire, Scotland. Dame Gilmore was awarded the Australian Journalists' Association's Gold Medal for being the oldest working woman journalist in Australia. She was also the first woman in the Australian Workers Union and the only woman on its committee.
- Gordon (Scottish Borders as well as many other places throughout Scotland with Gordon as part of the name, e.g. Gordonstoun, Gordonstown and Gordonsburgh). Gordon is also the name of a place on the Isle of Man, probably having been taken there by Scottish settlers. The Canberra suburb honours Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870), poet, mounted policeman and politician. He is the only Australian poet to be honoured with a bust in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. Any connection with Scotland is probably fairly remote as Gordon, who was born in the Azores to English parents, grew up in England.
- Gowrie (Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire). The suburb was named for the Earl of Gowrie, Brigadier-General Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven (1872-1955), who was Governor-General of Australia from 1936 to 1944. The illustration shows Huntingtower Castle, previously known as Ruthven Castle, home of Lord Ruthven.
- Hume (Scottish Borders; also Humesett and Humeston in Ayrshire). The Canberra suburb honours Hamilton Hume (1797-1873), explorer. He was born at Parramatta in New South Wales. His ancestry was Scots-Irish, his grandfather, James Hume, a Presbyterian minister, having moved from Scotland to County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1746 (Australian Dictionary of Biography).
- Isabella Plains - Isabella forms part of three English place names and would therefore appear, on the surface, to be an English name. The origin of the name of this suburb is Scottish, however, since it honours Isabella Maria Brisbane (1821-1849), daughter of NSW Governor Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (who was born in Ayrshire, Scotland). It was named as early as 1823 by explorers Captain Mark Currie RN, Major John Ovens, and Joseph Wild who had camped in the Tuggeranong area whilst on a government expedition in search of good grazing land.
- Kinlyside - although there is no such place name anywhere in the British Isles, Kinly is said to be a Scottish family name related to McKinley and was first recorded in Perthshire. The Gaelic form of the surname is MacFionnlaigh, meaning 'son of Finlay'. The suburb was named for George Kendall Kinlyside (1877-1945), a local wheelwright, coachbuilder and blacksmith, whose ancestry has not been reported.
- Macarthur - there is a promontory called McArthur's Head on the Isle of Islay in Argyll & Bute. The Canberra suburb commemorates John Macarthur (1767-1834), army officer, politician and one of the principal founders of the Merino wool industry in Australia. He was born in Devon, England, his parents being expatriate Scots.
- MacGregor - there is a water feature called Macgregor's Leap in Perth & Kinross, near Woodend in Glen Lyon; also McGregor's Cave. The suburb was named in honour of Sir William MacGregor (1846-1919), medical practitioner and colonial administrator. Sir William was Governor of Queensland between 1909 and 1914 and the first Chancellor of the University of Queensland. He was born in Towie, Aberdeenshire. Prior appointments included Lieutenant-Governor of British New Guinea, Governor of Lagos (West Africa) and Governor of Newfoundland.
- Macquarie - Named in honour of "the Father of Australia", Governor Lachlan Macquarie (1761-1824), who governed New South Wales between 1809 and 1821 and who was born on the island of Ulva in the Hebrides, Scotland. A portrait of Macquarie is shown here.
- McKellar - the MacKellars are a sept of Campbell of Argyll. The Canberra suburb was named for NSW-born Senator Gerald Colin McKellar (1903-1970) who served as the Minister for Repatriation between 1964 and 1970. The fact that McKellar was a Presbyterian strongly suggests some Scottish ancestry.
- Mitchell - there is a Mitchell Hall in East Lothian, a Mitchell Hill in Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders, Mitchellhill in Aberdeenshire and Mitchellslacks in Dumfries & Galloway. Although place names based on Mitchell are even more numerous throughout England, Canberra's suburb has a definite Scottish connection since it commemorates Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell (1792-1855), who was born at Grangemouth in Scotland. Sir Thomas explored large areas of NSW and was Surveyor-General of NSW between 1828 and 1855.
