Jun 08, 2022
In Flynn of the Inland I came across three interesting words in two pages - pages 190 and 191 (in the earlier editions at least) of Chapter XIX - to be exact. These words were Pilbarra, De Gray and Noongan (as in Noongan River). Why these words were interesting is that Pilbarra, with two "r's" has been superseded by Pilbara with one "r" and De Gray should be De Grey and Noongan should be Coongan. First, Pilbarra. Although Pilbarra seems to have been the earlier and more widespread spelling, it has now become outmoded as the preferred spelling and been largely replaced by Pilbara - though Pilbarra still crops up in a number of contexts, from tourism to business names. There is still a road in Perth called Pilbarra St (and another, just to be even-handed, called Pilbara St). It is aboriginal in origin - either meaning "dry" - or perhaps a type of fish. Pilbarra Creek was the original name (now Pilbara!) and then the Pilbarra Goldfields (1885) came into being and then it seems the wider area was called Pilbarra. The Pilbarra Goldfields News (published at Marble Bar 1897 to 1923)and Pilbarra Gazette (1920 - 1947) were two of the early newspapers in the area. So in this context Idriess was quite correct: Pilbarra was the main spelling used in that era. Why and how it came to be Pilbara (usually, The Pilbara), I am not sure but Pilbara seems to have been more and more in vogue from at least the sixties and the advent of the big mining developments. Idriess - on p.190 - specifically refers to the Pilbarra mining-district, with Marble Bar at its centre, as well as The Pilbarra in a more general sense. As an aside, Idriess on p.191 refers to the Kimberleys. There is a debate over whether it should be the Kimberley or the Kimberleys. Growing up in the Kimberleys in the 1960's, I always called it (and heard it called as) the Kimberleys. Second, De Gray. This one Idriess has got wrong. Perhaps easy to do as we use both gray and grey for the colour. Was it his original mistake, not corrected? Or someone mistakenly transliterating his pencil scrawl? Or just a typo? Whatever it was, it was never corrected. It was still in the Australian Classics Edition of 1983/1990 and in the Ion Idriess's Greatest Stories: Heroes of the Outback of 1986/1993. Because De Grey was the river so named by the explorer Francis Gregory in 1861 and named after Thomas de Grey, 2nd Earl de Grey (Royal Geographical Society President of the time). Idriess calls both the river and the station named after the river, De Gray. It's a wonder someone didn't pick this up for correction. Third, Noongan. This stood out like a sore thumb to me, because the River that Idriess is referring to is the Coongan River. This is the river at Marble Bar, across which the bar runs (which Idriess correctly notes is actually jasper, not marble), from which Marble Bar gets its name. Again, Coongan is of indigenous origin and named as such by Alexander Forrest in 1878. It is not, and never has been, as far as I am aware, called the Noongan River. So was it a typo, or just a mistake by Idriess. Again, it was never corrected. Any other typos or mistakes in Idriess? Anybody?