Much of the research into the Shire’s past by the Brunswick-Tweed Historical Society is a collaborative endeavour over time – including their investigation into the naming of Mullumbimby’s dominating landmark, Mount Chincogan.
Local history buffs sourced previous research, government and other institutional records, as well as regional and local newspaper articles from more that a century ago, to help confirm the origins and meaning of ‘Chincogan’, according to the treasurer of the Brunswick Valley Historical Society (BVHS), Susan Tsicalas.
The research was presented in BVHS’s newsletter in May, 2018 and shows that Mt Chincogan was the Shire’s original phallic symbol, well before any sculptures were constructed, and decommissioned, by the local Council.
The research notes a reference by pioneer colonialists of the area, Henry French and Charles Jarrett, that ‘Thuncogin is a prominent park and mountain north running’ and that ‘cogin’ in the local Indigenous language meant ‘North Pole’.
A year earlier, a local constable with the surname of Boyd, advised The Anthropological Society of Australasia that, ‘Low behind high in front, [is] a name given to a rather remarkable looking mountain at Mullumbimby’.
The Richmond-Tweed Regional Library’s 1984 booklet Place Names of the Tweed, Brunswick and Upper Richmond Regions was also referenced and says the word ‘chincogan’ more specifically means ‘northward-facing male genitals’, and that the area had a ‘likely use as a fertility site’.
The Science of Man journal of 23 May, 1904 backs this up, suggesting that ‘Thun’ means ‘Penis’ in the Indigenous language local to the Mullumbimby District.
Spelling variations are easily explained by the difficulties and variations early colonialists had trying to translate, into English letters and words, the sounds of Indigenous languages that they hadn’t heard before.
The BVHS works collaboratively and members share various titbits with each other as part of the ongoing and cumulative research process.
‘Different people collect different information, so you get a variety of information to build up a more complete picture,’ Susan said.
The internet has meant plenty of potential research material is easily at hand, especially as more and more of the country’s newspaper archives, both major metropolitan and the regionals, are available online.
Historical copies of the Northern Star and the Mullumbimby Star are ‘a very important and often a major source for local historians,’ Susan said.
Mount Chincogan’s fellow peaks, Tincogan and Mincogan, were probably dialect variations of Chincogan, Susan said.
According to BVHS research: ‘The plural “Chincogan Mountains” is annotated on the earliest extant map of the “Parish of Billinudgel” (4 September, 1883). But in November 1889 the select committee looking at the proposed railway route through Mullumbimby made no reference to “Chincogan”, simply stating that “The route will be eastward of what are called the Twin Peaks”.’
With the advent of the Mullumbimby Star in 1905, ‘Mount Chincogan’ came into more regular use.