Thomas Grady was the first recipient of the Victoria Cross resident in Australia. Originally from Ireland, at the age of 19 he was a private in the 4th Regiment of Foot in the British Army during the Crimean War. This regiment was serving in New South Wales, and it is thought that Private Grady was probably a reinforcement to replace a soldier-settler.
The Crimean War is considered one of the first modern wars, since it relied upon technology such as railways and telegraphs, with up to date news reports in the media, and is famous as the birthplace of modern nursing, as it was Florence Nightingale who professionalised nursing while taking care of wounded soldiers. It was also the first war where the Victoria Cross was given for valour.
On October 18 1854, during the famous Siege of Sebastapol, which was immortalised in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Private Grady earned his VC.He volunteered to repair the embrasures of the Sailor’s Battery – embrasures are the openings in a battlement which allows weapons to be fired through them. He carried out this task under heavy fire, at great risk to himself.
On November 22, while under attack by the Russians, Private Grady refused to leave the front, even though severely wounded. By his example, he gave encouragement to the other soldiers, their force badly weakened, to maintain their position. For this he received a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Thomas later emigrated to Australia as an assisted immigrant, and lived in Melbourne. His Victoria Cross is now displayed at the Australian War Memorial. Unfortunately, his Distinguished Conduct Medal was stolen from him in Melbourne when he went to collect his pension from the post office.
Grady is an Anglicised form of the Irish surname O’Grady, from the Old Gaelic O’Gradaigh, or “son of Gradaigh”, with Gradaeigh meaning “the illustrious one”. The O’Gradys are one of Ireland’s noble families, and a recognised Irish clan.
I can find Grady in the records from the late 18th century onward, and interestingly, the Gradys who were born in Ireland were all female, while overall the gender balance between male and female at that time was very even. However, the name Grady is overwhelmingly masculine today. In Australian records, Grady is rare as a first name, and mostly given to boys, although not uncommon as a middle name for girls.
Grady does not rank at all in Australia, and never has, although it is in the Top 500 in the United States, and has charted there since the late 19th century. I was a bit surprised to see how rare Grady is here, because it doesn’t sound rare.
It sounds like Brady, Graydon and Grayson, and like traditional Graham. Yet when I think about it, I don’t recall ever meeting a Grady, or seeing a Grady, or even hearing someone mention a Grady, although it wouldn’t have seemed even slightly unusual if I ever had.
It’s one of those handy names that other parents are hardly using, but won’t seem weird to others – and at a time when surname names for boys are booming, and in a country where Irish names are readily accepted, it’s rather strange how little used this name is.
Thank you to Brooke for suggesting the name Grady to be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda
(Picture is a detail from The Siege of Sevastapol by Franz Roubaud – 1904)
Augustine Heights is a new suburb of Ipswich, and gained its name from St Augustine’s Catholic Church and College. The name Augustine is from the Roman name Augustinus, derived from Augustus, meaning “great, venerable”. Its most famous namesake is the theologian Saint Augustine of Hippo, considered one of the most important Church Fathers. He describes his conversion to Christianity in his Confessions, which has become a classic of Christian literature. The name became popular in England in the Middle Ages because of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, a 6th century founder of the English church known as the Apostle to the English. It is probably because of him that there is an English form of Augustine – the popular Austin. In France, Augustine is a girls name, the feminine form of Augustinus.
Bowen Hills is an inner-city suburb of Brisbane. It is named after Sir George Bowen, an Irishman who was the first Governor of Queensland. Tactful and democratic, with a great love of the outdoors, he made himself popular enough to be invited to serve two more years when his term had expired. There are a few places in Queensland named after Sir Bowen, including Bowen Park, a pleasure garden in Bowen Hills. The surname Bowen can be Welsh, meaning “son of Owen“, or it can be Irish, in which case it is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic O’Buadhachain, meaning “son of Buadhach”. The name Buadhach means “victory, triumph”. This name reminds me of the Bowen Technique, an alternative massage treatment developed by Australian Tom Bowen, although Bowen is a knight and dragon-slayer in the movie Dragonheart. Rarely seen here, Bowen is in the Top 1000 and rising for boys in the US. It gives the unisex nickname Bo, and for some reason I see this as a girls name just as much as a boys.
Chandler is a semi-rural outer suburb of Brisbane. It is named after Sir John Beals Chandler, a successful businessman with a chain of electrical goods stores, and who owned several radio stations. He was elected to the Queensland Parliament in the 1940s, and Lord Mayor of Brisbane in the 1940s and early ’50s. Chandler is an English occupational surname, which denoted someone who made and sold candles, or someone who was responsible for the wax, soap, candles and lighting in a medieval great house. This name will remind many of Chandler Bing, from popular sit-com, Friends.
Mount Crosby is an outer suburb of Brisbane adjoining the state forest. It is named after its dominant natural feature, Mount Crosby. The first settlers to this area were from the village of Crosby-on-Eden, near the Scottish border, and it seems likely that they named their new home after their original one. The surname Crosby is after the place name, a common one in northern England and southern Scotland. The name is of Old Norse origin, and means “settlement by the cross”; as we learned from Cruz, these stone crosses were often used as markers. Famous Crosbys include entertainer Bing Crosby and musician David Crosby. The name has recently begun charting in the US, after drama series Parenthood was shown on television there. The show has a character called Crosby Braverman, played by Dax Shephard, and the name must have resonated, because it went up 69 places last year. Crosby is rare in Australia (I’ve only seen it on a child once), but maybe Parenthood will have an effect here too.
Ebenezer is a suburb of Ipswich. It had been a preaching place on the Methodist Church circuit since 1863, and by 1882 a church had been built named the Wesleyan Ebenezer Church. It is from this church that the suburb gets its name. In the Old Testament, Eben-Ezer is a place mentioned as the scene of battles between the Israelites and the Philistines; its modern day location is not known, but it is probably in Palestine or Arabic Israel. Eben-Ezer is from the Hebrew for “stone of help”, and it is theorised that a stone dedicated to Yahweh may have been located here to give it its name. Its most famous namesake must be Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, the cold-hearted miser redeemed by three spirits of Christmas. I think the name Ebenezer sounds pretty hip now, and an Old Testament boys name which has been overlooked for too long. Eben and Ben would make good nicknames.
Hamilton is a hilly inner-city suburb of Brisbane on the Brisbane River which was built by convict labour. It soon became known for its upper-class country houses and estates, ornamental shade trees, picturesque location and fine views of the city. Hamilton is associated with “old money”, and has the highest mean income of any suburb in Queensland. It is named after the Hamilton Hotel, built in 1865 by Gustav Hamilton, a wealthy solicitor who owned most of the land in the area. It soon became known as a meeting place for the horse racing world, as the Turf Club is nearby, and is still popular today. Hamilton is an English and Scottish surname after the village of Hamilton in Leicestershire; its name means “crooked hill” in Old English. The aristocratic Hamilton family gained lands in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and gave their name to the town of Hamilton there. The Hamiltons married into the Scottish royal family, and the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon is the highest peer in Scotland. A famous person with the name is Hamilton Hume, an early Australian explorer of New South Wales who was a top-notch bushman and formed friendly relationship with Aboriginal peoples. This is a name with an impressive pedigree.
