Irish street names in Wanaka

Wanaka Sun column by Pam Dovey - Upper Clutha Historical Records Society  

Irish street names in Wanaka 

When gold fields were discovered in the Upper Clutha area in 1861 and 1862 there was an urgent need to establish boundaries of mining claims and towns.

The first survey of the proposed township of Wanaka was made in March 1863 by surveyor John Aitken Connell. He named the town Wanaka after the lake, but never named the streets. A month later the name of the town was changed to Pembroke. We presume this was done when he returned his field books to the Land & Survey Department in Dunedin, run by chief surveyor John Turnbull Thomson.

On September  1, 1940, the name was changed back to Wanaka due to confusion with the town of Pembroke and Lake Wanaka. Maoris may have called it O-anaka, Wanaka-moana or simply Wanaka (E. Shortland; H. Beattie).

Pembroke was named after a member of the Pembroke family who, as the Hon Sydney Herbert, was the Colonial Secretary in the United Kingdom for a brief period in 1855.

John Aitken Connell was born and educated in Glasgow, Scotland.  He arrived in Auckland in 1859 but moved to Dunedin and by January 1863 he was in partnership with Thomas Moodie, advertising themselves as surveyors and land agents.  Connell and Moodie were the first full-time stockbrokers in New Zealand. They helped to establish the first New Zealand stock exchange in 1867 in Dunedin.

There may have been a homesick Irish settler who worked in the surveyor’s office, as 44 street names in the Upper Clutha area are named after locations in Ireland. Albert Town has 11 and Wanaka has nine.

Dungannon Street (now Ardmore Street), Dungarvon, Lismore and Ardmore streets are coastal villages or towns in County Waterford.

Youghal Street (pronounced yawl) is a seaside town in County Cork sitting on the estuary of the Blackwater River.

Dunmore Street, which originally went through Pembroke Park, is another popular tourist and fishing village in County Waterford.

Brownston Street may have been transposed from Brownstown - there are at least three counties in Ireland with a Brownstown.

Roche Street is named from Rochetown, a suburb of Cork City, or Castletownroche a townland in County Cork.

Regarding Helwick Street, we wonder if the ‘w’ was transposed instead of the ‘v’ in the naming process as Helvick is a headland at one end of Dungarvan Bay in County Waterford.   

Sources:  Upper Clutha Historical Records, The Queenstown Courier Winter 2016

Cover photo: Plan of the town of Pembroke.  J.A. O'Connell - Surveyor - April 1863.


 A River to Cross – Albert Town Posted: 12 Jun, 2017 

 A look back at Pembroke (Wanaka Township) Posted: 13 Jul, 2017 

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