Scottish Place Names
- Invercargill, New Zealand

For comparability with other cities and towns around the world, Invercargill has been defined as the urban and semi-urban area extending from Wallacetown, Makarewa and Roslyn Bush in the north to Bluff in the south and from Oreti Beach in the west to Kennington, Seaward Bush and Waimatua in the east. Of the names of the 53 suburbs and semi-rural localities in the Invercargill area that have been identified to date, 21 (39.6%) can be found, in whole or in part, in Scotland or are based on Scottish family names. Of course, some of the names are used in other parts of the British Isles as well, but at least 12 of them (22.6%), including the name Invercargill itself, appear to have a definite Scottish association.

The graphic on the right of spring in Esk Street, Invercargill is via Wikimedia. All the illustrations below relate to places and connections in Scotland.

Official suburbs and other localities with names that occur only in Scotland and not elsewhere in the British Isles, and/or are definitely or most probably of Scottish origin are:

Some of the following suburbs and localities could prove on further investigation to have a link with Scotland. Most of these names, however, tend to be used in other parts of the British Isles.

A final category of suburban names comprises places that can be found in Scotland but which, in the case of Invercargill, definitely or most probably have no Scottish connection.

It is worth noting that the suburb of Kew was named by a Scotsman. Sir David Monro (1813-77), a medical doctor from Edinburgh, bought a block of land when Invercargill was founded, and named the road later running through the centre Kew Road, after the Royal Botanic Gardens in Surrey, England. Sir David Monro was also a plant collector and sent plants from New Zealand to Sir William Hooker, the first official director of Kew Gardens (McArthur, 2006, p. 25). There could also be an indirect connection with Scotland in the case of the suburb of Grasmere. McArthur (2006, p. 21) provides two possible explanations for the origin of the name: the picturesque village in Westmorland, England at the head of Lake Grasmere, the beauty of the area inspiring much of William Wordsworth's poetry and /or the ill-fated immigrant passenger ship, Grasmere, which left Greenock Scotland on December 14th 1863 bound for Southland and which foundered off the Irish coast without loss of life.

The City of Invercargill is small enough to venture an analysis of its street names. What is particularly interesting - and perhaps unique among cities around the world - is the fact that all the streets in central Invercargill are named for Scottish rivers. Moreover, nearly all the streets in the north-western suburb of Wallacetown have Scottish names, mainly connected with Ayrshire, while many streets named after places in Scotland can also be found in other Invercargill suburbs. The list reads like a grand tour of Scotland:

In addition to the above listed Scottish street names, Invercargill and its suburbs have a large number of streets that were named after Scottish settlers or their descendants. Streets such as Bainfield Road (Waikiwi), McIvor Road (Anderson Park), McQuarrie Street (Kingswell/Tisbury) and Ritchie Street (Richmond) are obvious references to Scotsmen. Streets with names that are less obviously Scottish include Chesney Street in Tisbury (which was originally McChesney Street), Fowler Road in West Plains, Janet Street in Appleby and Woodhouse Street in Appleby, all of which were named after Scottish settlers and/or family members. Invercargill also has several street names which could be termed 'patriotic', such as Bruce Street and its neighbour Wallace Street in Waikiwi, which were named to commemorate Robert The Bruce and William Wallace who fought to secure Scotland's independence in the early 14th century. And several streets look as if they could have been named after places in Scotland but were actually named for individuals, most of whom had Scottish connections, e.g. Erskine Road (Otatara), Hamilton Street (Strathern), Kirkwood Lane (Invercargill) and Stobo Street (Grasmere). Newbie Street and Newbie Place (Heidelberg) on the other hand are questionably Scottish names. Newbie is a village on the Solway Firth, south-west of the town of Annan. These streets were named, however, by Ernest Norman New (1932-2005), surveyor and town planner (McArthur, 2006, p. 72).

Thanks to Wendy McArthur's meticulous research, it is possible to estimate the proportion of roads, streets, avenues, lanes, places and crescents in Invercargill, Wallacetown and Bluff which were named either for places in Scotland or for Scottish settlers and their descendants, or which have other forms of connection with Scotland. The proportion of street names that can be classed as Scottish has yet to be determined precisely. A preliminary analysis suggests, however, that the figure could be as high as fifty per cent. It is also probable that the number of Scottish names could outnumber those of English, Irish and Welsh origin combined. The author of this article intends performing a comprehensive statistical analysis of Invercargill's street names in due course.

Judging by the names of its suburbs and streets, Invercargill appears to be one of the most 'Scottish' towns and cities outside Scotland. The city was planned in the 1850s in response to the need for a port close to the Otago goldfields. From the start, the settlement attracted large numbers of Scottish immigrants. The province of Otago (from which Southland was detached in 1861) was a major destination for Scottish settlers and for members of the Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland in particular. Although they were mainly Lowlanders, Scottish settlers in both Southland and Otago soon embraced the symbols of Highland culture, which resulted in the formation of pipe bands, clan societies and Highland Games. New Zealand's first civilian pipe band was in fact set up in Invercargill, in 1896. And the burr in the accents of people in Southland (particularly those living in Invercargill's hinterland) is considered to be of Scottish origin. An article by John Wilson in The Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand (Scots in New Zealand ) gives a brief account of Scottish culture in New Zealand, and in South Island in particular.


© Ian Kendall Melbourne, Australia, March 2014.

If you wish to contact Ian about his research, his e-mail address is

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