25 February 2011

The Boggo Boggle


How did the street 'Boggo Road' get its rather unusual name?

The origins of the name 'Boggo' has been the subject of speculation over the last century, with a number of different theories being put forward.

The first and most widely-believed theory suggests that the name is derived from Boggo Road (now Annerley Road) itself, which apparently was so named because in wet weather it became a 'boghole', a term later corrupted to 'boggo'. I have interviewed people who have lived most of their lives on Annerley Road and who will swear black and blue that this is the true origin of the name. However, we are talking about a transition that would have occurred in the 1840s/50s, long before any of these people were born, and there is no record of the road being known as 'boghole'.

The major problem with this theory is that the name of 'Boggo' was applied to a neighbouring district before the road itself. The 19th-century district of Boggo covered the modern suburbs of Fairfield, Yeronga and Rocklea, approximately as far east as the current Ipswich Road. This area was first mentioned as 'the Boggo scrub' in local newspapers in 1851, and the term would probably have been in use among non-Indigenous locals during the 1840s. The road itself developed during the 1850s as a winding bullock track from Clarence Corner, and was not named until the 1860s. This chronology shows that the district had the name before the road, and the origins have nothing to do with the road itself, which got its name simply because it ran to Boggo.

Why the Boggo district was so named is not known. If the word was derived from 'boghole', then this area could well have been that boghole. It is low-lying and flood-prone (as seen during the recent floods) and until the 20th century was home to a number of waterholes and swamps. It was a distinct environmental zone, lush with jungle, and would have been culturally demarcated in the Aboriginal landscape. The northern border of this area, the Annerley Road ridge, was an Aboriginal pathway and the site of two distinctive leaning trees. It has been claimed that these trees were known to Aborigines as either Bloggo or Bolgo, which was corrupted to Boggo and gave the area its name (a similar story places these trees at Clarence Corner). A problem with this is that Boggo, Bolgo or Bloggo do not appear in any Aboriginal language glossaries, although Bolgo was used in an 1858 baptismal register.

As you can see, there is still some mystery surrounding the word Boggo.

(Boggo Road was renamed Annerley Road in 1905).

For more in-depth discussion of this subject, see the February 2011 Queensland History Journal from the Royal Historical Society of Queensland which features my article 'What's in a name? The rise, fall and comeback of Boggo'.

08 February 2011

Bill Kearney 1912-2011: A Good Man

Bill Kearney, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane, 1941.
Bill Kearney, Boggo Road, 1941.

One of the Boggo Road greats died in Brisbane on 25 January 2011, just two days short of his 99th birthday. His name was Bill Kearney and he worked as a Queensland prison officer from 1935-77. He was also the oldest member of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society.

Bill was an inherently good person who was massively respected by both officers and prisoners alike for his courage, fairness and ability to defuse conflict with his words.

I met Bill on a number of occasions and was always impressed by his sharpness and his legendary memory, as he recalled specific conversations with specific people from over half a century earlier. I thought it best that any tribute to him in 'The Boggo Blog' come from those who actually worked with him, and the following was written this month by Bill's former colleague Tom King:

'Reflections upon the life of William Michael Kearney
On the 28th of January 2011, Queensland’s oldest surviving prison officer was laid to rest, two days short of his ninety-nine years.

Bill Kearney was born on the 27th of January 1912. After a period employed in commercial activities, he joined the Prisons Department as a warder at Boggo Road prison. During the following forty-two years, Bill proved to be an inspiration and mentor to warders joining the then expanding high, medium and minimum security state farms. He was also well regarded by most prisoners for his predictable and fair expectations regarding conduct and industry.

Prior to his retirement from the position of superintendent at the Wacol Prison in 1978, Bill served at Boggo Road, Stone River prison farm (then located on the Ingham to Abergowrie road in the mid-north of the State), the old city-based Rockhampton prison, and later at the new Etna Creek site. Bill enjoyed his time at Townsville and the other centres, but when he was promoted to Wacol as superintendent he felt that he was part of the most productive, educational and well-resourced prison in the State. Until a fortnight before his passing he lamented the stupidity and incompetence that saw good staff of proven ability retrenched, and the facility abandoned.
Bill Kearney, former Boggo Road Gaol officer. received the International Prison Officers Medal in late 2010.
Bill, pictured here with his daughter, received the
International Prison Officers Medal in late 2010.

During his early years Bill was a sprint and distance champion cyclist, tennis player of note, and old-time dance specialist. However, it was the family that provided him with the greatest pride and satisfaction. This brother officer was appreciated by those staff who worked with him, and by the younger generation of officers he has become acquainted with since retirement. The November Prison Officers reunions provided many hours of pleasure and recreation. John Peel’s gesture in presenting Bill with the International Prison Officers Medal while Bill was a resident at the Holy Spirit Home was timely.

“Kearney’s the name” was Bill’s standard greeting to all. This former workmate was never given a run on the rails. He battled appeal courts and some obstacles along the road to superintendent. His exceptional performance in the G Wing riot and the recapture of Kel Langley after the shooting of officer Kevin Crowley was never appreciated or given the recognition that would apply to any other vocation in the public service. However, the qualities of ‘Kearney’ needed no special applause or promotion. This was evident during his last period at the Holy Spirit Home, where he was so well and consistently regarded.

Rest in Peace, brother warder/prison officer Bill. We will remember you, as did such a broad range of family, clergy, society and officers in attendance at your final Liturgy, conducted by your son and Catholic priest, Rev. Father Ray Kearney.'