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You may have noticed that all the names that have been featured on the blog since the weather got warmer have had some connection with water or the sea. With summer holidays upon us, it is only fitting that the last Name List for the year is one of Australian beach names.
The town of Airlie Beach in the Whitsunday region of north Queensland is a popular tourist destination and one of the departure points for the Great Barrier Reef. Because James Cook thought he arrived here on Whitsunday, every year there is a Blessing of the Fleet on Whitsunday (Pentecost) – although Cook almost certainly got the day wrong and it was really Whitmonday. The town’s beach is quite small, and infested by sea wasps, the most lethal jellyfish in the world. For the convenience of those wishing to avoid a painful death, a swimming lagoon has been built on the foreshore. The town is named after Airlie in Scotland, the seat of the Earl of Airlie. Airlie Castle is referenced in the ballad, The Bonnie House o’ Airlie, and mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Kidnapped. The meaning is not known, although it’s possibly from the Gaelic for “edge of a ridge”. Airlie is a name reasonably well-known in Australia, although rare elsewhere; there’s ABC presenter Airlie Ward, hockey player Airlie Ogilvie, policy analyst Dr Airlie Worrall, and actress Airlie Dodds. This is a modern name with ties to Scottish history, and would be a great choice if Airlie Beach is meaningful to you.
Bondi Beach is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, one of Sydney’s iconic destinations, and heritage listed. In the fashionable eastern suburbs, it’s a place to see and be seen, lined with hotels, cafes and restaurants from where you can view the beach and beachgoers. Bondi has always had a reputation for showing a lot of flesh, and in stricter times the American actress Jean Parker was booted off it for wearing a bikini. These days topless bathing is common on Bondi. If almost-naked humans aren’t your thing, there is always the chance of seeing dolphins, fairy penguins, and in season, whales. Bondi Beach has many cultural events, including the annual City to Surf charity run, and it stars in TV shows such as Bondi Rescue and Bondi Vet. The name Bondi (said BON-dye) is said to be from boondi, a local Aboriginal word meaning “sound of water breaking over rocks”. The rare use of this name in records may be from the Italian surname Bondi (said bon-DEE), meaning “good day”. I saw a baby girl named Bondi in this year’s Bonds Baby Search. This is an unusual choice, but rather patriotic, and seems ideal for beach-loving Sydneysiders.
Etty Bay is a picturesque little bay in far north Queensland; the nearest town is Innisfail. Enclosed by rainforest filled with wildlife, it attracts bushwalkers, birdwatchers and picnickers, and is known as one of the best places to see endangered cassowary birds in the wild – cassowaries are large flightless birds around six feet tall. Etty Beach is considered safe for swimming, as long as you avoid saltwater crocodiles and deadly jellyfish. Etty is a pet form of names such as Esther, Ethel, Henrietta and Harriet, and was most common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With Etta tipped as the next retro-chic name, and Arrietty from The Borrowers receiving notice, Etty seems not only cute and usable, but positively stylish. It fits in with other vintage nicknames such as Elsie, Hattie and Millie.
Miami is a suburb of the Gold Coast which was first developed in the 1920s to entice tourists, and is still a popular place for people to visit. Its clean sandy surf beach make it a favourite destination for family holidays. It is named after Miami in Florida, as being somewhere else that’s hot, humid and beachy – during the 1920s, Miami enjoyed such prosperity and growth that it was dubbed “The Magic City”. This success the Queensland developers no doubt hoped to emulate. The city of Miami was named after the Miami River, and this in turn was named for the Native American people called the Maiyami. They took their name from the lake they lived by (later known as Lake Okeechobee); the name simply means “big water”. Miami is a name I see sometimes on little girls, and its not only an American place name, but an Australian one as well. It fits in with popular names such as Mia, Maya and Amy.
The town of Yamba in northern New South Wales lies at the mouth of the Clarence River, and boasts eleven beaches, including Pippi. It’s primarily known for surfing, and the Pippi Beach Classic is a surfing event held here each January. At one end of the beach is the enticingly-named Lovers Point, and from here is an easy walk up to a rock shelf which gives magnificent views of the sea. Dolphins are plentiful, and whales can be seen during winter and early spring. Pippi Beach is named after the pippis or pipis which can be found here – small edible clams which are often used for fish bait. You may recall that John Sutton, co-captain of the South Sydney Rabbitohs team in the NRL, welcomed a daughter named Pippi last year. As John is a keen surfer, I wondered if Pippi Sutton may have been named after this popular surf beach. You probably also know the name from the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren – the character’s name was invented by Mrs Lindgren’s nine-year-old daughter, Karin. You can see Pippi as short for Phillipa, and if Pippa or Piper delight you, yet seem too common, then sprightly Pippi may fit the bill.
