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"What's in a name?"

Blog #2


My Big Question

When was the compound form of the words Fyans + ford,  aka Fyansford,  first used?

My   dipstick survey..

What do maps tell me?

What do artists tell me?

What does the

Geelong Advertiser tell me?

My guestimate based on the above would be that while all variants (Fyans Ford, Fyan's Ford, Fyans' Ford and Fyansford) can be found to be used in a somewhat haphazard manner, the tendency was to refer to the location in 1840-1850 as Fyans Ford, then Fyan's Ford / Fyans' Ford and from 1856 as Fyansford.


Dip-stick Survey of Term Usage

Maps                                                     Artists                                  Geelong Advertiser

1846-60       Fyans Ford                                                   1846       Norton   Fyansford                   1859     Jan.       Fyans Ford

1850             Fyans Ford                                                   1847       Gilbert   Fyansford                                 Mar.      Fyansford

1856             Fyansford                                                     1857       Gill         Fyan's Ford                               April      Fyans' Ford

1890             Fyansford                                                     1860       Calvert  Fyan's Ford                               Sep.       Fyans' Ford

                                                                                                                                                                              Dec.       Fyansford


  1. ​The Wathaurong, earliest residents of the Fyansford locality, used the region between the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers as an eel trap and would have used the shallow crossing of the Moorabool just upstream from the junction of the two rivers. While their name for the area at the confluence of the two rivers was  'Bukar Bulac', it is not known whether they had their own name for the ford across the Moorabool.

  2. For the early European settlers, the shallow section of the Moorabool was a natural crossing point for the road between Geelong and the Western District.

  3. The first European settler to take up residence along the banks of the Moorabool River at a location adjacent to the ford was Captain Foster Fyans, who in 1837 arrived to take up a position as police magistrate for Geelong.

  4. It wasn’t long before the ford was given its logical English name “Fyans ford”.

  5. As the route to the Western District became more established and the number of settlers in the area grew, local businesses sought to take advantage of positions by the ford. Thus, a local community began to form; one which in time needed a name. Why not a name that truly identified the hub of the community - Fyansford...

  6. Therefore, in my opinion:

  • As the ford did not belong to Foster Fyans it should not be referred to as Fyans’ ford.

  • If the wish was to indicate a particular ford, it could be referred to as Fyans ford.

  • A compound word could well be formed to name the local community, ie. Fyansford.

  • As Fyan was not the gentleman's name it should never be referred to as Fyan’s ford


Note: Punctuation wise:  

  • It is standard form to use an apostrophe-s ('s) to indicate possession. If the possessive word already ends in ‘s’ the extra ‘s’ may be omitted.

  • A compound word may comprise two or more words joined together. A hyphen is not required.

My Question #2 

Who was Fyans?

" Fyans ... in September 1837 sailed for Port Phillip as first police magistrate of Geelong, accompanied by his former batman as district constable, two subordinate constables, a clerk, and twelve convict retainers. After tramping from Melbourne, he established himself on the Moorabool River, at Fyansford, and at once, tackled the problem of siting a town. He persuaded both Robert Hoddle and Governor Sir George Gipps against Sir Richard Bourke's choice, Point Henry, and obtained machinery and prison labour from Sydney to make the present site possible by means of the Barwon breakwater. From being a largely self-regulating local watchdog, judging absconders and others, planning a jetty, suppressing the sly-grog traffic, he was ordered to Portland in 1839 to investigate reports that proved false, and thus with a few companions made the first recognized land journey from Geelong. This difficult tour through the bush, among hostile natives, was the prelude to his appointment in 1840 as commissioner of crown lands for the Portland Bay pastoral district, half the size of England. Supported by sixteen troopers, originally all transported for desertion in America, and later by the native police, Fyans acted firmly and fairly, seldom unwisely, over a great range of duty, regardless of risk and effort, while rival settlers spread everywhere, most dispossessing the blacks..." 

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography

Foster Fyans.jpg

My Question #3 

What is a ford?

A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading, or inside a vehicle getting its wheels wet. A ford may occur naturally or be constructed. Fords may be impassable during high water.

Source: Wikipedia

1846 Fyansford by Charles Norton.jpg


Paintings of Fyans ford

by Charles Norton

1847 Fyans Ford by Charles Norton.jpg


My Question #4 

Why was the ford important?

"As the name suggests, the Moorabool River crossing at Fyansford was originally a ford. Long before the arrival of white settlers ... the people of the Wathaurong tribe inhabited the area. It was they who first used this shallow point on the Moorabool as a ford. Their name for the area was Bukar Bulac; 'the place between two rivers'. In the earliest days of European settlement, the new arrivals often made use of the tracks and fords used by the indigenous population so it is not surprising that Captain Foster Fyans - recognising it as a key location - chose this place to make camp upon his arrival in the district .... Fyansford did become an important location, providing access for the wool-growers of the Western District, to the ports and wool markets of Geelong.

Then, as European settlement spread out across the Moorabool to the west, traffic on the Great Western Road (later the Lower Western Road and now the Hamilton Highway), increased. As the squatters expanded their flocks, dray-loads of wool needed to be carted to the port at Geelong. To aid the passage of these drays and the path of other travellers, the ford was reinforced with earth and rocks..."

Source: Jo Mitchell's Four bridges and a ford - the ford

oxen-and-wagon B&W.jpg

My Question #5 

For how long was the ford in use?

From 1837(Foster Fyans' arrival) the ford became increasingly important to both locals and travellers. As usage increased so the ford became more substantial with maintenance and repairs falling to the locals in the community. It was, however, inevitable that sooner or later an all-weather bridge would be required.

In 1854 the first bridge, of wooden construction, was built across the Moorabool.

Thus, the ford was in constant use through the period: 1837 - 1854 (17 years)

Timber bridge at Fyansford, built 1854 (

Timber bridge at Fyansford, built 1854 (image c1866-1880) 

Image held by the. State Library of Victoria

My Question #6

Where was the ford located?

"... a good idea of where the ford was actually located, namely around 350m upstream of the current bridge. This is confirmed by the 1861 geological survey map - Quarter Sheet 24SE Geelong - produced by surveyor Richard Daintree. Looking at the minutes from a City of Greater Geelong council meeting from 24th September, 2014, I am not revealing any long lost secret here. The  minutes mention a plan 'To promote the original track to the ford through appropriate interpretation', indicating that the site of the ford is well-documented ... I recently went for a wander along this section of the river to get an idea of where the ford was and what it looks like today. There is no obvious sign of where it was located and whilst it is quite shallow along this stretch, it is worth remembering that in the 1840s, the upper reaches of the Moorabool had not been dammed as they have today, so water levels may have been different..."

Source: Jo Mitchell's Four bridges and a ford - the ford

1847 sketch of Fyansford and the Moorabo

1847 sketch of Fyansford and the Moorabool River, showing both the ford and Swan Inn (State Library of Victoria)

Location of Fyans ford (Jo Mitchell).jpg

Hypothetical location of Fyans ford (Jo Mitchell)


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