- Moncrieff - there is a Moncrieffe Hill and Moncrieffe House in Perth & Kinross. Moncrieff is definitely a Scottish family name, other variations on the spelling being Moncrief or Moncrieffe. Records of the name go back to the mid-13th century, its origin being Gaelic ('monad croibhe' - 'hill of the tree') or possibly Pictish/Old Welsh. The Canberra suburb is named for Queensland-born Gladys Moncrieff (1892-1976), musical comedy and operetta star. She was affectionately known as 'Our Glad' by Australian troops during WWII and the Korean War.
- Reid - Reid is a Scottish family name, the Reids being a sept of Clan Robertson. This Canberra suburb honours Sir George Houston Reid (1848-1918), the fourth Prime Minister of Australia (1904-1905). He was born in Scotland at Johnstone, Renfrewshire. His family moved to Liverpool when he was only two months old, followed by a move to Melbourne when he was seven years of age (and where he attended the Melbourne Academy - now Scotch College) finally settling in Sydney at the age of 13.
- Richardson - There are no places anywhere in Britain with the name Richardson, apart from an archaeological site in Wiltshire, southern England which was presumably named for someone with the surname Richardson. Richardson is a Lowland Scottish family name meaning, quite literally, 'son of Richard'. In Scotland, the Richardson's are associated with clans Buchanan and Ogilvie. This suburb was named for Melbourne-born Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson (1870-1946), novelist, who wrote under the pseudonym of Henry Handel Richardson. Her father, Walter Lindesay Richardson, M.D., was born in Dublin but studied at the University of Edinburgh. She married a Scotsman, J. George Robertson, in 1894. It is not clear whether Ethel Richardson's ancestry was Scottish, Irish or Scots-Irish. Her Scottish surname, Presbyterianism and claim to descent from the earls of Lindesay strongly suggest that she was Scots-Irish.
- Spence - there is a Spenceton in South Ayrshire. Although Spence is found quite often in place names throughout England, and is in fact an English family name, the origin of the name of this Canberra suburb is attributed to a Scotsman, William Guthrie Spence (1846-1926), who was born in the Orkney Islands. Spence was a "prominent Labour Leader; 'Father' of the Australian Workers' Union; Member, first House of Representatives 1901; Postmaster-General 1914-15; Vice-President Executive Council, 1916-17." (ACT Planning & Land Authority).
- Stirling (Stirling; also Stirling Village in Aberdeenshire). The name of this suburb commemorates a Scotsman, Sir James Stirling (1791-1865), who was the first Governor of Western Australia (1829-1839). The picture below is of Stirling Castle.
Some of the following suburbs and neighbourhoods are also likely to have a direct or indirect Scottish connection, but these names are associated with other parts of the British Isles as well:
- Cook - Cook is a Scottish as well as an English name. The Scottish Cooks are a sept of the Stewarts; their ancestral lands were on the Isle of Bute. Captain James Cook is very likely to be honoured by the name of this Canberra suburb. Captain Cook was born in Yorkshire, but his father was a day labourer from Ednam, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders. The name of the suburb might also refer to Sir Joseph Cook, Prime Minister in 1913 and 1914.
- Hall (East Renfrewshire) also the name of a place in Devon, England. The Canberra suburb was named for an early pioneer in the area, Henry Hall (1802-1880), whose ancestry has not been established. According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Hall is the 20th most common family name in England, Wales and the Isle of Man.
- Nicholls - there is a Nicholl's Loch in Angus as well as a Nicholls Farm in Hertfordshire, southern England. The Canberra suburb honours Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls (1906-1988), Australia's first Aboriginal state governor (of South Australia). He was knighted in 1972 in recognition of his work for the rights of Aboriginal Australians.
- Russell - there is a Russell Mains in Fife but Russell is far more commonly encountered in place names throughout England and there is also a Russell Hill in Monmouthshire, Wales. Russell is nevertheless a fairly common Scottish surname, derived from 'rous' meaning red. The earliest reference in Scotland to this name is in 1164. The Scottish Russells have their own family tartan (seen here). The origin of the name of the Canberra suburb has not been established, the name having been associated with the locality since pioneer days.
