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'.

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