The city of Logan is halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It began as a penal settlement, and farming soon followed; it was developed for housing in the 1960s due to its laissez-faire planning laws. Logan is named after Captain Patrick Logan, the Scottish commandant of the original penal settlement, who had a reputation for being strict to the point of cruelty. He was a great explorer and was killed on one of his expeditions, most likely by Aborigines who had repeatedly told him to get off their land. News of his death was met with wild joy from the convicts. Logan is a Scottish surname; the Clan Logan comes from the “lands of Logan” in Ayrshire, which may be from the Gaelic for “hollow”, or even of Norman origin. In Ireland, it is considered to come from the Gaelic O’Leoghain, meaning “grandson of the warrior”. This name has many namesakes from popular culture, including the dystopian sci-fi film Logan’s Run, where Logan is played by Michael Yorke, and Logan aka Wolverine from the X-Men films, played by Hugh Jackman. Logan has charted since the 1970s (when Logan’s Run first screened), and ranked in the 1980s at #344. It climbed steeply through the 1990s and made the Top 100 by the 2000s. It is currently #38 nationally, #36 in New South Wales, #33 in Victoria, #65 in Queensland, #46 in South Australia, #28 in Western Australia, #17 in Tasmania, and #50 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Sherwood is a suburb on Oxley Creek. Its name comes from a farm which was named after Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England. A Royal Forest, and remnant of an older and much larger royal hunting forest, it is one of England’s most ancient, having survived since the end of the last Ice Age. It is famous for its association with legendary folk hero Robin Hood, who is supposed to have lived in Sherwood, according to some sources. Sherwood in Brisbane even made its own Sherwood Forest Park, which is now, less romantically, the Sherwood Arboretum. The name Sherwood means “shire wood”. A famous person with the name is American author Sherwood Anderson.
Tennyson is a riverside suburb named in honour of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during Queen Victoria’s reign, and has the record for length of tenure as a Laureate at 42 years. Revered in his own time, he remains one of the popular English poets. One of his much-loved works is the Idylls of theKing, a cycle of blank verse poems inspired by the legends of King Arthur; many of the streets in Tennyson have Arthurian names in compliment of the Idylls. For those amused by these coincidences, the Queensland Tennis Centre is located in Tennyson, and was once the Tennyson Tennis Centre. The English surname Tennyson means “son of Tenney”, with Tenney a pet form of the name Denis. Actor Russell Crowe has a son named Tennyson, after his favourite poet. This is a handsome and unusual name, with a great namesake, and would make an excellent middle name too.
Windsor is an inner-city suburb of Brisbane, with many old homes, and containing several heritage-listed sites. It was named Windsor in 1887, most likely after Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England, as it was Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Year. Windsor Castle was built by William the Conqueror, and was originally a fortification to protect the outskirts of London, with strategic views of the River Thames and access to the royal hunting forest of Windsor. Since the rule of Henry I, William’s son, it has been a royal residence, and is the largest inhabited castle and longest-occupied palace in Europe. Today it is a royal palace and weekend retreat for Elizabeth II, and state banquets and official entertainments are often held there – it is also a major tourist attraction. The castle is named after the nearby village of Windsor, once the site of a palace for the Saxon kings. Its name means “winding shores, winch shores” in Old English, because boats were pulled by windlass up the river. Famously, Windsor is the surname of the British royal family: the name was changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha by George V in 1917, due to anti-German sentiment during World War I. The final straw was when Germany used the Gotha G. IV aircraft to bomb London – just four months later, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas had become the Windsors, the name taken from the royal palace. A famous person named Windsor is British actor Windsor Davies, best known as the sergeant on ItAin’t Half Hot Mum. Royal names are all the rage, and you can’t get any more royal than Windsor.
Amity Point is a small town on North Stradbroke Island, 30 km south-east of Brisbane. The town is named after the Amity, a brig which carried the first European settlers to Queensland in 1824. The Amity was later wrecked near Tasmania, and today you can visit a full-size replica of the brig in Albany, because the Amity also took colonists to Western Australia. Amity is an English word which means “friendship”; it comes from the same Latin root as names such as Amy and Amabel, and has been used as a girls name since the 17th century. Amity is #551 in Victoria, and I often see it in birth notices: I think this pretty virtue name is gaining in popularity, and may become a replacement for Amy.
Bethania is in Logan City, halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The suburb was founded by Germans in the 19th century, and has a large hobby farm area. The name Bethania comes from Bethanien, the German name for the town of Bethany near Jerusalem. In the New Testament, Bethany is mentioned as the home of siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and is said to be near the place where Lazarus was raised from the dead. The Biblical Bethany may be the same place as the city of al-Eizariya in Palestine – its name means “place of Lazarus”, although others say that the original village of Bethany was slightly higher up on the Mount of Olives, and that al-Eizariya sprung up around the traditional site of Lazarus’ resurrection. The meaning of Bethany has been much debated, but it is thought the most likely derivation is from the Aramaic beth anya, meaning “house of affliction, house of suffering”, with the conclusion being that it was a place for care of the sick and destitute. Although Bethania doesn’t have any connection to Elizabeth or Anne, it might seem like a way to connect these two names, and does give both Beth and Anya as nicknames.
Cashmere is an outer suburb of Brisbane in the foothills of a mountain range surrounded by dense forest, with a nearby lake. Cashmere is named after an early settler, James Cash, famous for his hospitality to passing travellers. Although Cash was not wealthy and lived in a simple shanty, no tramp ever passed his door without receiving a meal or a pot of tea. Because mere means “lake”, and James Cash’s farm was near Lake Samsonvale, the suburb’s name can be understood as “Cash’s land by the lake”. Cashmere is also a fine, high quality fibre taken from Cashmere goats. The name is after the Kashmir region of India, which has been making cashmere shawls for thousands of years. Kashmir’s name comes from the great sage Kashyapa, a legendary wise man whose name is from the Sanskrit for “tortoise”. With Cash a fashionable choice for boys, luxurious Cashmere seems like a way for girls to get the nickname Cash as well. In Australian records, both men and women named Cashmere can be found.
Corinda is an older suburb of Brisbane, first settled in the 1860s as a farming community, and with many of its homes dating back to the colonial period. The name Corinda is believed to come from a local cattle station, which was named after a pastoral station in outback Queensland. The name is of Aboriginal origin, but its meaning is not known. Corinda has been used as an English girls name since the 18th century – perhaps based on the Greek name Kore, meaning “maiden”, with an elaborated ending common in 18th century poetic names like Melinda and Dorinda. This name seems elegant and literary, and not so different from familiar names such as Lucinda.
Inala is a suburb of Brisbane near the industrial estates.It was built in the post-war period to help with the housing shortage that followed World War II, and was one of the earliest and biggest Housing Commission projects in Queensland. Young architects such as Robin Boyd helped design the housing, which features simplicity and lack of ornamentation. In other words, it isn’t pretty, but cheap and efficient to install and maintain. It has an ethnically diverse community, with many migrants from Vietnam, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, amongst other places, settling there. The name Inala is believed to come from an Aboriginal expression meaning “peaceful place, happy place”, but it’s possible it actually means “place of the wind”. I saw a baby girl named Inala in a birth notice early this year, and ever since have been itching to cover this as a name – said ih-NAHL-ah, it fits in with names such as Ayla, Nyla, and even Isla.
Karalee is a suburb of Ipswich; originally dairy and farm country, it began to be developed for residential purposes in the 1970s. It is thought that Karalee comes from an Aboriginal expressing meaning “grass around a waterhole”, although the City of Ipswich prefers the translation, “pretty hill beside the water”. This looks like a portmanteau of Kara and Lee, but has its own integrity, and is said KAR-a-lee, like an elaboration of Carol.
Laceys Creek is a rural area in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, and was first settled as timber country, soon followed by dairy farming, pineapples, bananas, and bee-keeping. Lacey is an English surname of Norman-French origin. It comes from the village of Lassy in Normandy, which means “Lascius’ place”. The meaning of the Gaulish name Lascius is of unknown meaning. The de Laci family came to England with William the Conqueror, and one of their descendants was amongst the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. Lacey has been used as a girls name since the 17th century, and part of its feminine charm is that it sounds like the word lacy. Lacey is #234 in Victoria, and I believe this is another pretty girls name which is growing in popularity.
