More Full Names

On April 3, 2014 · 6 Comments

I enjoyed compiling a list of Full Name counties in the United States earlier this week. In a comment "The Basement Geographer" improved the article significantly with a list of similarly-constructed counties in Canada. It was great work on his part. Readers should refer back to his comment and check it out.

That led me to wonder whether I might be able to find examples in other nations. I focused on places where English was an official language either by itself or alongside others, due to my lack of ability to work with other languages. The upside of this approach was that it left lots of nations for the international 12MC audience to investigate if it so chooses.

I found one example in Australia and then I hit the jackpot in South Africa.

Deas Thom(p)son

County of Deas Thompson, Queensland, Australia

Queensland, Australia contained the County of Deas Thompson, named for Sir Edward Deas Thomson (1800-1879), a "public servant and parliamentarian" in New South Wales, and chancellor of the University of Sydney. As with a couple of examples in the United States (Jo Daviess instead of Daveiss and Anne Arundel instead of Arundell), authorities screwed-up Thomson’s name and in this case inserted an extra letter. Seriously, why would someone fail to proofread a name before affixing it permanently to the landscape?

The county, from the very little data that I could gather, was situated between Rockhampton and Gladstone on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. I’m certainly no expert in Australian governance although the lack of any tangible information or web presence led me to believe that the so-called County of Deas Thompson couldn’t possibly retain much authority.

I’d never heard of Deas Thomson, the man, although that was hardly surprising given my lack of depth in Australian history. Fortunately the Australian Dictionary of Biography provided a remarkable amount of information, and frankly much more than I cared to review although I included the link in case it sounded interesting to anyone else.

Deas Thomson Street, Vincentia, New South Wales, Australia

Thomson was a competent administrator albeit a lesser functionary in Australian history which is probably why his name adorned a minor county in rural Queensland, a short residential street near the Jervis Bay Territory — and possibly Thompson Point in the general vicinity of the aforementioned county (map) although I couldn’t confirm that last one.

Deas Thompson Point, Northwest Territories, Canada

More inexplicable was Deas Thompson Point (again with the extra letter), a cape in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It wasn’t labeled on the online maps I examined although the coordinates were included in the Natural Resource Canada geographical names data base. Thomson did spend some time in Canada according to his biography although it didn’t seem to merit geographic representation. Clearly he had friends in high places looking out for his good name.

South Africa

Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, South Africa

I’m not sure any nation will have more full name geographic units than South Africa. It had 52 districts in total, which were roughly analogous to counties in function, and a dozen of those incorporated full names.

  • Alfred Nzo District Municipality: African National Congress political leader (source)
  • Chris Hani District Municipality: General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party (source)
  • Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality: First President of Zambia (source)
  • Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality: ANC official; part of delegation that negotiated peaceful transition of government (source)
  • Fezile Dabi District Municipality: ANC leader; author, poet, philosopher (source)
  • Frances Baard District Municipality: "Organiser of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League and Trade Unionist" (source)
  • Gert Sibande District Municipality: "Organised farm workers, member of the ANC, accused in the Treason Trial of 1956, helped expose working conditions in Bethal, provincial president of the Transvaal ANC" (source)
  • Joe Gqabi District Municipality: "Photographer, Reporter, Member of the ANC and MK" (source)
  • John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality: "Trade unionist, member of the ANC and General Secretary of SACTU, Robben Island prisoner, banned person" (source)
  • Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality: Nelson Mandela obviously requires no further explanation.
  • Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality: "historian, political activist, author and medical practitioner" (source)
  • Pixley ka Seme District Municipality: "Lawyer, journalist, author member of the South African Native National Congress, launched the SANNC newspaper, Abantu Batho, President-General of the ANC" (source)

Admittedly, South Africa was a unique situation. All of these geographic names arose after the peaceful dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990’s. They served as a tangible means to recognize the leaders of the struggle for equality, replacing names that had been imposed by colonial powers.

On April 3, 2014 · 6 Comments

6 Responses to “More Full Names”

  1. David Overton says:

    Australian counties do not have (and never have had, AFAIK) any administrative function. They are purely a subdivision of the states for cadastral purposes (land title registration, etc). I suspect most of the population probably don’t even know they exist and certainly couldn’t tell you which county they live in. This is probably why you had so much trouble finding information about the county of Deas Thomson.

    Australia has three levels of government: federal, state/territory and local (usually “city” in urban areas or “shire” in rural areas). There are some exception, e.g. the Australian Capital Territory has no local government level (or rather the Territory government is the local government as well).

    • On one hand I think to myself that they couldn’t possibly have named a more obscure unit after Thomson; on the other hand, that’s one more thing than has ever been named for ME.

  2. John of Sydney says:

    In Australia counties are not administrative units but are only divisions used for land surveying purposes.
    Sydney , where I live is (generally) the County of Cumberland and is divided into parishes – which have nothing to do apart from the name with church parishes.
    Sydney and the rest of the country is divided into local government areas called (with no claim to consistency) into cities, municipalities, shires or councils. The boundaries of these local government areas has no connection with the parish boundaries.
    I live in the suburb of Hurlstone Park which is located in the City of Canterbury – an adjoining suburb Dulwich Hill is in the Municipality of Marrickville. Tovernmenthere is no discernable difference in the operations and styles of the two councils.
    Unlike the USA local government has a limited range of functions – as examples policing and education are state government functions.

    • David Overton says:

      Hi John, I’ve been doing some further research on Wikipedia (,_New_South_Wales) and was surprised to learn that the County of Cumberland was one of the few Australian counties ever to have its own government. The Cumberland County Council existed between 1945 and 1964 was was elected by the local government councillors within its borders. Its purpose seems to have been to provide an integrated town planning function throughout the Sydney metropolitan area. It sounds similar to the Greater London Authority in the UK which was created in 2000 and sits above the London borough councils. Of course it turned out to have too much power so was abolished by the NSW government.

      When I was a kid, my dad (who, incidentally, grew up in Dulwich Hill before moving to Melbourne) had a map of the Sydney area with the County of Cumberland marked. It was the only clue I had that Australia had counties until I came across an old map of Victoria a few years ago (that is now nicely framed on my living room wall) that shows the Victorian counties.

  3. Philip Newton says:

    Germany has about 300 districts, which are probably roughly comparable to US counties.

    However, at a quick glance, I don’t think any of them are named for people – which would have surprised me, in any event, since they are (in my experience) always named geographically: either according to a populous town, a river or two, a valley, mountain, or other geographical feature, or for the traditional name for a local region.

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