Sunday, June 6, 2010


On the 12th of March 1913 on Kurrajong Hill (Capital Hill), Baroness Gertrude Mary Denman (1884 – 1954)(bio here) officially named the new Federal Capital city of Australia, Canberra. There had been some speculation as to what to call the new city. The residents of the 'Limestone Plains' were even in confusion as to the correct Aboriginal name of the plains their families had settled in the early 1820's.

After acquiring land on the Limestone Plains the original settler of Canberra, Joshua John Moore (1790-1864)(bio here) had an overseer and convicts establish a sheep station in 1824. He named the property 'Canberry', 'Canbury' or Kamberry (post here) after the name that was told to him the area was called by local Aboriginals. Government records of the period indicate Moore's property as 'Canberry', Limestone Plains, Murray Shire.

was the European interpretation of the Aboriginal name for the 'Limestone Plains' and finally after much squabbling by anthropologists at the time of Federation, the name Canberra was decided upon. Debate then raged as to the pronunciation of the new name.

It was eventually decided that whatever pronunciation Lady Denman gave when she announced the 'National Capital' name would be the one officially adopted. The day before the naming ceremony Governor General Denman, and the Vice-Regal party arrived in the Canberra district to what was just an outpost in the Australian 'bush' at the time. The next day they were to perform the official opening ceremony of the new Capital of Australia.

500 official guests and just on 5,000 people traveled in trains organised specifically for people to attend the laying of the foundation stones and witness the naming ceremony.

Lord Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, Lady Denman and King O'Malley

Image Wikipedia commons (here)

Lord Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher (1862-1928)(bio here), Lady Denman and King O'Malley (post here) Minister for Home Affairs then stood atop the foundation stone in front of H.R.H. The Duke of Cornwall and York (later H.M. King George V)(post here) on a day of fanfare, 21 gun salutes, Light Horse parades, dust, roaming dogs and three cheers from the loyalist crowd for His Royal Highness.

With ceremonial gold trowels Lord Denman laid the first stone,

the Prime Minister the second,

and O'Malley laid the third stone.

The moment had arrived for the naming of the new capital.

Surprisingly there were no official speeches made on the day. At 12 noon Lady Denman moved to the Dias amid a band playing and cheers from the crowd and received an envelope containing the new Federal Capital's name from Mrs O'Malley. She then said:

'I name the capital of Australia Canberra'

and ended the controversy by pronouncing the name of the new Federal Capital city as Can-brah.

(I grew up locally with the correct Can-brah not Can-bear-rah).

Speculation continued into the 1930's about Canberra's name.
Queen Nellie Hamilton (post here) referred to below as 'Black Nellie' called her homelands  'Kahmbra'  (see news clipping below).
That's close enough I reckon...


The Sydney Morning Herald (26 February 1934).

The 12th of March is now celebrated in the National Capital as 'Canberra Day'

ABC Stateline program with film of the ceremony (here).

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