St Lucia is an exclusive green and leafy inner-city suburb of Brisbane. It is focused around the University of Queensland, with the university itself, and residential colleges for students, taking up a large proportion of the suburb. There are many wealthy people living in St Lucia, with riverfront houses here costing in the millions. The area was first settled in the 1860s as sugar plantations, and was given its name by William Wilson, who bought and developed one of the plantations for housing in the 1880s. Wilson was born in St Lucia in the West Indies, and he named the housing estate St Lucia because the sugar plantations reminded him of his birthplace. The island of St Lucia is in the Caribbean, part of the Lesser Antilles group. It was named in honour of Saint Lucy by the French, who were the first European settlers to the region. Saint Lucy was a 4th century martyr, and she has become a popular saint, partly because her feast day of December 13 is near Christmas and originally coincided with the (northern hemisphere) Winter Solstice. Her name’s meaning of “light”, from the Latin lux, became a very appropriate one for a Festival of Light, heralding the Light of the World. Lucia has charted since the 1940s and had a minor peak in the 1960s at #283 before dropping to #808 in the 1990s. Since then it has climbed steeply, and peaked in 2010 at #115. Currently it is #122 in New South Wales and #177 in Victoria. This is an alternative to Lucy that has never become popular, although on the charts since the end of World War II.
Ripley is a suburb of Ipswich, which currently has only 1000 residents. However, big things are planned for Ripley’s future, and once fully developed it is expected to be a city of 120 000 – one of the country’s largest pre-planned communities. It is named after the Ripley Valley where it is located; I am not sure if this is after someone named Ripley, or one of the towns named Ripley in England. The surname Ripley is from Ripley in Yorkshire – the town’s name means “farm whose land cuts a strip through the forest”, with the forest in question being the forest of Knaresborough. One of the most famous Ripleys must be Robert Ripley, who created Ripleys Believe It or Not! trivia series for newspapers, radio and television. The name may also remind you of tough Lieutenant Ellen Ripley from the Alien film series, played by Sigourney Weaver, or suave con artist Tom Ripley, from the crime novels, turned into a film, The Talented Mr. Ripley, played by Matt Damon. I have seen this name on both sexes.
Sinnamon Park is an older suburb with some heritage-listed sites; the suburb is named for the pioneering Sinnamon family who settled in the district. Sinnamon is a Scottish surname; the Clan originated in Fife, and their name comes from their seat at Kinnimonth, which was granted to them by King William of Scotland. The name Kinnimonth comes from the Gaelic for “head of the hill”. Sinnamon sounds like the sweet spice Cinnamon, but has its own meaning and history – although the Sin- at the start may be problematic for some. I did find someone named Sinnamon from Queensland in the records, but can’t be sure whether they were male or female.
October 2 will be the 96th birthday of Rosaleen Norton. She was originally from New Zealand, born into a middle-class English family; the Norton family emigrated to Sydney when Rosaleen was eight. She was an unconventional child who disliked other children and all authority figures, including her mother; she slept in a tent in the garden, and preferred the company of her many pets, which included a spider named Horatius. Later in life, she claimed that she had been born a witch, and bore physical proofs of this, including pointed ears and blue markings on her left knee.
From early in life, her favourite time was the night, and while still very young, she began to experience strange fantasies of mystical ghouls and spirits. She liked to draw, and the pictures she drew were inspired by her nightly fantasies. This got her into trouble, because teachers and classmates alike were disturbed by her drawings of demons and vampires, and when she was 14, she was expelled from her private Church of England girl’s school in the belief that she was a corrupting influence. It was not the last time she was to be condemned for her art.
Rosaleen went to art college, where her talent for drawing was more appreciated, and gained work here and there as a writer and illustrator. She lived at the Ship and Mermaid Inn in The Rocks, a run-down pub that attracted artistic types – Joseph Conrad and Jack London both stayed there while visiting Sydney (not together, I presume). It was here that she began reading books on Greek mythology, psychology, magic, occultism, demonology, and the Quabalah.
Rosaleen began experimenting with self-hypnosis and automatic writing as techniques to heighten her artistic perception; these methods were popular with surrealist artists like Salvador Dali and Andrew Breton. During her experiments, she received visions of supernatural figures, and from her occult studies, believed she had not merely accessed her subconscious, but an “astral plane”. She came to see the spiritual entities as having an independent reality of their own, and was able to communicate with them.
Rosaleen turned her symbolic visions into art, but attempts to exhibit or publish her work led to court cases where she was charged with obscenity, and attempting to corrupt public morals. It turned out the adult world still thought like the headmistress of a girl’s school. Rosaleen defended her work as pagan archetypes based on Greek mythology, but even when she won her case, the result was that the exhibition was cancelled, or the book censored. If you think Australia was peculiarly backward in the 1950s, her treatment was even more severe in America, where her book was banned entirely, and copies burned.
Already a notorious figure, Rosaleen settled in King’s Cross, the red light district of Sydney, which attracted many bohemians, artists, writers and poets. She became well known in the area and some of her artwork was displayed in local cafes. Curious visitors came to see the “Witch of King Cross”, who had decorated her house with occult murals, and put up a placard on the door which read: Welcome to the house of ghosts, goblins, werewolves, vampires, witches, wizards and poltergeists.
The police had her arrested for “vagrancy”, which in those days could be used against anyone not in steady employment, and a mentally ill homeless woman claimed that her life had fallen apart after taking part in a Satanic “black mass” with Rosaleen. Being a pagan, Rosaleen didn’t believe in Satan, and eventually the woman admitted she had made the whole thing up. However the tabloids went crazy and she was accused in their pages of doing everything from drinking blood to animal sacrifice – a practice she found abhorrent, for she had a very strong bond with animals.
Rosaleen had her own style of pantheistic witchcraft, based on worshipping Pan as the embodiment of natural forces, and rituals inspired by the works of Aleister Crowley. She was a practitioner of sex magic, and due to a couple of high-profile court cases where this led to further charges of obscenity by her coven, there is a public record of her religious beliefs and practices, given by herself, which make for fascinating reading for the student of comparative religion. You get the distinct impression that the courts were just slightly more interested in the sexual aspects of her magic rituals than strictly necessary.
Interestingly, Rosaleen herself said that her style of magic, called The Goat Fold Path, was not of her own devising, but what she thought was an old Welsh tradition which had existed in inner Sydney from the city’s earliest days, brought here by convicts. There is no way of proving or disproving this, but if correct, it means that European pagans have been in Australia from the beginning, along with Christians, Jews, and atheists.
Rosaleen estimated that she was in personal contact with hundreds of witches, which means that even in the socially repressive 1940s and ’50s, witchcraft was alive and well in Australia before the arrival of contemporary Wicca in the late 1960s. Witchcraft was illegal in Australia until 1971; one of the few religions to be banned in Australia. On the 2011 census, about 32 000 Australians identified themselves as Neopagan, and of those, over 8 000 identified their religion as either Wicca or Witchcraft.
Rosaleen Norton’s craft name was Thorn, perhaps a counterpoint to the Rose suggested by her birth name. The sharp name suited her, because she found spiritual energy in a dark approach to her religion, apparent in her artwork. By no means was she a “fluffy bunny” witch, and was keen on hexing people, and selling curses. She asserted the need to explore the dark parts of her psyche, and embrace them, rather than denying their power.
I think that by taking the name Thorn, she was indicating a willingness to face the pain of life unflinchingly. Even while dying from colon cancer, she said to a friend: I came into the world bravely; I’ll go out bravely.
Thorn is a nature nature which is seldom used, but one which I find very strong and attractive. In botany, a thorn is a branch or stem which ends in a sharp point; their function seems to be to protect a plant from being eaten, and also to provide shade or insulation. The English word thorn may be from an ancient root meaning “stiff”.
