15 May 2016

Old Mans Valley

Just to the west of Hornsby, a northern suburb of Sydney, is Old Mans Valley. One might reasonably assume that the name was inspired by an old man once living there. It would have had its share of old men, as does anywhere else. In Old Mans Valley an occasional black wallaby is to be seen, and the name might actually relate to kangaroos.

In some Aboriginal languages there is a connection between words for ‘man’ and ‘kangaroo‘ — especially male kangaroos.

The by now fairly well-known word koori signifies Aboriginal people. It comes from the northward of Sydney.

TABLE 1 gari / guri: ‘man’ [Newcastle region, NSW]

From the same area come the following ‘kangaroo’ records:

TABLE 2 gari / guri: ‘kangaroo’ [Newcastle region, NSW]

Sydney word lists also provide corresponding examples for each of ‘man’ and ‘kangaroo’:

TABLE 3 gari / guri: ‘man’  and ‘kangaroo’ [Sydney region]

For the ‘old man’ idea, also from Sydney, are the following, the last three coming from the First Fleet days:

TABLE 4 gawal(gang): ‘older male’  and ‘older male kangaroo’ [Sydney region]

Perhaps the strongest links between words for ‘man’ and ‘kangaroo’ come from south-west Western Australia:

TABLE 5 yunga / yanga: ‘man’ [South-west WA]

TABLE 6 yunga / yanga: ‘kangaroo’ [South-west WA]

The following south-west WA example, in ‘Yongerloeelkerup’ exhibits a doubtful transcription:

TABLE 7 yunga / yanga: ‘kangaroo’ [South-west WA]

The second part of the word might really have been ‘boylgerup’ rather than ‘loeelkerup’ (as shown above), especially as words beginning with ‘l’ [ell] do not occur in most Aboriginal languages.

Finally, there is the WA place name Ongerup. As many Aboriginal languages also do not have words beginning with a vowel, the missing initial consonant might have been /w/, /y/ or /ng/. /y/ is assumed for this example.

TABLE 8 yunga / yanga: ‘kangaroo’ [South-west WA]

The ending -up [-ab], common in south-west WA place names, signifies ‘place of’.


Old Mans Valley in Hornsby might more properly have been named ‘Old-Man-Kangaroo Valley’.

Sunday 15 May 2016