Origins of Yass Valley Town Names

Written by: The Yass Phoenix


Picture of Yass courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

Here’s a fun quiz about the origins of the names of local towns. See if you can get them right.

TownAnswer 1Answer 2Answer 3
Binalong (established 1839)Aboriginal word that means ‘under the hills, surrounded by hills,’ or ‘towards a high place’Named by European settlers who took a long time to travel there from Sydney, i.e.., ‘It’s been a long time’lDerived from Bennelong (1764 – 1813) the Sydney Aboriginal man who was captured by Governor Arthur Phillip
Bookham (originally called Cumbookambookinah)Derived from the fact that the small town once had a large libraryNamed after the town of ‘Bookham’ in Surrey, EnglandOf Aboriginal origin (unknown meaning). Lady Franklin, the wife of the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land stayed with the Green family of Cumbookambookinah. Mrs Green complained about the name of the town, and Lady Franklin, seeing Mr Green’s hams hanging from the ceiling suggested the name ‘Bookham’
BowningDerived from the American Browning shotgun companyDerived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘big hill’Derived from Colin Arrott Browning (1791-1856), naval surgeon
BurrinjuckDerived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘mountain with a rugged top’Came from ‘Barren Jack City’Came from the name of a famous race horse, Barren Jack
Good HopeDerived from the Cape of Good Hope, South AfricaCoined by a settler who previously had back luckUnknown origin
GundarooDerived from the Aboriginal name ‘Canderiro’ which was recorded by Charles Throsby in 1820Derived from an Aboriginal word for the Yass River which was ‘Boongaroon’ or ‘Gondoroo’Derived from settlers shooting kangaroos, i.e., gun-the-roo
MurrumbatemanNamed after a squatter called Murray BatemanDerived from Ngunnawal words ‘murra’ meaning hand, ‘murun’ meaning alive, and ‘murrin’ meaning manDerived from one of the district’s pioneer inn-keepers, a Mr Bateman. A local drinker was said to order his drinks with a call for “More rum, Bateman”
SuttonMeans ‘South Settlement’ in old Saxon languageNamed after Henry Sutton (1855-1912), a famous Australian inventorCell Named after the English village of Sutton (situated about eleven miles from Westminster-bridge)
WallerooNamed after a town of the same name in South AustraliaNamed after very shy and very rarely spotted woolly black wallabiesNamed after a ship, the Walleroo
Wee JasperNamed after a little Scottish boyNamed after a famous greyhoundNamed after the small jasper gemstones found there
YassDerived from an Aboriginal word, ‘Yarrh’ or ‘Yharr’, said to mean running waterNamed by Hamilton Hume when he finally found a site for his homesteadNamed after the Young Applicants in Schools Scheme

Answers: According to our research the town names came from: Binalong Answer 1; Bookham Answer 3; Bowning Answer 2; Burrinjuck Answer 1; Good Hope Answer 3; Gundaroo Answers 1 & 2; Murrumbateman Answers 2 & 3; Sutton Answer 1; Walleroo Answer 2; Wee Jasper Answer 3; Yass Answer 1.

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