Munster/Coogee: what’s in a name?

WITH a swag of Munster residents hoping to see their expanding community become Cockburn’s 23rd suburb and renamed Lake Coogee, the Chook took a plunge into the history books to discover the provenance of both names.

Munster harks back to the earliest days of colonial settlement and was provided by Thomas Peel, who’d bought over a small convoy of settlers on the promise of a land grant along the fertile banks of the Swan River.

He arrived late and found governor James Stirling had given the land away and was only prepared to offer him a substitute further south.

Peel grudgingly agreed and named his settlement Clarence Town after the heir to the British Throne, William Henry, who’d been crowned Duke of Clarence and Earl of Munster by his father George III and was just months from ascending the throne as William IV.

While it’s well established Peel’s main settlement was in Henderson, there’s still some conjecture about where he first set down, with an old map showing him in Woodman Point – just across the ridge from what’s now known as Lake Coogee. Peel appears to have called it Lake Munster after the heir.

William IV was an interesting character; the oldest British monarch to take the throne, he’d earlier in his life spoken out in favour of slavery, yet presided over its elimination throughout the colonies. His reign also saw limits on child labour.

Sadly for Peel his belligerent character helped seal a sad fate for Clarence Town; he’d already been in the colony’s first duel and almost lost his arm, and as tempers in the township flared he withdrew, causing its breakdown and around 30 people to die from starvation and disease.

When it comes to antiquity though, Lake Coogee wins hands down.

Last week we reported that the name was pinched from the coastal town in New South Wales, but a bit of  digging shows that Sandgropers merely appropriated the spelling.

In 1841 surveyor Thomas Watson noted down the Whadjuk Noongars called the lake Kou-gee which roughly translates as “body of water”.

Interestingly, Watson had come out from England with Peel, but lost all his surveying tools when a hunting fire started by the Noongars wiped out his campsite.

An 1895 postal directory notes “Lake Munster” was also known as Coogee, although in later years the latter became more associated with the area at the top of the lake, while the bottom area was known as South Coogee. Munster was officially adopted as the suburb name in 1954.

South Coogee Community Association president Firdause (Fred) Behramkamdin says old-timers in the area still identify with the name South Coogee (some would have attended the now-demolished primary school of the same name) and were eagerly behind the name change.

Cockburn council officers are also behind the name change, having recently sent out letters seeking support from owners of vacant land.


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