In the September 2017 Newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey, the editors report the death of Vern O’Brien. Affectionately known as the “grand old man of Australian toponymy”, O’Brien was instrumental in researching and documenting the origin of named geographical features throughout the Northern Territories. Among his impressive list of scholarly accomplishments, O’Brien was the Surveyor-General and the Director of Lands in Darwin and served as a prominent member of numerous scholarly toponymic organizations such as the Committee for Geographical Names of Australia, the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory, and the Historical Society of the Northern Territory.
The officials of the Australian National Placenames Survey (ANPS) recently announced the passing of Australian toponymist, William Noble, the former editor of the ANPS Bulletin. Among his many publications is the New Holland Dictionary of Names. This reference offers detailed information on thousands of personal names in Australian use. William, or “Bill” as he was most often called, is survived by his wife and their three sons.
Bill was the editor of the ANPS Bulletin, the predecessor of Placenames Australia, and designed the original masthead. Bill’s work in toponymy was just one aspect of his wider interest in name studies (onomastics), and in 2003 he published Names from Here and Far, the New Holland Dictionary of Names. The dictionary records and explains thousands of personal names in Australian use and is a celebration of Australia’s ‘glorious mix of names from over 150 cultures’.