Rainbow Beach is a small town in southern Queensland which was once a centre for sand-mining, but is now a popular tourist destination with an attractive beach and many bushwalking tracks. The town get its name from the brilliant coloured sand dunes which surround it. According to a local Aboriginal legend, the dunes received their colours when the spirit of the rainbow plunged into the cliffs after coming off second-best in battle. More prosaically, the colours stem from the sand’s rich mineral content. The evanescent beauty of rainbows have made them part of mythology for many thousands of years. Both Greek and Norse myth saw the rainbow as a path between heaven and earth; in Irish folklore there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; and in the familiar story of Noah and the Ark from the Old Testament, the rainbow is a sign of God’s promise to never destroy the earth again. In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow serpent is of great significance and power, creating and marking the earth’s territories, and controlling its water resources. The subject of artists, singers and poets, the stuff of hopes and dreams, the rainbow has long been used as a symbol of social change. The striking name Rainbow is not that rare in old records, and used for both sexes, but is most common as a middle name.
Trinity Beach is a suburb of Cairns in far north Queensland; the city lies on Trinity Bay, which is where the suburb gets its name. Captain James Cook named it on his 1770 voyage, as he arrived there on Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost (hopefully he had his dates sorted out by this stage). It is a festival to celebrate the Holy Trinity of the three Persons of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Trinity is a Christian concept, the idea of a triple deity is found in several religions. The name Trinity was used from the 17th century, and was given to both sexes, in honour of the Holy Trinity. In recent years, it has gained a sci-fi image, for there has not only been a cult science-fiction film called Trinity, but Trinity is the love interest in The Matrix movie series, and Trinity Wells a newsreader in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. More ominously, the Trinity Test was the code name for the first detonation of a nuclear bomb in 1945, heralding the start of the Atomic Age.
Vera View Beach is just north of famous Cottlesloe Beach, in Perth, Western Australia. It isn’t one you will see promoted as a major tourist destination; not the most stunning beach in the world, it nonetheless makes a pleasant walk from the main beach, and is near the main cafe strip. It is also a good place to go snorkelling, as there a small reef nearby teeming with sea life. The beach’s name comes from the fact that it is near Vera View Parade in Cottlesloe. Vera is a Russian name which means “faith”; we tend to be struck by its similarity to the Latin for “truth”, while Albanians notice that it sounds like their word for “spring”. Vera was #15 in the 1900s, and by the 1940s was out of the Top 100. It ceased to chart in the 1980s, but has very recently made a comeback, and was #626 in 2011. Its image was severely dented by the sour-faced prison guard, Vera “Vinegar Tits” Bennett, in the 1970s-80s TV series, Prisoner (no wonder it disappeared from the charts then). However, with simple old names firmly back in fashion, and the V sound becoming increasingly popular, retro Vera could do very well.
Vivonne Bay is on Kangaroo Island in South Australia; the island is off the coast of Cape Jervis. The pristine beach at Vivonne Bay is several kilometres long, and popular for surfing and fishing. There is a tiny town of Vivonne beside the bay. Vivonne Bay was named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who came here in 1803. He was the first to map the western and southern coasts of Australia, and his expedition was a great success, discovering more than 2500 new species and meeting the Indigenous people of Australia. Apparently his expedition harboured a spy – one of his men prepared a report for Napoleon on how to invade and capture the British colony in Sydney Cove, but recommended not to. Baudin died of TB in Mauritius on the way home. He named Vivonne Bay after the French town of Vivonne, near Poitiers (or the aristocratic surname which comes from the town – the town’s name comes from the nearby river Vonne). Readers of Marcel Proust will remember he used the name Vivonne for the river in Swann’s Way. I think this name is pretty, and seems like a cross between Vivienne and Yvonne. It’s different, but not too different.
Wanda Beach lies on Bate Bay in the suburb of Cronulla; this is in Sutherland shire, in the southern districts of Sydney. Wanda has a dark past, because there were two murders here in 1965. Two teenage girls, Marianne Schmidt and Christine Sharrock, best friends and neighbours, disappeared at Wanda Beach while on a picnic, and their bodies, partially covered in sand, were found the next day. The murder is still unsolved. Wanda Beach gets its name from an Aboriginal word, wanda, said to mean “beach” or “sand dunes”. Wanda is also a Polish name; there is a medieval Polish legend about a Princess Wanda, and the name was popularised in the English-speaking world by English author Ouida’s 1883 novel, Wanda. The name may come from the West Slavic people known as the Wends; their name possibly means “tribe, kinship, alliance”, ultimately from an ancient word for “love, desire”, and related to the name Venus.
(Photo shows the morning tide coming in at Etty Bay)