Origins of the name Bellingen.
In 1841 Government Surveyor Clement Hodgkinson visited the Bellinger Valley. When naming newly discovered places, Hodgkinson preferred to use existing native place names rather than foreign ones, so he used the Gumbaynggirr name for the river, “Billingen”. As with many Aboriginal place names, its exact meaning is a matter of dispute. It has been variously reported to mean “clear water”, “winding river”, “quoll”, or “cheeky fellow”.
On the other hand, maybe the European urge to find a culturally significant meaning is just a blind alley. Maybe the name simply means “home.”
Spelling and Pronunciation.
Originally, Bellingen was pronounced “Billingen”, where the “ng” was pronounced as in “sing”. When it came time to write the word, the Aboriginal voice and the European ear combined to give a spelling of “Billingen”, “Billengen”, “Bellengen” or “Bellingen”. European usage has softened the original pronunciation to the current “Bellin-jen”.
To further confuse the issue, a draughtsman who was compiling the Colony map from original documents misread Hodgkinson’s final handwritten “n” as an “r”; meaning that the Bellingen River officially became the “Bellinger”, while the town retained the correct name of “Bellingen”. This sort of thing happens far more often than you might think.
Naming the Town.
From Mr H A Evans in the Raleigh Sun, 07/01/1927:-
“The site was set apart as a Reserve for the village of Bellingen in 1864, in which year the land on the east was selected by Mr McNally, and that on the west by Mr Anderson.
“The first five town allotments were surveyed in 1869 and were sold by public auction at West Kempsey Court House on September 14th, 1870. The purchasers were J Frisby, F G Panton, P J Anderson, T W Pulsford and S Bird. Other lots were subsequently measured off and sold, the deeds in every case describing the land as in the village of Bellingen.
“On most of the coastal rivers, the head of navigation for boats has been called the Boat Harbour; Bellingen not excepted. It so happened that when a post office was opened at Bellingen, it was called Boat Harbour, and remained so until 1889 or 1890, when a few residents met and suggested the post office be called Stratford. This name was the idea of the manager of the local branch of the Australian Joint Stock (AJS) Bank, Mr Smythe.
“The postal authorities refused the name, suggesting that of a defunct office, of which they still had the date stamps. Then on the advice of the Lands Department, who wanted to know what was wrong with the name of the town, “Bellingen” was adopted.”
Note:- We are currently trying to narrow down the exact date of Bellingen’s naming.
Edited by Jim Sweeney and S Syder.