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Some people say you should give your son the kind of name that will sound good on a prime minister. Here’s ten names borne by prime ministers, as either first names, middle names, or surnames. Maybe one of them is right for your child.
Joseph Aloysius Lyons was the 10th prime minister, swapping from the Labor Party to lead the conservative United Australia Party. Genial and laidback, he was one of the most popular of our prime ministers, and the nation mourned when he died suddenly in 1939, becoming the first PM to die in office. He is the only Tasmanian prime minister, and his widow Dame Enid Lyons became the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives. Aloysius is the Latin form of Aloys, an old Occitan form of Louis, used to Latinise the Italian form, Luigi. Aloysius Gonzaga is a 16th century Italian saint from a noble family, who lost his life caring for plague victims not long after becoming accepted as a Jesuit. Because of the saint, Aloysius is seen as a specifically Catholic name, and is more common in the middle position. It has strong scientific credentials, as Aloysius Lilius was the first to propose the Gregorian calendar, and Dr Aloysius Alzheimer identified the first case of the disease which bears his name. Rich and flamboyant, Aloysius is usually pronounced al-uh-WISH-us in Australia.
Andrew Fisher was the 5th prime minister, a Labor leader who served as PM three times. Originally from Scotland, he had a background working for the miner’s union. He was prime minister at the time of the Gallipoli campaign, and ultimately responsible for getting Australian troops out. Andrew is the English form of the Greek name Andreas, meaning “manly, brave”. The name came into common use because of Saint Andrew, one of the Apostles, and the brother of Saint Peter; Andrew was the first Apostle, who led the other disciples to Jesus. Tradition says Andrew preached around the Black Sea, and legend has it that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, now called the St Andrew’s cross, or saltire. Saint Andrew is the patron of Scotland, where his relics are supposed to have been taken in the 6th century. The place of their safekeeping was renamed St Andrews, and the saltire is on the Scottish flag. Andrew is a classic which has never left the charts. It was #56 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1970s at #4; it only left the Top 100 last year. A handsome classic with ties to Scotland, this name has had some recent bad publicity.
Earle Christmas Grafton Page was the 11th prime minister, and leader of the Country Party, the forerunner to the National Party. He is our longest-serving federal parliamentarian, spending nearly 42 years in parliament, but was only prime minister as caretaker for three weeks after the death of Joseph Lyons. Christmas is the holiday in honour of the birth of Jesus Christ, literally meaning “Christ’s mass”. Christmas has been celebrated since the 4th century, with the December 25 date originating in Rome. While a Christian festival in origin, Christmas is commonly seen as a secular holiday that brings everyone together. Christmas has been given as a first name since at least the 16th century, and early examples were born around Christmas time. Originally Christmas was given fairly equally to boys and girls, but overall is historically much more common as a boy’s name. This may be because Christmas is also a surname, perhaps originally a nickname given to someone who organised Christmas festivities. A sweet middle name for a baby born during the Christmas season (although Earle Page was born in August), as a first name it can shorten to Chris, Christy, or Chrissie.
Alfred Deakin was a leader in the movement towards federation who became the 2nd prime minister, serving as PM three times. The founder of the Commonwealth Liberal Party, he is honoured as a founding father by the modern Liberal Party. A man liked and admired by almost everyone, he is almost certainly Australia’s most spiritual prime minister. A sincere spiritualist, his diaries show that he prayed constantly for divine guidance, read scriptures and mystical works, and wanted his influence on the world to be one of light and truth. The surname Deakin is a variant of Deacon, an occupational surname for someone who served in the church ranking just below a priest, and whose duties included assisting the priest and carrying out parish work; the word is ultimately from the Greek for “servant”. A very old surname, it originates from Suffolk, and possibly dates to before the Norman Conquest. I have quite often seen Australian boys named Deakin (far more than ones named Deacon), and the prime minister may well be an inspiration, although Deakin University means it could be after an alma mater.
Malcolm Fraser was the 22nd prime minister, who came to power after the controversial Dismissal of Gough Whitlam. He won three successive elections for the Liberal Party, and has had a distinguished retirement in roles for the UN and Care International. He is now estranged from the Liberal Party, and often speaks out on human rights issues. The Scottish Clan Fraser trace their origins to France, although the surname’s meaning is uncertain. One theory is that it is derived from a (now lost place name) La Frezeliere in Anjou. Another idea is that it comes from fraise, the French word for “strawberry”, and the Clan Fraser displays strawberries on its coat of arms. Although a charming notion, this is almost certainly folk etymology. Known for their skills as warriors, the Frasers fought with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, and took part in the Battles of Bannockburn and Culloden; at the last, they were massacred in great numbers, and a great stone marks where the Frasers fell. This is a handsome name, popular in Scotland, that I quite often see in birth notices.