- Watson - there is a Watsonburn in East Ayrshire, Watsonfoot, Watsonhead and Watsonmids (all in North Lanarkshire) and Watson House in Stirling. Watson also occurs as an element in English place names, particularly in the north. The Scottish Watsons are a sept of Clan Buchanan. The Canberra suburb was named for John Christian Watson (1867-1941), who grew up in New Zealand and who became Australia's (and the world's) first Labor Party Prime Minister. According to the Australian Studies Centre Online website, John was the only child of Johan Christian Tanck, a ship's officer, and Martha Minchin. John's mother later married George Thomas Watson of New Zealand, and John adopted his stepfather's name. George Thomas Watson was born in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland (information received on 5 May 2007 from Colin Watson, grandson of George Thomas Watson). This rather suggests that the name is Scots-Irish, i.e., culturally Irish but ultimately Scottish from the days of the Protestant plantations in Ulster.
A final category of suburban names comprises places that can be found in Scotland, or Scottish family names, but which, in Canberra's case, definitely or most probably have no connection with Scotland.
- Banks (Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Inverclyde, and Orkney Islands) also three places in northern England. The Canberra suburb honours Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), the English botanist who accompanied Captain Cook on his explorations in the ship 'Endeavour'.
- Dickson - Dickson is a Lowland Scottish and English family name meaning, literally, 'the son of Richard'. The suburb was named after Sir James Dickson (1832-1901), Legislator, Federalist and one of the Founders of the Australian Constitution. He was Premier of Queensland from 1898-99. Dickson was born in Plymouth, Devon, and migrated initially to Victoria in 1854. He settled in Queensland in 1862, becoming an auctioneer.
- Duffy - Duffy is a Scottish surname, associated with Clan Macfie. However, it is also an Irish name and the origin of the name of this suburb is indeed Irish since it recalls Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1913), an advocate of Australian Federalism, who was born at Monaghan Town, County Monaghan, Ireland, the son of a Catholic shopkeeper.
- Fyshwick (Scottish Borders, spelt Fishwick) as well as Fishwick in Lancashire, England. There is no connection with Scotland, however. The name of this suburb honours Sir Philip Fysh, a Premier of Tasmania, who was born in London.
- Garran - there is a place called The Garran in Aberdeenshire. The suburb is named for NSW-born Sir Robert (Randolph) Garran (1867-1957) a lawyer who became active in the pro-Federation movement of the 1890s. He was appointed Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department in 1901, thereby becoming the very first Australian Federal public servant. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Garran's ancestry appears to have been English rather than Scottish.
- Higgins - there is a Higgins' Neuk in Falkirk. The name is more commonly associated with Cheshire and Lancashire in England, however, and O'Higgins is an Irish surname. The suburb honours Henry Bournes Higgins (1851-1929), Attorney-General in 1904 and Justice of the High Court between 1906 and 1929. He is famous for his court ruling which established the principle of a basic wage. According to Wikipedia, Higgins was born at Newtownards, Ireland.
- Isaacs - there is an Isaacstown in Aberdeenshire, the only occurrence of the name anywhere in the British Isles. There is no connection, however, between Scotland and the name of this suburb, which honours Sir Isaac (Alfred) Isaacs (1855-1948), who was the first Australian-born Governor-General (1931-36), Attorney-General (1904-06), Justice of the High Court (1906-31) and Chief Justice in 1930. Sir Isaac was born in Melbourne, the son of a Jewish tailor from Britain whose ancestry was Polish-Jewish.
- Kingston (Angus, City of Glasgow, East Lothian, Moray and Renfrewshire) also all over southern England and is found in Ireland and Wales as well. The name of this Canberra suburb commemorates Adelaide-born Charles Cameron Kingston (1850-1908), Premier of South Australia between 1893 and 1899 and one of the fathers of Federation. He was the youngest son of Sir George Strickland Kingston who was born in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland. The connection therefore appears to be an Irish rather than a Scottish one.
- Lawson - there is a Lawsonhall in Angus, but Lawson occurs as an element in at least three northern English place names as well. The Canberra suburb was named for one of Australia's best-known writers, Henry Lawson (1867-1922), whose ancestry was Norwegian (the surname was changed from Larsen when his parents registered his birth).
