Whoorabooraby … a beautiful place name that would have been lost were it not for the efforts of passionate local historian and Nambucca Headland Museum volunteer, George Micolich.
It encompasses the area on the northern bank of the Nambucca River, beside Watts Creek, and is now the Pelican Caravan Park and the Kingsworth Estate turnoff on the Old Pacific Highway.
The chain of events that started George on his historical sleuthing, began when he received a photo of the first local school, dating back to 1894.
“I began researching the families in the area at that time, as well as the name and both paths have thrown up some interesting discrepancies,” George said.
“One Gumbaynggirr version of the name, which comes from the Muurrbay Language Centre’s head linguist Gary Williams, tells how the great creator, Birrugan, stopped at the location to cut the bark from a tree to make a canoe and paddle across to what we now know as Gumma. In this case, the name comes from ‘Whoora’ (to remove bark from a tree) and ‘-boora’ (to paddle across).
He said another version came from a local Macksville woman Annie Bragg, who lived there up until 1919.
“In transcripts from an audio tape made in 1983, she says that ‘whoora’ meant ‘plenty’ and ‘booraby’, ‘resembling a bear’ and was a nickname given to one short, dumpy fellow with a beard, who reminded the children of a (koala) bear.
“And the third version is that the derivation comes straight from what was understood to be the local Gumbaynggirr word, ‘Whoora/booraby’ meaning ‘abundance of koala (native) bears.”
And the story of the school, or was it two schools … well that is something for another day.
If anyone has any additional information or knowledge please email George on firstname.lastname@example.org.