In Genesis, thorns are said to one of Adam and Eve’s punishments, with the earth producing thorns and thistles in order to make food gathering more difficult, and generally ruin their day. In the New Testament, Christ was forced to wear a crown of thorns as a mocking punishment, seemingly a parody of the crown worn by the Roman emperor. In Christian tradition a crown of thorns is a symbol of great humility.
Thorn or thorn tree is also one of the many names by which hawthorn is known (see May). Hawthorn bushes are often used as hedging plants, so that their spiny thorns may protect livestock. The English surname Thorn probably denoted someone who lived near a prominent hawthorn.
Thorn is also a rune letter; despite the way it sounds, it is from the Old Norse for “giants”. However, the Anglo-Saxons do seem to have connected it to thorns, and it is often seen as a rune of warning or even misfortune, although others say that the power it represents can serve as protection – if you dare to grasp the thorn.
In the records, most people named Thorn are male, but I can imagine a girl named Thorn as well – the flipside of Rose (although strictly speaking roses don’t have thorns but prickles). I only found a couple of people named Thorn in Australian records, and they were both male, but as a middle name it was well used by both sexes.
The many associations of this name are double-edged, and some may think of pain and punishment, while others reminded of its protection and power. After all, from a plant’s point of view, thorns are healthy and necessary. It’s a glass half-full situation. Do you weep because roses have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes are laden with flowers?
A federal election was held on September 7, and we have had a change of government. Votes are still being counted, so the election isn’t over, and we may have some names from it when the process is complete.
However, in a much more frivolous political poll held in August, Cleo magazine rated the male politicians on their sex appeal, and decided that Labor MP Jason Clare, described as the “Rob Lowe of Australian politics”, was the winner. I can’t help thinking if a men’s magazine had rated female politicians like this it would be considered very wrong.
Jason Clare represents the seat of Blaxland in western Sydney, which he won in 2007, and until recently was the Federal Home Affairs Minister. Jason grew up in the western suburbs, made dux of his class, and completed a law degree while pursuing an interest in politics. While Labor lost the election with a significant swing against it, Jason managed to increase his hold over the electorate by 6%.
To show that he is not vain about his appearance, Jason modestly joked that his wife’s preference in the Cleo poll was for the runner-up, Stephen Smith. Hello ladies – he’s a smart, handsome law graduate and his wife doesn’t appreciate him! (is the message I think we’re meant to be receiving there).
Jason is from the Greek name Iason, derived from the Greek for “to heal”. Iaso was the Greek goddess of recuperation from illness, so you could see Jason as a masculine form of her name. Although Jason is often translated as “healer” or even “physician”, to me the meaning of the name is more about the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
The name is best known from the mythological prince of Thessaly, who led a hand-picked crew of heroes on the good ship Argo, in quest of the Golden Fleece, with the aid of the goddess Hera. Jason and the Argonauts had a series of adventures, in which they didn’t behave very nobly for much of the time, then arrived in Colchis, which today is in Georgia, on the Black Sea.
The Golden Fleece was owned by King Aeetes, and to obtain it, the king gave Jason three tasks which seemed impossible to perform. Hera arranged for Aeetes’ daughter Medea to fall in love with Jason, and as she was a great sorceress, she was able to use her knowledge of magic to help him succeed, after he promised her that they would get married.
Jason and Medea then fled with the Fleece and sailed away on the Argo, because King Aeetes knew that Jason could only have completed the tasks by cheating, and wanted his property back. He pursued them until Medea came up with the horrible plan to kill her own brother and throw him into the sea, piece by piece, to distract her father.
Medea’s interest in dismembering family members continued when she and Jason returned to Greece, and she arranged for his Uncle Pelias to get chopped up into soup. Pelias had tried to drown Jason as a baby, then sent him off on the dangerous Golden Fleece quest hoping he’d die, so she had her reasons. With her penchant for murdering relatives, you’d think that Jason would have been blissfully happy with Medea, but instead he betrayed her love by becoming engaged to another woman.
When Medea tried to point out that all Jason’s luck in life was because of her, and he was being very ungrateful, he replied, “Babe, you’re the one who got lucky when the gods made you fall in love with me”. Medea wasn’t the type to take this treatment lying down, and she promptly burned her rival to death before murdering the children she and Jason had had together. Although Jason was ungallant, Medea’s tendency to see her own flesh and blood as collateral damage is disturbing.
Because Jason had broken his vow to love Medea forever, the goddess Hera abandoned him, and he wound up lonely and miserable. He was killed when the Argo, now old and rotting, broke and fell on top of him while he was asleep – a suitably ironic finish.
A king of Thessaly named Jason was a contemporary of Alexander the Great‘s father. A successful and ambitious general, it is thought that he must have been at least one of the inspirations of the great Alexander himself. It seems very likely he was named after the Thessalian hero.
There is a Jason in the New Testament, one of the Seventy Disciples of Christ, who ran a “safe house” for Christians in Thessalonica, and was once arrested for it. Saint Paul appointed him bishop of Tarsus, and he is known as Saint Jason. Unusually for an early Christian saint, Jason lived to a ripe old age. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Hellenised Jews used the name Jason to replace Yeshua (Joshua or Jesus), and this may apply to Saint Jason too.
Being Biblical, Jason was acceptable for use as a Christian name, and can be found in the records from at least the 16th century. The name Jason became very popular in the 1970s, and it looks as if this was due to the original Jason, because the movie Jason and the Argonauts came out in 1963 (it cut out most of the revolting parts). A special effects tour de force, it’s a cult classic, and according to Tom Hanks, the greatest film ever made. It must have made a huge impression.
Jason was already rising in popularity at the time of the film’s release, but soon zoomed up the charts to make the US Top 100 three years later. It was Top 10 in the US for all of the 1970s, which coincides with popular TV series, The Waltons, having a Jason. Even in the late 1980s, when Jason was #27, Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz were urging parents to “go beyond Jennifer and Jason”. Despite their book’s success, Jason has still not left the Top 100 in the United States, so American parents only partially heeded their call.
Jason has charted in Australia since the 1950s, when it was #290 for the decade. By the 1960s it had climbed phenomenally to make the Top 50, at #43 for the decade. It peaked in the 1970s (when Jason Clare was born) at #3, was still #18 in the 1980s, and #35 in the 1990s. Did nobody feel like going beyond Jason? It finally left the Top 100 in the mid-2000s, and is currently #133 and stable – not popular any more, but by no means plummeting into obscurity.
Jason has been a real 1960s success story, and continues to influence popular names for boys, because parents are still attracted to similar names, such as Mason, Jacob, Jayden, Jackson, Jasper and Jordan. In fact, Jason is staging a comeback under the short form Jace – already Top 100 in the United States, and no doubt rising here too.
It turns out we’re not ready to go beyond Jason yet – at least, not very far.
September 8 marked the 74th birthday of folk singer Declan Affley, who was born in Wales to parents of Irish descent. He joined the British navy at 16, and travelled to Japan and Australia; he jumped ship in Australia and based himself in Sydney. At a harbourside pub called the Royal George (now The Slip Inn), he discovered the libertarian movement known as the Sydney Push, and joined its folksinging scene.
He became a regular performer in the folk clubs of Sydney and Melbourne, and appeared at folk festivals. He also busked on the streets, and was occasionally censored for singing left-wing political material, but this encouraged rather than deterred him. He was invited to sing some of his political songs on ABC radio, and also appeared in the 1966 award-winning ABC documentary, The Restless Years, presenting Australian history through poems, stories and songs. He also contributed to films, including the 1970 version of Ned Kelly.
Declan regarded himself as a socialist with anarchist leanings, and was an active supporter of the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Green Bans, Irish hunger strikers, and Aboriginal land rights. He taught music at the Eora Centre in Redfern as his contribution to the advancement of Australian Indigenous people. Irish people are often thought of as having the gift of the gab, and Declan loved to talk for hours about history, music, politics and sport over a beer.
