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On March 27 it was the thirtieth anniversary of the Russell Street bombing in Melbourne, in which a gang of criminals blew up the city’s Police Headquarters Complex in an apparent revenge attack. That day in 1986 was Easter Thursday, and the bomb was timed to go off at 1 pm, when the street would be crowded with police and court room staff breaking for lunch.
Constable Angela Rose Taylor, aged 21, was on duty in the watch house at the old Magistrates Court when she tossed a coin with her workmate as to who would collect their sandwiches. Constable Taylor lost. She was on her way to the canteen when a stolen car packed with 50 to 60 sticks of gelignite exploded on Russell Street.
Constable Taylor was just one metre away from the car at the point of detonation, and she was thrown across the street in a fireball, her clothes blown off her body, her shoelaces alight, and her police hat melting. She suffered horrific burns to over 70% of her body and died in hospital on April 20, becoming the first Australian policewoman to die in the line of duty.
Twenty-two other people were injured in the blast, and over one million dollars worth of damage was done to the Police Headquarters, which is now an apartment block. Two men were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Constable Angela Taylor and other crimes, one without a parole period.
Constable Angela Taylor received a posthumous service medal from Victoria Police, there is a plaque in her honour on Russell Street, a unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital is dedicated to her, the Angela Taylor Memorial Scholarship offers grants for police to study, the Angela Taylor Memorial Run/Walk commemorates her life, and the dux of each graduating squad receives the Angela Taylor Award. Four of the Taylors’ grand-children are named in her honour – Brooke Angela, Laura Angela, Alyssa Rose, and Alex Jasmine Rose. In these ways does her name live on.
Angela is the feminine form of the Latin name Angelus, meaning “angel”. Angels are mentioned in the Old Testament as spiritual beings who bring communications from God; the word angel is derived from the Greek for “messenger”. Angels play a much bigger role in the New Testament, where they make several important announcements, including the birth and resurrection of Christ.
Angela has been used as a name since the Middle Ages, and given impetus by St. Angela of Foligno, one of the great medieval mystics and a spiritual teacher; later St. Angela Merici specialised in the education of young girls.
The name Angela was most common in Italy, Spain (from where it spread early to Latin America), Germany and Central Europe. Although the name was known in Britain too, it didn’t come into common use in English-speaking countries until the 18th century, aided by Spanish immigration in England. In the US, the name spread via the Hispanic population, and immigration from Germany and Italy.
Famous Australians named Angela include mining heiress Angela Bennett, the second richest woman in the country after Gina Rinehart; actress Angela Punch McGregor, who starred in classic films such as The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and We of the Never Never; British-Australian novelist Angela Thirkell, who was the god-daughter of J.M. Barrie; scriptwriter Angela Webber, who created the successful children’s show Mortified; and veteran radio broadcaster Angela Catterns.
Angela is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #268 in the 1900s, joining the Top 100 in 1957 at #87. Famous namesakes from this era include actresses Angela Lansbury and Angie Dickinson. Angela peaked in 1976 at #12, and didn’t leave the Top 100 until 2003. Use has remained stable, and it is not far outside the Top 100 even now.
Angela is also a classic in the United States which has charted in the Top 1000 since the late 19th century, and almost never been lower than the Top 200 during the 20th century. It joined the Top 100 in 1956, and hit its peak in the mid-1970s at #5, when Angela Lansbury was wowing Broadway audiences in Gypsy, while Angie Dickinson starred in TV drama Police Woman. Angela left the Top 100 in 2003; it is now #191 and reasonably stable.
In the UK, Angela joined the Top 100 earlier, during the 1930s. It had been a fashionable choice among the aristocracy earlier in the century, with a notable example being Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later the Queen Mother, who had Angela as a middle name. The name Angela peaked in the 1960s, and was off the Top 100 by the mid-1990s. It is far less popular in England/Wales than in Australia or the US, being #516 and fairly stable.
Angela is a Top 100 name in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, and is most popular in Spain, where it is #39.
No longer popular, Angela is an enduring classic with a beautiful meaning that is still in reasonable use. Pretty and sweet, it works well cross-culturally and makes a good choice for parents who want a familiar name which is neither very common for new babies, nor rising in popularity, without being particularly dated. Ange or Angie are the usual nicknames.
Russell is an English surname of Norman origin. The aristocratic Russell family claim descent from Hugue de Roussel, who came over with the Conqueror as a high-ranking attendant and was granted land in Dorset. The Russells trace their surname from Roussel in Normandy, whose name comes from the Old French for “stream, brook”.
The Scottish Clan Russell trace their descent from an English baron named Rozel, whose name is perhaps derived from the Norman nickname Rous, meaning “red” and given to someone with red hair or ruddy skin. It was common amongst the Normans, and Latinised to Rufus, as with William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, who was blond with a florid complexion. This is another possible source for the surname.
The Russell family is one of the most famous in Britain, among the richest landowners in the country, and a powerful dynasty in Whig politics. They are descended from John Russell, a royal minister in the Court of Henry VIII, and the 1st Earl of Bedford, ancestor of all subsequent Earls and Dukes of Bedford.
Sir John Russell was British Prime Minister during the 19th century – it is he who Russell Street in Melbourne is named after. Others members of this prominent family include Bertrand Russell, the 20th century philosopher, humanist, peace activist, and Nobel Prize winner, and Bertrand’s son, historian Conrad Russell. Anne Russell was a literary patron and one of Elizabeth I’s closest friends, niece to the writer Anne Clifford; Anne’s mother Elizabeth Russell was a noted poet herself, so the family has long had a literary connection.
Famous Australian Russells include distinguished artist Russell Drysdale; World War II fighter pilot Russell Fosket; controversial politician Russell Hinze; New Zealand-Australian actor Russell Crowe; film director Russell Mulcahy who created the cult classic Highlander; and rock star Russell Morris, who sang the 1960s classic The Real Thing.
Russell has been used as a personal name since at least the 16th century, most likely in honour of the aristocratic family, and in some cases perhaps to demonstrate kinship with it. By the 18th century it shows up in Scotland, as by that time the Scottish Russells had a baronetcy and were distinguishing themselves in military service.
The name Russell was #94 in the 1900s, and peaked in 1956 at #45 (just as Angela was joining the Top 100). It left the Top 100 in the 1980s, and hasn’t charted since 2009. It is still in occasional use.
In the US, Russell has never been off the Top 1000, and was a Top 100 name from the late 19th century until 1983. Currently it is #408, and relatively stable. In the UK Russell was a Top 100 name from the 1960s until the 1980s. It has been on a fairly steep overall decline, and is now #959 and reasonably stable.
Russell is certainly not fashionable, but doesn’t seem horribly dated either – British comedian Russell Brand is perhaps helping to give it a rather livelier image. Although not a nature name it almost seems like one, as it sounds like the words russet and rustle, conjuring up images of autumn leaves. The usual nicknames are Russ and Rusty.
Angela received an approval rating of 45%. 50% of people weren’t keen on it, and 5% thought it was a terrible name. Russell had a very similar approval rating of 46%. 48% of people weren’t keen on it, and 7% thought it was a terrible name.
(Photo of Constable Angela Taylor’s memorial service from the Daily Mail)