On January 3, the town of Tully in Queensland celebrated the upgrade of its famous Golden Gumboot, which was damaged by Cyclone Yasi nearly a year ago. The tourist attraction is a 7.9 metre (26 feet) high gumboot, painted gold, built to commemorate the town’s 1950 highest recorded annual rainfall level of 7.9 metres (310 inches), earning Tully the distinction of being Australia’s wettest town.
When the Golden Gumboot was re-opened, it had received a fresh coat of paint and a new viewing platform. Fittingly, it rained heavily throughout the ceremony.
The town of Tully is named after the nearby Tully River, which received its name from Surveyor-General William Alcock Tully in the 1870s. William Tully was originally from Dublin, and in the 1850s he arrived in Hobart as religious instructor on a convict ship, before embarking on his career of conscientious public service.
Tully is an Anglicised form of an Irish surname, originally MacTully, and having a host of variants, which is often derived from tuile, the Gaelic word for “flood”. Another theory is that it has been mistranslated from toile, meaning “will” (as in the will to keep going). However, some of the Tullys are so convinced of the first interpretation that they have hyper-Anglicised their surname to Flood. I find “flood” more appealing, because it seems so appropriate as the name of a river, and a town famous for its sogginess.
Tully is used for both genders, and I have seen a roughly equal number of boys and girls with this name. However, there is a professional women’s basketball player from Western Australia called Tully Bevilaqua, and she has possibly helped boost it as a name for girls. It’s also similar to girls’ names Talia, Tilly and Talulla (and boys’ names Tyler, Tallis and Talon).
The town of Tully was one of the worst affected by Cyclone Yasi, which hit the coast of northern Queensland early in the morning on February 3 2011. The town suffered extensive damage to its main street, and the area’s banana crops were completely flattened. Because Cyclone Yasi originated in Fiji, it was a Fijian cyclone forecaster called Misaeli Funaki who chose its name.
If you think naming a baby is difficult, spare a thought for the meteorologists who name cyclones. The cyclone had to start with Y, and nobody could think of an appropriate name for either gender. So Mr Funaki suggested Yasi, which is the Fijian word for “sandalwood”. It didn’t have a history as a personal name in Fiji, but with no other candidates, his nomination was accepted by the ruling UN body. And so a new name was created.
Sandalwood is a tree with fragrant wood native to Asia and the Pacific. Australia has a sandalwood industry; the tree’s oil is used to make incense, soaps and cosmetics. Its antibacterial properties make it excellent as a skin cleanser, and Australian Aborigines eat its fruit as a bush food. Sandalwood is also used in the rituals of several religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism.
Yasi is neither used for boys or girls in Fiji. The cyclone forecasters were looking for a male name when they chose it, but they often resort to unisex names, and probably meant Yasi to be one. It’s commonly said to rhyme with Darcy, but seems to be more correctly pronounced YAH-zee.
Two short unisex names important to Australia’s history, and especially connected with Queensland, rain, and storms.
[Click the video for a short newscast showing the town of Tully after Cyclone Yasi:]