He died unexpectedly at the age of 45 – a very great loss to the folk community. The Declan Affley Memorial Award for excellence in a young performer is awarded each year at the National Folk Festival.
Declan is an Anglicisation of the Irish name Declán or Deaglán; it is usually translated as coming from the Old Irish for “full of goodness”. The name is known because of Saint Declán of Ardmore, a 4th or 5th century Irish bishop credited with the Christianisation of southern Ireland before the arrival of Saint Patrick.
The village of Ardmore in County Waterford is believed to be the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland, and by tradition, Saint Declán built a monastry here. He has been steadily popular in Waterford, with many churches dedicated to him, and each year on his feast day of July 24, devotions are held in his honour. This year, a five-day pilgrimage walk was held in late July, on a 100 km path between Cashel in Tipperary and Ardmore, which Saint Declán is said to have taken.
There is a long tradition of Christians taking new names, or being given new names, to mark their new lives, and in particular many of the Irish saints have created descriptive names. Declan looks to be one of them, for the meaning “filled with goodness” seems to have Christian significance.
I can first find Declan in Irish records from the late 18th century, and they were all born in southern Ireland; in Munster, where Declan is the patron saint, and in Waterford, near his centre of Ardmore. That suggests very strongly that the name was given in honour of the saint, and that it had an element of local pride as well.
Declan was quite a popular name in Ireland during the mid-twentieth century, and as well as Declan Affley, is borne by several musicians. These include Declan de Barra, an Irish-born Australian punk-folk singer, English pop singer Declan Galbraith who covers traditional Irish tunes amongst his own work, Declan Nerney, an Irish country singer, and Declan Sinnot, an Irish folk-rock singer. You may also have heard of Declan MacManus, who performs under the name Elvis Costello.
Declan has charted in Australia since the 1980s, and ranked since the 1990s, when it debuted at #145. It has been Top 100 since the early 2000s, and last year it was in the top ten fastest rising boys names in Australia, when it rose 12 places on the national chart. Currently it is #84 nationally, #74 in Victoria, #60 in Queensland, #50 in Western Australia, #71 in Tasmania and #56 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Unusually for a name in the national Top 100, Declan hasn’t been Top 100 in New South Wales since 2010. We seem to be caught between international trends, with New South Wales following the lead of England/Wales, where Declan has left the Top 100 and is declining in popularity, and Victoria and other states, who appear to be following the United States, where Declan is still rising towards the Top 100. Declan has a similar popularity to us in Scotland, but isn’t Top 100 in either Ireland or Northern Ireland.
If you love the name Declan, you won’t find yourself alone in your preference, but it’s still a good Irish heritage choice. It’s a handsome name, with an attractive, lilting sound to it, and it’s not wildly popular. Brooke from Baby Name Pondering chose it as her favourite boys name in the Victorian Top 100, and tells me that she finds it really charming – great recommendation!
(Photo is of Ardmore in Ireland, where Saint Declan is supposed to have lived and preached)
Alastair Windsor was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria through his father, and a great-great-grandson of Victoria through his mother. Although born a prince, he was stripped of his royal titles while still a toddler, after the regulations were tightened up. Alastair went into the army, and died during World War II on active service, in unconventional circumstances. He had been sent to Canada as aide-de-camp to the Governor General, who was a relation of his. Both his regiment and the Governor General had rejected him as incompetent, and he fell out of a window while drunk. It can get very cold in Canada, and Alastair succumbed to hypothermia overnight. Alastair is the Anglicised form of Alasdair, a Scottish form of Alexander. Alasdair Mòr Mac Dòmhnaill is the ancestor of the Clan MacAlister. I think Alastair very handsome, and in a country where Lachlan and Hamish are common, it doesn’t seem out of place. If the alas at the start bothers you, it can also be spelled the more common Alistair.
Although there had been many English kings before him, Athelstan the Glorious was the first ruler of all England, and the first who can be called king of the English. He was the grandson of Alfred the Great, and like his grandfather, had a reputation as a man of great intelligence and justice. His household was a centre for learning, he created the most centralised government England had yet had, maintained social order, encouraged literature, was an unbeaten military leader, and a key player in international affairs. He gets rave reviews from medieval historians, and even foreign writers of his time were eager to sing his praises. He is a king worthy of admiration, yet while the name Alfred was successfully revived and is still used now, Athelstan went out of use after the Norman Conquest, and remains extremely rare. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Athelstan is the modern form of the Anglo-Saxon name Æþelstan, meaning “noble stone”; it was very common amongst Anglo-Saxon royalty and nobility, and there are quite a few other kings with the name. I admit it does seem a little unwieldy, but it comes with the nickname Stan.
August was the second name of Prince Ernst August, a great-great grandson of George III and cousin of George V. As a member of the Hanoverian family, he was born a prince of Britain and Ireland, but during World War I, anti-German sentiment convinced the British royal family to strip the titles from their German relatives. However, the Hanoverians didn’t consider themselves bound by British rules, and continued to call themselves princes and princesses. To this day, the Hanoverians ask the British monarch for permission to marry, like other royals. It’s a bit of an odd situation. Prince Ernst was the last reigning monarch of the House of Hanover, and his marriage to Princess Victoria of Prussia the last large gathering of European royals before World War I broke out – he was very much the end of an era. August is the German form of Augustus, a traditional middle name in the Hanoverian royal family which continues to be handed down. You can also see August as after the month, in which case it can be given to both sexes.
Axel was the final middle name of Prince Georg Wilhelm Ernst August Friedrich Axel, the son of Prince Ernst August. He married Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark, who was Prince Philip’s sister. The name Axel is the medieval Danish form of the Hebrew nameAbsalom. In the Old Testament, Absalom was a son of King David, staggeringly handsome and extremely charming. He rebelled against his father; it’s a pretty awful story involving incest, rape and murder, and not one of the most uplifting parts of the Bible. Absalom was killed when he got his head stuck in a tree, which is meant to be very ironic for some reason. To me the ironic part is his name means “my father is peace”, and he went to war against his father. Axel is not a popular name in Australia, but I feel as if it will be in a few years, based on how frequently I see it in birth notices – it is #164 in Victoria. Its use seems to be influenced by singer Axl Rose, whose stage name is famously an anagram.
Edmund the Magnificent was half-brother to Athelstan the Glorious, and his successor to the throne. He only ruled for a few years before he was murdered, but in that short time he had important military victories in the north, established peace with Scotland, began reviving the monasteries and helped restore Louis IV to the throne of France. His great-grandson Edmund Ironsides fought valiantly against the Danes, and although ultimately defeated by King Canute, was a skilled and inspiring leader. Edmund is an Old English name meaning “rich protector”, and it was common amongst Anglo-Saxon royalty and nobility. Saint Edmund the Martyr was a King of East Anglia killed by the Danes, and was the patron saint of England until Saint George got the gig – there is a movement in East Anglia to reinstate him. Unlike many other Anglo-Saxon names, Edmund remained in use after the Conquest (probably because of the saint), and was even used in the royal family. It’s surprising how rare this name is compared to classic, popular Edward, but it’s a very handsome and noble one. Narnia fans will know it as the name of the treacherous Pevensie brother, who redeems himself and becomes a king of Narnia. Edmund “Ted” Gyngell is a recent celebrity baby, sometimes called Edmund the Magnificent after his namesake.
