Friday, 9 May 2014

The Snark was a Boojum - Street name changes in Tauranga, Part 1

Aerial View of Tauranga, 1937
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 99-432
A surprising number of Tauranga streets have different names from those they were originally given.

The Avenues

First Avenue was originally just ‘the Avenue’. The numbering of the avenues is said to be the idea of the first Tauranga Town Clerk in the 1880s, J. H. McCaw, who was born in the United States. However, the wholesale changes in the streets now named 12th Avenue to 23rd Avenue were made long after McCaw’s time, in 1956, when:
    Briarley Street/Harvey Street West - became 12th Ave
    Morris Street - became 13th Ave
    Roberts Street - became 14th Ave
    Hunter Street - became 15th Ave
    Wrigley Street - became 16th Ave
    Hospital Street - became 17th Ave
    Pitt Street - became 18th Ave
    Tanner Street - became 19th Ave
    Davidson Street - became 20th Ave
    Macdiarmid Street - became 21st Ave
    Tebbs Road - became 22nd Ave
    Sellars Street - became 23rd Ave.

Aerial View of Tauranga, 1937
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 04-005

Boojum Street, aka Dunton Drive 

Tauranga City Council decided on a nautical theme for naming new streets in Welcome Bay. Names were chosen to commemorate ships and explorers with New Zealand associations. Accordingly, if you take a walk in the area you can find streets called Endeavour Avenue, Achilles Close, Pamir Place, D’Urville Way and Resolution Drive. Or you can stroll along the unlikely-sounding Dingadee Street, which is also named after a ship. The Dingadee was an Australian vessel, which ran aground during a voyage from Lyttelton to Westport in 1890. 

But you cannot walk along Boojum Street any more. The street is still there, but it has a different name.

The name ‘Boojum’ comes originally from Lewis Carroll’s fantastical long poem, The Hunting of the Snark, in which a preposterous search is undertaken by a boat-load of odd characters for a mysterious being, the Snark, which in the end turns out to be a Boojum. It is not at any time made clear what a Boojum is – or, indeed, a Snark. The main characteristic of the Boojum is to cause its hunters to ‘softly and suddenly vanish away’.

The Boojum which gave its name to the street in Welcome Bay was a steamship. She was built in 1880 in Dumbarton, on the Clyde, by William Denny & Bros, and brought in sections to Port Chalmers, where she was assembled by Morgan & Cable Ltd. She came to an untimely end in 1887 when she went to the rescue of the Northumberland at Napier on 11 May. She turned turtle and was swamped in the breakers, with the loss of four of her five crewmen. Everyone from the Northumberland was saved, though with considerable difficulty. The wreck of the Northumberland was buried for years but reappeared during the 1931 Napier earthquake.

In 1977 the residents of Boojum Street petitioned the Council for a name change. The street became Dunton Street, after George Dunton who had owned land in the area in 1919. Although Dunton is an appropriate name for the street, as it relates to a local family (it also sounds more ‘dignified’ than Boojum), it seems a shame to have lost the memory of the steamship and its gallant crew.

Information from Tauranga 1882-1982, Tauranga: Tauranga City Council, 1982; Press, 17 March 1890 (; and New Zealand Shipwrecks: over 200 years of disasters at sea, Auckland: Hodder Moa, 2007.

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