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Marking time in June 2020

Monday 22 June 2020

The names of trees

William Pettigrew (1825-1906) migrated from Scotland in the ship Fortitude, and arrived in Moreton Bay in 1849. He es­tab­lished the first sawmill in Brisbane in 1853, and was active in community and political affairs.

I have only recently discovered that he also recorded the names used by Yuggera, Gubbi Gubbi and Badtjala people for some of the trees in their country. This reflects the connections he de­veloped with the traditional custodians of the land.

vignette portrait

William Pettigrew, circa 1875, a portrait photograph by Daniel Marquis re­pro­duced from a black and white copy print at the State Library of Queensland​—​I have added a touch of colour to approximate the appearance of the original albumen print. [SLQ]

Pettigrew presented a paper​—​The habitat and peculiarities of some of our timbers​—​to the Queensland Philo­soph­ical Society in 1877. Here are snippets from his paper that include the names of the trees told to him by the Aboriginal people he worked with in the Brisbane and Wide Bay districts:

“Moreton Bay pine (Araucaria cunninghamii)
native names: Brisbane​—​cumburtu; Wide Bay​—​coonam

Cypress pine (Callitris columnaris)
native names: Brisbane​—​pooragri; Wide Bay​—​coolooli

She pine (Podocarpus elata)
native name​—​kidneywallum

Red cedar (Cedrela toona)
native names: Brisbane​—​mamin and mugurpul; Wide Bay—​woota

Silky oak (Grevillia robusta)
native name​—​tuggan tuggan

Beech (Gmelina leichhardtii)
native name​—​cullouen

Blackbutt (Eucalpytus pilularis)
native name​—​toi

Syconcarpa lauriafolia
native name​—​peebeen

Swamp mahogany (Angophora species)
native name​—​boolerchu

Ironbark (Eucalyptus siderophloia)
There are two sorts of this timber, one gray coloured, native name​—​tanderoo; the other dark-red, native name​—​biggera

Bloodwood (Eucalyptus corymbosa)
native name​—​boona

Spotted gum (Eucalyptus maculata)
native name​—​urara

Blue gum (Eucalyptus botryoides)
native name​—​mungur

Bastard box (Tristania conferta)
native name​—​weerabi

Flooded gum (Eucalyptus grandis)
native name​—​toolur

In his paper Pettigrew makes many practical observations about these trees (and about others for which he does not give Ab­ori­ginal names), and the suitability of their timber for dif­fer­ent uses​—​evidence of this interesting man’s enquiring mind.

All of this reminds me of a remarkable piece of furniture con­nec­ted with William Pettigrew: a davenport desk that he com­mis­sioned to be made in Bris­bane by the cabinetmaker John Wilson Carey and the wood carver Matthew Fern. The desk was a show piece for thirty-seven species of local timber.

The Pettigrew davenport desk, now in the collection of the Queensland Women‘s Historical Association.[Photograph by Judith McKay]

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