Emmanuel was the final middle name of Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, otherwise known as Prince Albert. He married his cousin Victoria, who was the heir to the British throne at the time. Victoria had the choice of two cousins to wed, and chose Albert as the most handsome and charming. Queen Victoria was devoted to Albert, and he was a great support to her, holding quite a bit of power behind the throne. A progressive and liberal thinker, he helped bring in many reforms, set the example that monarchy must be above politics, and made a huge success of the Great Exhibition of 1851. He died while only in his early 40s, and Queen Victoria was devastated. She wore mourning for the rest of her days and withdrew from public life. Emmanuel is a Hebrew name meaning “God is with us”; the Old Testament gives the name in a prophecy, and the New Testament attached it to Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The name was common amongst European royalty, but less often used in Britain. In Australia it’s possibly best known as a surname, from guitarist Tommy Emmanuel.
Eustace was the eldest son of King Stephen, and a great-grandson of William the Conqueror. Stephen had become king of England in a rather controversial way. After the heir to the throne had drowned in a disastrous shipwreck, Stephen had himself declared king by popular acclaim and was speedily crowned before anyone knew what was happening. The Empress Matilda had been next in line, but she was only a woman, and Stephen thought he should rule instead. Matilda didn’t agree, and their subsequent battle for power threw England into a state of anarchy for nearly two decades. Stephen had Eustace declared his co-king, but the church refused to ratify this, and nearly everyone was greatly relieved when the teenaged Eustace unexpectedly died. Generally perceived as rather a blot, his welcome demise allowed peace negotiations to go ahead. Even more conveniently, Stephen died the following year leaving Matilda’s son, Henry II, as ruler. Eustace is the English form of Greek Eustachios, meaning “rich crop”, a name chosen for himself by a 2nd century Roman general and martyr who had been born Placidus, and is known as Saint Eustace; because of him, the name was common during the Middle Ages. This is another name from The Narnia Chronicles, because Eustace Scrubb was a rather annoying character who, like the saint, was converted from his previous beliefs. Hardly anybody seems to like the name Eustace, and even C.S. Lewis made fun of Eustace Scrubb’s name.
Prince Leopold was a son of Queen Victoria, named after his great-uncle, Leopold I of Belgium, who had helped arrange the marriage of Victoria and Albert. Leopold’s birth is famous because his mother used chloroform during labour, giving the royal seal of approval for women to seek pain relief during childbirth. Prince Leopold inherited the family condition of haemophilia and also had mild epilepsy; he became a patron of the arts, literature and chess. He knew Alice Liddell, famous as the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice books (one of which revolves around chess), and some believe he considered marrying her, although others say it was her older sister Edith who was his intended wife. Queen Victoria arranged for him to marry Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont, a distant cousin. Leopold’s marriage was happy, and he and Helena had a daughter named Alice, but he died as a result of haemophilia after only a few years. He passed away just before his son Charles was born. Alice inherited the haemophilia gene, and passed it on to her son Rupert, who also died young. Leopold is a Germanic name meaning “bold people”; it was common amongst German royalty. This rather grandiose name has popular Leo as the nickname.
Magnus was a son of King Harold II and Edith the Fair, or Edith the Gentle Swan, sometimes (wrongly) called Edith Swan-neck. Harold and Edith were married in a traditional manner known as handfasting, and although Edith was regarded as Harold’s wife by regular people, and their children as princes and princesses, the clergy saw her only as his mistress because they hadn’t wed in a Christian ceremony. Harold did have another wife, also called Edith, but this was a marriage of political convenience, and not a love match as it was with Edith the Fair. According to legend, after Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings, only Edith the Fair could identify his body by markings she knew, so Harold was able to have a Christian burial. Magnus is a Latin name meaning “great”; Magnus Maximus was a 4th century Western Roman Emperor who became important in British folklore and Welsh legend, and is part of the mythology of King Arthur. There are several saints named Magnus, and it was a traditional name in the royal families of Norway and Sweden. The name is often thought of as Scottish, and one of the Saints Magnus was from Scotland. This is a great name, rich in history and legend, strong and interesting, and a good alternative to Max.
Prince Octavius was the thirteenth child of King George III, and doted upon by his adoring parents. At the age of four, he was inoculated against the smallpox virus, and as vaccination was still in its experimental stages, became ill and died, the last member of the British royal family to suffer from smallpox. The sudden death of the tiny prince caused his family immense grief, and during his later bouts of madness, King George even had hallucinations about Octavius. What made it harder for them was they had lost Octavius’ younger brother Alfred in exactly the same way six months previously. Octavius is a Roman name coming from the Latin for “eight”; Octavius was the eighth son of King George III. Octavius seems very hip – fresher than Atticus and Orlando, with a distinct feel of its own. It would be a good choice for an eighth child or grandchild, or someone born in August (the 8th month) or October.
(Picture shows a portrait of Prince Albert and his royal family by Franz Xaver Winterhalter)
This trend looks likely to continue, with 161 baby boys named Muhammad, Mohamed, Muhammed or Mohammed already born in the state this year between January and August.
Muslin leader and community spokesperson, Keysar Trad, who has a son named Muhammad, believes that these statistics are a sign that Australian Muslims are becoming more confident in giving their children Islamic names.
He thinks that they show a greater acceptance of Muslim names in the wider community, and a healthier connection with their religion amongst Muslims.
Mr Trad says that religious names not only allow an expression of devotion to God, but allow parents to reclaim an aspect of their culture.
By choosing the name of a significant religious figure, they hope that their child will share in the good qualities of that name, and perhaps be inspired to learn more about it when they get older.
“You think that one day, maybe they will read up on the significance on the name,” he said.
The prophet Muhammad’s full name was Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, and he was a 6th century leader from Mecca in Arabia who unified his country under Islam.
According to his own testimony, at the age of 40, he began receiving revelations from God through the archangel Gabriel, and a few years later began preaching these revelations. He proclaimed that “God is One”, and that complete surrender to Him was the only acceptable path to God – the word Islam itself means “surrender”. Muhammad declared himself a prophet, and a messenger sent by God.
The revelations which Muhammad reported receiving until his death in his early 60s form the Quran, which is the basis of the Muslim religion, and regarded by Muslims as the Word of God.
The name Muhammad means “praised, praiseworthy” in Arabic, and it is a very popular name amongst Muslims. It has a variety of transliterations and spellings because of the different languages used in the Islamic world.
It is believed that Muhammad, counting all variant spellings, is the most common personal name in the world, with an estimated 150 million men and boys bearing the name. It is the most common boys name in England/Wales, and in the United States, if all the spelling variants were combined, Muhammad would be in the Top 200 and rising, with a similar popularity to Silas, Maddox, Weston and Greyson.
There is a popular theory that names which are too “ethnic” sounding should be avoided lest they lead to discrimination, and you can find studies which show that in many cases, it can be harder to get a job interview if the name on your resume looks “foreign” (although this Australian study showed it depended where you lived and what kind of “ethnic” your name was).
Kayser Trad acknowledged that there have been cases where people with an obviously Muslim name had trouble getting a job, but he doesn’t believe the answer is to “go into hiding”, or change your name to Charlie Edwards to get an interview.
It also occurs to me that this theory assumes that all businesses are owned and all industries are controlled by people from an Anglo background, and that all people in charge of such businesses would prefer not to employ non-Anglo people. That just isn’t true.
I watched the daily business report on television yesterday, and noted that of the half dozen spokespeople from major businesses interviewed, four of them had ethnic names, including two with Arabic names. Furthermore, many businesses are owned by people from non-Anglo heritages, and having a Muslim name may prove an advantage in some areas.
Businesses in areas with a strong migrant community could prefer to hire people from a similar background for greater rapport with and understanding of their customer base, and your name shouldn’t be any disadvantage in the public and non-profit sector – about 25% of the workforce, and in some areas, up to 80% of the workforce.
Muhammad joining the Top 100 is a watershed in Australian society, but it should also be remembered that the majority of names on the boys Top 100 are of Jewish or Christian origin, with many names of pagan origin only coming into popular use through saints, such as George and Aidan, and even surname names developing because of saints, such as Mitchell and Jackson.