- Lyons - there are several places in Scotland with Lyon as part of the name (Lyoncross in East Renfrewshire, Lyonshield in North Ayrshire, Lyonston in South Ayrshire and the River Lyon in Perth & Kinross). These names refer, no doubt, to the Scottish family of Lyon or Lyons. However, since the name is of Norman origin, it also occurs widely throughout England. The name of this suburb commemorates Tasmanian-born Joseph Aloysius Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia from 1931 to 1939, whose parents were Irish immigrants.
- Red Hill (Aberdeenshire) also all over England but the reason for the name of this Canberra suburb may be purely descriptive of the colour of the soil in the area. According to Kennedy & Kennedy (2006), The name has been associated with the hill since the time of the early settlers.
- Taylor – Taylor is a very common surname in both Scotland and England. A survey of surnames undertaken in the 1970s suggests, however, that it is the 5th most common surname in England compared with the 14th in Scotland. The Canberra suburb honours Florence Mary Taylor (1879-1969), nee Parsons. Born in Somerset, England, Florence Taylor was Australia’s first woman architect, engineer and town planner.
- Turner (Stirling; also Turnerhall in Aberdeenshire, Turnerhill in East Ayrshire and Turner Cleuch Law - a mountain in the Scottish Borders) but Turner as an element in place names is even more commonly found throughout England. This suburb was named for the Right Honourable Sir George Turner (1851-1916), legislator, Premier of Victoria, Federalist and one of the founders of the Australian Constitution. Sir George was born in Melbourne, of English parentage and heritage.
- Weston (Highland, Moray and South Lanarkshire; also Weston Burn in the Scottish Borders) and Weston Creek by association, but Weston is far more commonly found in England and is also found in Wales. The name of this suburb appears to have no connection with Scotland since it honours an Englishman, Captain George Edward Nicholson Weston, who came to Sydney in the 1820s as the Superintendent of the Hyde Park convict barracks and who built a homestead in the Woden area in 1835.
- Woden Valley - there is a Woden Law in the Scottish Borders, as well as Woden Croft in County Durham, northern England. This suburb takes its name from Woden Homestead, the name of the homestead built on land in the Canberra region that had been granted to James Fitzgerald Murray in about 1830. Woden derives its name from the Norse god of War.
Although not evident from its name, Oaks Estate has an indirect connection with Scotland. Oaks Estate is derived from 'The Oaks', the name of an out-station on Robert Campbell's property 'Duntroon', built in 1836. Belconnen is another name that has a Scottish ring to it, but the origin of the name is not clear. According to the ACT Planning and Land Authority, Belconnen was the name of a land grant made in 1837 to the explorer Captain Charles Sturt.
Other evidence of Scottish links with Canberra can be found in the names of geographical features in the area. Parklands and reserves with Scottish-sounding names include Fadden Pine Plantation, Lennox Gardens, McQuoids Hill Nature Reserve, Rob Roy Nature Reserve and Stirling Park. Hills and mountains include Davidson, Donald, Melrose, Mount Ainslie, Mount Rob Roy and Walker.
ACT Government (1992). Canberra's Suburb and Street Names (Department of the Environment, Land and Planning, Canberra). ACT Planning and Land Authority - Origins of Street and Suburb Names (www.actpla.act.gov.au) Australian Dictionary of Biography - Online Edition. Black, George F. (1996). The Surnames of Scotland (Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh). Canberra City and Suburbs (Gregory's Touring Map, 2005). Canberra Suburbs (Wilkins Tourist Maps, 2000). The House of Names Heraldic website. Kennedy, Brian and Kennedy, Barbara (2006). Australian Place Names. (ABC Books, Sydney). Reed, A.W. (1973). Place Names of Australia (A.H. & A.W. Reed, Sydney). Scarlett, James D. (1975). The Tartans of the Scottish Clans. (Collins, Glasgow and London). Wikipedia- for biographies of famous Australians. Websites, place name gazetteers and published Ordnance Survey maps of British and Irish cities, towns, villages and counties.
© Ian Kendall
Melbourne, Australia, March 2005
Revised August 2007
If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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