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Whitsunday Group of Islands

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Whitsunday Group of Islands
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Whitsunday Group of Islands - Cities, Towns and Localities
Special thanks to Ray Blackwood for permission to use content from his fantastic work and publication about ‘The Whitsunday Islands, An Historical Encyclopaedia’.

Source: Ray Blackwood, The Whitsunday Islands, An Historical Encyclopaedia
Available through the
Proserpine Historical Museum or
Parks & Wildlife, Whitsunday District Office, PO Box 332, AIRLIE BEACH QLD 4802

Newry Islands / Newry Island

The name “Newry Isles” was first given in 1879 by Staff Commander E P Bedwell, RN, during his extensive surveys in SS Llewellyn. Origin of the name is not known but on his charts it covered today’s Newry, Outer Newry, Rabbit, Mausoleum and Acacia Islands.

In April 1887 a detailed survey was made by Lieutenant G E Richards, RN, in HMS Paluma and the name “Port Newry” was born. This was part of a programme of searching for a suitable port along this part of the coast to service the growing agricultural and grazing industries in the hinterland. Richards gave the individual islands their names, though the reasons for the name are not known.

During the 1920/30s, as pressure for a more satisfactory port for Mackay developed, Port Newry again was mooted and in May 1929 a group of Mackay residents visited the Port for an inspection but decided it was not satisfactory and attention reverted to Mackay (Mackay Mercury 24/29 May 1929) eventually resulting in the construction of the harbour there.

The islands were gazetted as national parks, Acacia Island in 1938, Mausoleum Island in 1938, Newry Island in two segments in 1938 (165 acres) and 1943 (15 acres) which were amalgamated in 1969, Outer Newry in 1938, Rabbit Island in 1938. A feature of the main islands in this group in early years was the presence of koalas and as late as 1967 these were in some numbers on Rabbit Island and Newry Island.

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Outer Newry Island

The island was gazetted as national park in 1938. See Newry Islands.
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Sir James Smith Group

The Sir James Smith Group was named in July 1820 by Lieutenant P P King, RN, during his second voyage through the area in HMS Mermaid. The naming is undoubtedly after Sir James Edward Smith (1759-1828) prominent botanist and president of the Linnéan Society in London in those years. King named the group “Sir James Smith’s Group”, but by 1847, charts had dropped the possessive “s”. (King, P P Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia. London 1827.)

In deference to Allan Cunningham, the botanist who travelled with King in Mermaid in 1819/20 and in Bathurst in 1821, King named a number of features after prominent botanists and naturalists of the time (see Linné, Dryander, Shaw).

King named the island group only and not the individual islands, most of which were named in 1878/9 by Staff Commander E P Bedwell, RN, in SS Llewellyn. Bedwell played on the name “Smith” and all the naming of the individual islands relate in one way or another to the “trade of the smith”, with later surveys followed the same procedure (Bedwell’s charts).

Bedwell gave the following names:

  • Anchorsmith
  • Anvil
  • Bellows
  • Blacksmith
  • Bullion
  • Cash (now Farrier)
  • Forge
  • Goldsmith
  • Hammer
  • Ingot
  • Silversmith
  • Specie
  • Tinsmith

Over the following years subsequent surveys gave:

  • Coppersmith Rock – Bedwell had treated this rock as a part of his Silversmith Island and it was not until 1925/6 that Lieutenant Commander H T Bennett, DSO, RAN, in command of HMAS Geranium gave the rock its own name.
  • Farrier Island – Originally named “Cash Island” by Bedwell as part of the “Gold” group of names he gave in that vicinity (Goldsmith, Bullion, Ingot, Specie) in days when “cash” referred mainly to gold coins. However that name faded away and it was not until 1925/6 that Lieutenant Commander H T Bennett, DSO, RAN, in command of HMAS Geranium gave the name “Farrier”, following on the Smith association but breaking the sequence of “Gold” names Bedwell had started.
  • Ingot Isles – Bedwell treated today’s Ingot Isles as a part of Goldsmith Island and gave the name “Ingot Point” to the most southerly of the islets but BA347 of 1882 showed that islet as “Ingot Island” while later charts showed “Ingot Isles” covering the sub-group.
  • Ladysmith Island – Bedwell showed today’s Blacksmith and Ladysmith Islands as one island under the former name. In 1925/6 Lieutenant Commander H T Bennett DSO, RAN, in HMAS Geranium gave the name “Ladysmith” to the southern island, no doubt prompted by the siege of Ladysmith in 1900 during the Boer War in South Africa.
  • Ross Smith Bank – Named in 1925/6 by Lieutenant Commander H T Bennett DSO, RAN, in command of HMAS Geranium after Sir Ross Smith who, with his brother Keith, in 1919 won a prize of £10,000 for flying from England to Australia in less than 30 days, thus pioneering air-services between the two countries. Ross Smith was killed in an air-crash in 1922.
  • Solder Island – Given in 1925/6 by Lieutenant Commander H T Bennett DSO, RAN, in command of HMAS Geranium, in series with nearby Tinsmith Island. (Bennett’s charts)

In December 1936 most of the islands were declared national parks, the exceptions being:

  • Coppersmith Rock – Commonwealth property as a lighthouse reserve.
  • Farrier Island – A leasehold property.
  • Forge, Bullion and Solder Islands – Are not national parks as of 1992.
  • North Ingot Islet – declared a national park in December 1988.

Source: Ray Blackwood, The Whitsunday Islands, An Historical Encyclopaedia

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