If you are interested how names of other religious figures fare in New South Wales, during the 2000s more than one baby each year, but less than six, were named Jesus or Moses, and in the same period most years saw about 7-11 babies named Abraham. By July this year, 10 babies named Krishna had been born. Hmm, this could be another growth area …
(The picture shows a 17th century Ottoman calligraphy panel by Hafiz Osman, describing the physical appearance of the prophet Muhammad; it is not permitted to show images of Muhammad in Islam)
Royal babies have been on everyone’s mind lately, and we recently saw two babies born in the royal family within less than a month of each other.
Not only have been people been doing web searches for Prince George and Maud Windsor, they’ve been searching for royal baby names in general, uncommon royal names, and royal names that nobody else is using.
So here is a list of queens and princesses connected to English royal houses by either birth or marriage, whose names aren’t popular or common in Australia (although I can’t promise nobody else will use them).
Adeliza of Louvain married Henry I, and became queen of England. She was considered pretty, but didn’t manage to produce any royal heirs. However, after Henry’s death she re-married, and had seven children; she is an ancestor of many of the noble English families. William the Conqueror had a daughter called Adeliza, named after his sister – the name wasn’t uncommon amongst Norman-French aristocracy. Adeliza is a medieval English form of Adelais, a short form of Adelheidis, the original old Germanic form of Adelaide. It’s pronounced ad-uh-LEE-za. Although it doesn’t have any connection to the name Elizabeth, it looks like a combination of Adele and Eliza, and might feel like a way to honour relatives who have variants of these names. It’s rare, but doesn’t seem unfamiliar.
Berengaria of Navarre was Queen of England through her marriage to Richard I, “the Lionheart”. She is the only English queen never to set foot in the country, since she only visited England after her husband’s death, when she was no longer queen. Richard himself spent only a few months in England during his marriage, as he was busy Crusading. Richard and Berengaria never had any children, and it is not known if their marriage was ever consummated, as they spent so much time apart. Richard’s family seem to have liked her, and there are a few other royal English Berengarias, perhaps named after her. Berengaria was a traditional name amongst Spanish royalty, and is the feminine form of Berengar, an ancient Germanic name meaning “bear spear”. It is pronounced behr-en-GAR-ee-uh, and the name has been bestowed upon a planet in the Star Trek universe inhabited by dragon-like creatures. This doesn’t sound like any currently popular names, and the nickname Berry is appealing.
Christabel was the middle name of Princess Alice, wife of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, a son of George V. Princess Alice was born into the aristocracy on both sides of her family, and was a direct descendant of Charles II, through an illegitimate line. She is related to Sarah, Duchess of York, the wife of Alice’s great-nephew, Prince Andrew. Just after the Second World War, Prince Henry was appointed Governor-General of Australia, and he and Princess Alice lived in Canberra for two years. The name Christabel is a combination of Christina with a -bel suffix, but Princess Alice was given this name because was born on December 25, and the name suggests Christmas bells. Her niece Princess Alexandra was also born on Christmas Day, and shares the middle name Christabel. Apart from the Christmas connection, this pretty name might seem like a good way to honour a Christine and an Isobel (for example) simultaneously.
Elfreda was one of the wives of Edgar I, and she was the first king’s wife to be crowned and anointed as Queen of England. Beautiful and powerful, she was unfortunately linked with the murder of her stepson Saint Edward the Martyr, and ever after appears in medieval history in the role of evil stepmother. Her own son, replacement to the martyred Edward, was Ethelred the Unready, only a child when he took the throne. Elfreda was a traditional name amongst Anglo-Saxon royalty, and Alfred the Great of Wessex had a daughter named Elfreda, an ancestor of Queen Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror; through Matilda, the monarchs of England are descendants of the House of Wessex. There is a Saint Elfreda, an Anglo-Saxon princess. Elfreda is a modern spelling of the Anglo-Saxon name Ælfþryð, meaning “elf strength”. The name went out of use after the Norman Conquest, but was revived in the 19th century, although it never became popular. Freda would make a good nickname – unfortunately, sweet Elfie would probably be misheard as Alfie, leading to confusion.
Eugenie was the second name of Victoria Eugenie, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria who married Alfonso XIII and became Queen of Spain. Her grandson Juan Carlos I is the current king of Spain. Unfortunately, her marriage to Alfonso wasn’t particularly happy, and she didn’t enjoy great popularity with the Spanish people – she was greeted with an assassination attempt on her wedding day. After the Republicans gained power, Victoria Eugenie went into exile with the rest of the Spanish royal family. Queen Victoria Eugenie’s middle name was in honour of her godmother, Maria Eugenia “Eugénie” de Montijo, empress consort to Napoleon III. Eugénie was a member of the Spanish nobility, and after the defeat of the Second French Empire, she lived in England, where she became friendly with the British royal family. The name remains well-known because of Princess Eugenie of York, daughter of Prince Andrew, who was named after Victoria Eugenie. Eugenie is the Anglicisation of Eugénie, the French form of Eugenia, which is the feminine form of Greek Eugenius, meaning “well born, of noble birth”. This elegant name is said yoo-JEE-nee, and Gina or Genie could be used as nicknames.
Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark was a cousin of Prince Philip. Like her cousin, she married into the British royal family when she wed Prince George, the Duke of Kent, an uncle of Queen Elizabeth II; she was the last foreign-born princess to marry into the British royal family. Princess Marina was attractive and stylish, earning her a place in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame, and her favourite shade of blue-green became known as “Marina blue”. Princess Marina’s mother was the grand-daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and Marina may have been named after Princess Marina of Russia. Princess Marina and the Duke of Kent were married in 1934, and a year later, Swiss water-ski champ Marina Doria was born, which looks more than coincidental. Oddly enough, Marina Doria also became Princess Marina, when she married a prince of Naples. Marina’s name has been passed down to her grand-daughter, Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, and I have seen a birth announcement for a Scarlett Marina this week. Marina is the feminine form of the Roman name Marinus, which may be from the Latin for “of the sea”. There are two saints named Marina, and it’s also the name Saint Margaret is known by in the Orthodox church. Marina is a very beautiful name, and familiar in Australia due to entertainer Marina Prior.
Princess Victoria Melita was a grand-daughter of both Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II, making her Princess Marina’s great-aunt. Her love life was one of great turmoil, because she fell in love with her cousin Kirill, Grand Duke of Russia, but was forced to marry her cousin Ernest, Grand Duke of Hesse instead. The marriage wasn’t a success, as Victoria Melita preferred Kirill, and Ernest preferred young boys. Soon after Victoria and Ernest ‘s divorce, Kirill was almost killed during the Russo-Japanese War, and this brush with death made him realise that nothing was more important than being with his true love. He defied his family, and married Victoria Melita, much to his parents’ rage and disgust. Although their marriage and family life was happy, the Russian Revolution and subsequent exile was a setback, and the couple rather naively supported the Nazi Party. More emotional pain followed for Victoria when Kirill was unfaithful to her, which she never got over. Her life contained some bitterness, but Victoria Melita’s middle name has a sweet meaning. Melita is the Latin name for the island of Malta, thought to come from its Greek name, Melite, meaning “sweet as honey”; Malta was famous for its honey production. This doesn’t sound out of place next to popular names like Mila and Layla, and would be a great way to honour Maltese ancestry; you could use Millie or Lita as nicknames.
