Eight of WA's weird and wonderful place names

The world is full of weird and unusually named places and Western Australia is no exception - I've taken a look at eight of the more interestingly named places in WA.

To keep things local, we chose four from the Perth and greater Perth metro area as well as four from regional locations. Some of these you no doubt will have driven through so we thought it only fair to give a brief history of how and why they are named.

Our state has some quirky place names. Photo: Frances Andrijich

Our state has some quirky place names. Photo: Frances Andrijich

  Cockburn

No, it is not the gateway to gonorrhoea as I was once asked by a relative from overseas. I explained the unfortunately named Cockburn is actually pronounced Coh-burn, but that is where my knowledge of Cockburn ended.

Putting my historian hat on (in other words jumping on Google), the common belief is the area was named in 1827 in honour of a widely respected naval officer by the name of Admiral Sir George Cockburn. And who, might you ask chose the name? None other than Captain James Stirling, the first Governor and Commander-in-chief of Western Australia. I will add that Captain Stirling was one of 15 children, so perhaps the name was in honour of his father?

Daglish

Some of you may know a dag is technically used to describe dried faeces which may be hanging in the matted wool at the back end of a sheep after a gut busting day grazing on grass. This creates an unfortunate image when combining with the word 'lish' which is often used to abbreviate delicious. For others though dag may bring to mind your most unfashionable or socially awkward friend. The two definitions may not be far apart in some cases.

Located 5 km west of the CBD, Daglish actually derived its name from the former Premier Henry Daglish who was in office from 1904 - 1905. He also served as Mayor of Subiaco in the year preceding and succeeding his year in the top WA job. Daglish was named in 1928. Ironically though, with the home of football departing Subiaco the wider area is looking daggier than it once did a few years ago. Maybe it's time for a tidy up!

Dog Swamp

Information on the naming of Dog Swamp is scarce. Not being a detective, the swamp is located in Yokine, the aboriginal word for Dog, which was so named because of the high concentration of Dingos that lived in the area.

Some interesting historical facts about Dog Swamp, it was once the location of a mythical theme park called the Land of Make Believe and was also the home of one of Perth's very first Hungry Jacks stores which opened in 1971. My guess, they were one and the same thing. Also unconfirmed, but the opening of Hungry Jacks coincided with the demise of the Dingo population in the area.

Innaloo

I don't have much to add hear except that 1. Innaloo has a high concentration of fast food and Indian restaurants and 2. Innaloo is also the location of Botanica, whose toilets were notorious for gossip inducing incidents during its reign as one of the go-to places for a Sunday session in Perth.

In all seriousness though, Innaloo is respectfully named after an Aboriginal woman from Dongara. The name was chosen from a compilation of Aboriginal words because the original Aborignal name, 'Njookenbooroo' was too hard to pronounce.

Disaster Bay

I recently overheard a colleague describe their recent family outing down to Scarborough Beach as a drive down to Disaster Bay. I tend to disagree though. Scarborough Beach is not a Bay.

The real Disaster Bay is located 68 kms North West of Derby in the Dampier Peninsula, and was so named by Captain Phillip Parker King of HMS 'Bathurst' after losing anchor and getting caught drifting back and forth among the dangerous reefs in the area.

Here is a quote from 14 February 1822 describing his reasoning for naming the location "from the loss and perplexity we met within it". Unrelated, I think this sums up Scarborough Beach in its current state quite nicely.

Point Torment

Western Australia has a chequered history, but the naming of Point Torment is not based on any form of settler instigated activity that occurred in the area. Located 32km north of Derby, Point Torment was so named because explorer J L Stokes was subject to attacks from swarms of mosquitoes.

According to Landgate, here is what he had to say about the place back in February, 1838: "A name was soon found for our new territory, upon which we, with rueful unanimity, conferred that of Point Torment, from the incessant and vindictive attacks of swarms of mosquitoes, by whom it had evidently been resolved to give the newcomers a warm welcome". Stokes' description of mosquitoes as vindictive is right on the money, and with my unwarranted appeal to mosquitoes, I for one will be avoiding Point Torment for the foreseeable future.

Useless Inlet, Loop

Useless Loop could be used to describe any number of the road layouts implemented by local governments looking to spend their budgets before the next reporting period. However, the real Useless Loop is located on the Heirisson Prong in the Southern Region of Shark Bay.

The first half of Useless Loop's unusual name was bestowed upon it by French explorer Henri-Louis de Saulces de Freycinet who remarked on the large sandbank seemingly blocking access to an inviting harbour. Today though the town is far from useless, boasting world-class fishing and a beautiful marine park on your doorstep, and it has a school, a shop and community hall.

Intrepid travellers beware, Useless Loop is a closed company town, with 70 employees and their families servicing the Solar Salt Operation Shark Bay.

Woop Woop

For some, when talking about Woop Woop, KRS-One's 1993 song 'Sound of Da Police' may come to mind. If that's you, then I bet you just sung the lyrics! No, well then you have surely used the term Woop Woop to describe a place in the middle of nowhere. And for good reason with the Macquarie Dictionary, describing it as "Any remote or backward town or district".

However, according to the book Timber Milling in Australia (no I did not just read that), Woop Woop was given to a timber mill set up by The Adelaide Timber Company in 1925. The mill was once located near the town of Wilga, north of Boyup Brook in WA's South West. Anecdotally, the name Woop Woop was derived by the sounds of frogs local to this particular corner of the state's South West.

Mark Campbell is the founder and director of landguide.com.au