Nov 26 2011

How Holbrook got its name


Some towns are named after local geographical features, many are named after early settlers, some after prominent people at the time they were established, and some are apparently named at random.

At different stages in its history, Holbrook appears to fit into each of these criteria.

Tonight I had dinner with one of the 1200 people who come from this Sourthern NSW town. (thanks Johnno)

Holbrook is famous for having the only set of traffic lights you come across when driving from Sydney to Melbourne (a pedestrian crossing). It also houses the Australian National Pottery Museum (?)

But it is most famous for having a full size submarine sitting beside the highway (in Germanton Park).

As it is 360km km from the nearest seaport, it is reasonable to wonder how it came I be there.

The first Europeans to pass through the outcry aound Holbrook were explorers Hume and Hovell (1824). The town was first settled in 1836 as ‘Ten Mile Creek’, but became known as Germanton when a German immigrant (John Pabst) established a pub there in 1840. Germanton became the official name of he own in 1876.

Germantown seemed somewhat unpatriotic when WW1 broke out in 1915.

Someone read in the paper about an English submarine captain, Lt Norman Douglas Holbrook, who had been awarded a VC. Although Holbrook had no connection with the area and never even been to Australia, someone thought that Holbrook would be a better name for the town. Random.

Given this strong connection with submarines (!), when the Oberon class was decommissioned in 1995 the council purchased a section of the hull of HMAS Otway, and later the navy donated a fin to the town.

Inspired, the local population decided to mount a fund raising campaign to buy the whole sub from the scrap iron merchant. (I didn’t think to ask Johno if he contributed).

Funds were a bit light on until Gundoola Holbrook, the widow of naval captain John, donated about $100,000 to the campaign. This was enough to buy the outside shell of he submarine (above the water level)

So now when you are stuck at the traffic lights in Holbrook, just after you have visited the Austrakian Museum of Pottery, don’t forget to visit Germanon Park and a look at the huge sub.

And remember to silently thank the random submarine captain John Holbrook, without whom this sub wouldn’t be where it is.

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