John Grey Gorton was the 19th prime minister and a Liberal leader, the only Senator to become PM. Although a popular man with a bit of a larrikin streak, he was a poor public speaker, and the media portrayed him as a buffoon, in contrast to the eloquent Opposition leader, Gough Whitlam. The surname Grey, a variant of Gray, could be a nickname given to someone with grey hair. It can also be a Norman name, coming from the place name Graye in Normandy; this is from the Gallo-Roman personal name Gratus, meaning “welcoming, pleasing”. This second origin seems to be the earliest, and comes from the north of England. Grey can also be given directly as a colour name – the colour grey is associated with modesty and humility, business and professional life, twilight and elves, and also ambiguity (shades of grey). The subdued Grey has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, and is historically more common for boys, although it works well in the middle for either sex.
Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the 8th prime minister, a leader of the conservative Nationalist Party. He oversaw the transfer of the national capital to Canberra, became the first PM to live at The Lodge, and modernised federal government administration. He later became an excellent ambassador and highly influential in British politics, taking a key role at the League of Nations. He was eventually raised to the peerage; the royal family attended his memorial service in London, although his ashes are scattered over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, and considered our cultural capital. In the 19th century, it became the richest city in the world, and the second-largest after London, gaining the moniker of “Marvellous Melbourne”. Stanley Bruce was from a wealthy Melbourne family, and born in the 1880s when the city was booming and bustling, so the name was a badge of pride. Founded by John Batman from Tasmania, Melbourne was originally called Batmania, but almost immediately someone re-named it after the British prime minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. A member of the Irish peerage, Lamb’s title was after his Derbyshire estate, Melbourne Hall; the nearby town of Melbourne means “mill stream”. A distinguished middle name, although Batmania has its attractions.
Paul Keating was the 24th prime minister, delivering a shock record fifth election victory for the Labor Party during the recession years of the 1990s. Cultured and intellectual with an acerbic wit and colourful range of insults, he loves Mahler and collects French antique clocks. Paul is the English form of the Roman name Paulus, meaning “small, humble” in Latin; it seems to have begun as a nickname, and gradually become accepted as a personal name. Although common in ancient Rome, the name has become widespread because of Saint Paul, the Apostle most responsible for spreading Christianity throughout the Western world. Both a Jew and a Roman citizen, the saint’s name was Saul, but his Roman name was Paulus. The New Testament tells of his dramatic conversion. A zealous persecutor of Christians, Saul had a vision on the road to Damascus where the resurrected Christ reproached him for his actions, leaving him temporarily blinded. From then on, he became an equally zealous Christian, and in the process, changed history. By tradition, Paul was martyred in Rome. Paul is a classic name which was #132 in the 1900s, and joined the Top 100 in the 1920s before peaking in 1967 at #3. It left the Top 100 in the early 2000s, and is currently in the mid-200s. A softer-sounding boy’s classic which works well as both a first and middle name.
Sir George Reid was the 4th prime minister, and leader of the conservative Free Trade Party. A humorous and entertaining orator, audiences flocked to his election meetings, although his enemies viewed him as a clown. After his term in office, he was appointed Australia’s first High Commissioner in London, where he made himself so popular that he was elected to the British House of Commons during World War I. The surname Reid is a variant of Read, Reade and Reed, and generally accepted as a Scottish form, as the reid spelling comes from Northumberland near the Scottish border. It is derived from read, the Old English word for “red”, and began as a nickname for someone with red hair or a ruddy complexion. Reid has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and was first used this way in Scotland. Strong, short and simple, I occasionally see this in birth notices, although more commonly as a middle name: I have even seen it chosen for a girl.
John Winston Howard was the 25th prime minister, winning a record number of seats for the Liberal Party at the 1996 election so that the party would have been able to govern in its own right. He served four terms as PM, spending almost twelve years in the role. The name Winston is strongly associated with inspirational wartime British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, who John Winston Howard is named for. Churchill was named after his 17th century ancestor Sir Winston Churchill, whose name was his mother’s maiden name: she was Sarah Winston, daughter of Sir Henry Winston of Gloucestershire. After this, the name became traditional in the Churchill family. There is an Anglo-Saxon personal name Wynstan, meaning “joy stone”, usually given as the origin of Winston. The Churchill’s Winston surname is probably from the village of Winstone in Gloucestershire, which means “Wynna’s stone”, with Wynna meaning “joy”, so having much the same meaning. However, if it ultimately comes from the village of Winston in Suffolk, it means “Wine’s settlement”, with Wine meaning “friend”, so “friend town”. Nice either way. This is fast becoming seen as a hip, sophisticated choice.
People’s favourite names were Winston, Reid, and Fraser, and their least favourite were Paul, Melbourne and Christmas.
(Picture shows a poster for the centenary of Federation at an exhibition at Deakin University in Victoria)