What’s in a name?
As you walk around Yamba you may sometimes wonder how certain place names came about. The original settlements on either side of the Clarence River mouth were together called Clarence River Heads and individually referred to as North Head (Iluka) and South Head (Yamba) in the 1860s. Locals however called the village, as it was then, Woolli. Although ‘Yamba’ was the name used on the initial survey by Greaves in 1861, this name was not officially gazetted until 1885. There are several unconfirmed theories on the origin of the name Yamba: there is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘headland’ but Aboriginal accounts also refer to ‘Yumbah’, a local shellfish.
Several local beaches have been known by different names. Main Beach used to be called Wooli Bay and at one time was also known as Andersons or Grahams Beach because of the boarding houses that overlooked this beach. Nearby McKittrick’s Beach, named after a pioneering businessman, is now known as Convent Beach from the convent that overlooked it from 1900 to 1910. Pippi Beach has not changed its name but the ‘pippis’ that were once prolific have been depleted by sand mining in the 1930s and over-harvesting in the 1960s. Turners Beach did not exist until the breakwaters altered the river flow and is named after Turner Turner, a popular young paymaster for the harbour works who tragically drowned there in 1901.
Many streets and parks are named in honour of community minded individuals. William Ager, who saved the town from sand inundation through his conservation work in the 1930s has a park and a street named after him. Redman Lane honours the town’s longest serving policeman – Joshua Redman, 1895-1918. Rocky Laurie Drive which gives access to the Aboriginal village, Ngaru, was (controversially at the time) named after Rocky Laurie, a Yaegl elder also regarded as the finest all-round sportsman in the district.
The maritime history of Yamba is reflected in several street names: Harbour Street, Pilot Street, Ocean Street; others like Mulgi and Iolanthe Streets pay tribute to riverboats that regularly visited Yamba until affordable motor car travel made them obsolete. Other streets have disappeared; for example when Ford Park and Fred Phillips Park were created by filling in the bays inside the Gantry Wall. The Ford family served on the Yamba Urban Committee responsible for planting all the Norfolk pine trees around town in the 1930s and 1940s. Fred Phillips was a long-time local councillor and businessman who helped to establish the Yamba Rock Pool, the town’s water and sewerage system and the Yamba Fire Brigade as well as being an award-winning oyster farmer in the 1950s.
To dig even deeper into the stories behind the names around town visit the Yamba Museum. The Hill Walk and Flat Walk brochures, available from the Museum or from our website (http://www.pyhsmuseum.org.au/history-tours/yamba-walking-guides/) will further assist in your exploration of Yamba on foot or by car.