What’s in a name - quite a change from Catherine

How many people know how Katherine came to be named I wonder?

LOTS IN A NAME: Katherine's dusty main street in the war years of 1943, lots has changed since settlement. Picture: supplied.

LOTS IN A NAME: Katherine's dusty main street in the war years of 1943, lots has changed since settlement. Picture: supplied.

And according to more than a few historians, it may be a mistake and should in fact be Catherine?

Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart was only 47 when he passed this way but really he was the first of the grey nomads despite not qualifying for a senior’s card.

His life’s desire was to cross the continent from south to north, he just wasn’t towing a caravan when he eventually did it.

The nomads today beat the path named after him – in a lot more comfort we should add.

Three times Stuart set out from Adelaide to do what none had been able to, find a route to the northern coast.

Eventually he did it, and not zooming at 130kmh but painfully, slowly, and multiple times – a heroic feat in anyone’s language.

The great explorer travelled through these parts in 1862 on his successful third journey across the continent from north to south.

He noted in his diary on July 4 in that year as he and his exhausted team crossed the Katherine River which was recorded as 90 kilometres upstream of today’s settlement.

“Came upon another large creek, having a running stream to the south of west and coming from the north of east,” he wrote.

“This I have named 'Katherine', in honour of the second daughter of pastoralist James Chambers Esq."

Thanks John.

Unfortunately the historians have debated whether he was actually right.

It could have been that his brain was fried, or whetherhe actually knew the correct spelling at all, but historians now say farmer Chambers was in fact married to a Katherine but his daughter's name was Catherine.

Rob Jennings (council CEO) better run down to the hardware store and crack out some cans of paint to change a few signs.

But na, we’re pretty happy with Katherine, Catherine doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Town names can be vexing issues.

I recall a huge barney on the lovely Murray River town of Nyah West, just north of Swan Hill.

Some of the locals insisted on calling the place Nyahwest.

They reckoned all the historical documents showed this to be the correct name.

Apparently a government sign-writer, touching up the town’s railway sign, had wrongly broken the name into two, and that was what it came to be called.

Katherine or Catherine, what do you think?

I prefer it with a “K”, but others might disagree.


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