Princess Sibylla (born Sibylle) was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria who married her second-cousin Prince Gustaf Adolf (known as “Edmund”) of Sweden; her son Carl XVI Gustaf is the current king of Sweden. The couple don’t seem to have been very popular in Sweden, being plagued by rumours of Nazi sympathising, of which there is no proof. Unfortunately, Sibylla did have quite a few relatives in the Nazi Party in Germany, who threw her a big fat Nazi wedding, and this can’t have been a help at soothing suspicions. The name Sibylla (or Sybilla) has been used amongst European royalty and nobility since the Middle Ages, and has been connected with the British royal family from early on. William the Conqueror’s son Robert was married to a Sybilla, and Henry I had an illegitimate daughter named Sybilla, who married Alexander I of Scotland. Sibylla is from the Greek word for a female prophet of the ancient world who uttered divine revelations in a state of frenzy; the word became sibyl in English. During the Middle Ages, it was thought that the Greek and Romans sybils had been precursors to Christian prophecy, and therefore gained respectability as a Christian concept and name. This name (and its variants), though uncommon, is quite trendy in Australia, being known from actress Sibylla Budd, and the heroine of My BrilliantCareer, Sybylla Melvyn, whose name inspired feminist publishing house, Sybylla Press.
The splendidly-named Sigrid the Haughty was supposedly the wife of Sweyn Forkbeard, who ruled England before the Conquest, in the days when the Danish royal house held the throne. It’s not clear if Sigrid was her real name, because it seems that Sweyn’s wife was actually Polish rather than Scandinavian, and in fact we can’t be sure if “Sigrid the Haughty” even existed. She may well be a fictional character, but her story is compelling. Beautiful and proud, Sigrid was a woman of great political power, who tended to wreak terrible revenge on those who annoyed her, and is supposed to have burned two of her suitors to death to discourage others. It could be that this fascinating lady of legend was tacked on to a real Polish woman who married Sweyn, and became the mother of King Canute the Great. Sigrid is from the Old Norse name Sigríðr, meaning “beautiful victory”. This is another name familiar in Australia because of an actress – the very famous Sigrid Thornton. The usual nicknames are Siri and Sigi.
Thyra was the daughter of Sigrid and Sweyn Forkbeard, the sister of Canute the Great. She was married to Godwin, the first Earl of Essex, the father of King Harold who fell at the Battle of Hastings. She didn’t live very long, and she and Godwin didn’t have any children together, so she’s rather a footnote in the history books. She may have been named after Thyra, the wife of King Gorm the Old of Denmark; they were the parents of Harald Bluetooth, the father of Sweyn Forkbeard. According to at least one source, Queen Thyra was English, the daughter of King Ethelred of Wessex. She was said to be a smart and sensible woman who led an army against the Germans, and was described as the “pride of Denmark”. According to legend, one of Thyra’s daughters was captured by trolls and carried off to their kingdom in the far north. Thyra is from the Old Norse name Þýri, derived from the name of the god Thor, and possibly meaning “Thor’s war”. The name is pronounced TEE-rah, and I think it’s attractive and contemporary-sounding, although pronunciation may be an issue, with people trying to say it THY-rah.
The Hills Shire is in the north-west region of Sydney. Big news in The Hills at the moment is the North West Rail Link, which will connect Rouse Hill to Epping, and involve the construction of eight new railway stations. To assist with the necessary disruptions, The Hills Shire council has put out a pamphlet: Is your business north-west rail ready? The pamphlet suggests you may want to stagger your work times, or work from home until the North West Rail Link is complete.
The North West Rail Link is the “baby” of the Hills Shire council, and as often happens, their baby name was “stolen” when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian called their daughter North West. However, in this case New South Wales has precedence, because they came up with the name North West in 1998. Why it takes 15 years between the proposal and sending out pamphlets is a question only local government can explain. (If you’re really curious, Wiki it). There is no date set for ending the project, which may not occur until 2020. Hope you’re north-west rail ready!
North is one of the four major compass points, and in Western culture, it is considered the primary direction, and the one from which all other directions are taken. By convention, north is placed at the top of globes and maps, although the word comes from an ancient Germanic root which means “down, under”. This may come from an ancient root meaning “left, below”, because north is to the left when you face the rising sun.
For people in the northern hemisphere, north is the direction towards the Arctic, and when they think of “northern lands”, they probably envisage ice and snow, or at least cooler temperatures. In many fantasy tales, dangerous or evil creatures come out of the north, such as Hans Anderson’s Snow Queen, and the dragon in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. However, the ancient Greeks believed that in the far north lay the country of the happy Hypoboreans, who lived in a land of eternal sunshine (kind of on the right track due to the Midnight Sun).
In the southern hemisphere, north is the direction of the Equator, and we may think of northern places as hot and dry, or steamy and tropical. In Australia, the northern part of the country Australia has a certain mystique as vast, hot, empty of people, and rich in natural resources.
North is also an English surname. The aristocratic North family hold the title of Earls of Guildford, and Frederick North, the second Earl, was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American War of Independence. Frederic Dudley North, descended from the British Prime Minister, emigrated to Western Australia in the 19th century and undertook several important posts, including representing the state during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
The origin of the surname is unclear – it could refer to someone who lived to the north of a particular town, or possibly someone with Norse ancestry, or who looked as if they might have.
West is another major compass point, conventionally placed on the left side of maps, and lying in the direction of the setting sun. It seems to be from an ancient root which means “downward”, referring to sundown, and is closely related to the word evening.
Because the west points toward the sunset, in many cultures it represents death (to go west, means “to die”). The ancient Celts imagined the Otherworld could be found far out in the western sea, while the ancient Greeks believed the paradisaical Fortunate Isles were located in the western ocean. The island of Atlantis was also thought of as being to the west, far out in the Atlantic.
In Britain, the West End is the posh part of London, while Westminster is the seat of power, and the West Country the land of legends and fairy tales. Westward Ho!, by Charles Kingsley, is set in the West Country and deals with adventures in the West Indies. Its title is the same as a Jacobean satire by Dekker and Webster on west London, taken from the call of Thames watermen. The playwrights later wrote Northward Ho!, set in north London.
In the United States, the western frontier lands in the 19th century symbolised freedom, adventure, opportunity and progress, as in the famous phrase, Go west young man. The Old West is not so much a time and a place as part of the American psyche, and the American West helped inspire imaginative works as diverse as Little House on the Prairie, Star Wars, The Great Gatsby, On The Road, Breaking Bad, and The Wizard of Oz (which has a Wicked Witch of the West).
The iconic Wild West played a major role in the development of the Australian myth of The Bush, and there is much we can identify with, as we have our own frontier country, the Outback. Here the west is Western Australia, the largest state, and the most geologically ancient part of the country, at over 4 billion years old. The oldest life forms on Earth, the stromatolites, can be found in Shark Bay, and the world’s oldest fossil, 3.4 billion year old bacteria, was discovered in Port Hedland.
The West also refers to Western civilisation, an idea which goes back to the ancient Greeks. Today it has political connotations, with people believing that “the West” stands for any number of values they might like or dislike. It is political rather than geographic, because “western” countries are all over the world.
The English surname West denotes someone who lived to the west of a town, or someone who had moved to the area from the west. It turns up early on in Essex, the most easterly part of England. This is another aristocratic surname, for the Wests were an old family originally from Devon, in the West Country.
North and West have both been used as personal names since at least the 16th century, with West much more common overall. Most Norths and Wests have been male, although the first North I can find in the records was a girl, and there are many female examples of both names. A larger proportion of Wests have been female, compared to Norths. There are thousands of Norths and Wests of both sexes in Australian records, although most of these are middle names.
North and West are names which sound a little out of the ordinary, and yet are straightforward and instantly recognisable. Everyone can spell and pronounce them, and they’re easy to explain: “North, like the North Pole”, “West, like the Wild West”.
They seem modern, but have surprisingly long histories, and layers of meanings, of which you are free to choose the ones which appeal to you the most. Kanye and Kim reportedly chose North because they saw it as meaning “the furthest up”, and therefore the pinnacle of their relationship, which strikes me as very northern-centric, and making a second child’s name problematic. If the first child’s name marks the pinnacle of your relationship, what’s left for Number 2?