Get on down to the ‘ups’

If you want to feel ‘up’, get to Perth and drive down.

Here is a part of Australia that has embraced our Aboriginal heritage, at least with the naming of towns.

There’s precious little recognition of British lords or politicians who never set foot in this country, or the honouring of places far, far away, such as Perth, itself, which pays homage to Perth in Scotland.

Instead, there’s the overwhelming influence of Aboriginal dialects, mixed with a touch of confusion.

yallingup smiths beach

Try these southern Western Australian towns as an example of what we’re talking about: Myalup, Binningup, Warawarrup, Wokalup, Burekup, Dalyellup, Gelorup, Dardanup, Tutunup, Wonnerup, Yalyalup, Yoongarillup, Kalgup, Kaloorup, Metricup, Cowaramup, Yallingup, Wilyabrup, Gnarabup and Boranup.

Oh, did we mention Wagerup? This was originally spelt as Waigerup, but a man painting a sign for the railway station misspelt it and this misspelling stuck.

Theories abound as to why these places, and others, have ‘up’ in their names.

What we do know is that they come from the Aboriginal Noongar language. Less definite is whether ‘up’ relates to a watering place, a meeting place or simply a place. 

Wagerup, for example, translates to ‘the place of the emu’. Nearby Yallingup means ‘place of caves’, while Wokalup, further south, means ‘the place of the carpet snake’, which were common until tiger snakes moved in.

Somewhat disappointingly, many of the ‘ups’ are in the Margaret River Shire and it’s not certain who Margaret was. The best guess is that she was Margaret Whicher, a cousin of John Bussell, the founder of Busselton, which begs the other question: why isn’t it Bussellton with two l’s?

margaret river 

Not far from Busselton is Cowaramup, which is believed to come from the Aboriginal word cowara meaning purple-crowned lorikeet. Locals like to call it Cowtown, combing ‘cow’ from its name and the fact that it has a history of dairy farming.

cowaramup western australia

Nearby you’ll find Wonnerup. Wonna was a fighting stick made from the peppermint tree, while Wilyabrup is believed to derive from worlyabaraap, a Noongar word meaning ‘northern sky’.

Nannup, which sits between Jalbarragup and Barrabup, has a main street of considerable heritage significance and has featured in at least one movie.

Many of these ‘up’ towns have populations of not much more than 100 people. Yoongarillup, which was actually settled by Spaniards, recorded 72 residents in the 2016 census.

Yes, you can go on and on studying the origins of the ‘ups’. Or you can sit on a beach in one of them and watch the sun set over the ocean, sipping a local wine and ponder life on the western coast of our great country.

Where is your favourite ‘up’?

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