A new book published by the Macleay River Historical Society researches the stories behind the naming of almost 300 streets in Kempsey and the surrounding environs.
While street names are supposed to be enduring, many Kempsey street names have changed or disappeared over the years. Verge Street, West Kempsey was renamed Dangar Street to avoid confusion with Verge Street, Central Kempsey.
Similarly, River Street, East Kempsey was changed to O'Meara Street only to disappear altogether with the construction of the new traffic bridge in 1959.
Exhibition Lane became Jubilee Lane after the Royal Jubilee of Queen Victoria, while Ferry and Sack (later Wilson) Streets in West Kempsey were obliterated in the disastrous 1949 flood.
The Macleay River itself has had an interesting history of name changes.
First named the New River, it was named Wright's River in 1826 when Captain Samuel Wright led an expedition from Port Macquarie to explore it.
Around 1830, it was renamed the McLeay River after the colonial secretary Alexander McLeay and eventually became known as the Macleay River.One of the first subdivisions in West Kempsey was Mountain View Estate, developed in 1885 at a time when the area was still covered in thick brush.
A horse-drawn device, called the Forest Devil, utilised a steel cable and pulley system to rip trees from the ground, roots and all.
The Macleay Argus of the day wrote "the operations of his sylvan Satanic majesty are worth witnessing".
Streets in the new subdivision were named after principals of the developers, the Mercantile Building, Land, and Investment Company.
Kempsey's distinctive convention of having streets named after deceased service personnel (Streets of Honour) was commenced in 1947 when the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA) resolved to ask Kempsey Municipal Council to name streets after fallen soldiers.
By 1995, after seventy-three streets were so named it was thought that the list of names was exhausted. Unfortunately, at least three deceased servicemen were omitted from the list for some reason.
These were Arthur Probert (RAAF), John Reginald ('Jack') Dodds (RAAF) and Aubrey Nelson ('Jack') Rowe (Australian Army). The Geographic Names Board no longer permits the use of forenames in naming of streets so these men will now never have the same recognition under the Streets of Honour programme.
Read more local history:
The naming of localities on the Macleay is worthy of a separate publication, and here there is a wealth of names that are Aboriginal in origin, although few appear derived from the Dunghutti language.
Species of local flora and fauna are celebrated such as the buck pademelon (Kunderang), blue mountain bird (Corangula), kurrajong tree (Tamban) and native bear or koala (Yarravel).
Dondingalong may be named after the native apple tree (angophora) or does it, as another source suggests, refer to the noise of jangling bells from bullock teams resting near Magnus McLeod's old pastoral station?
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