Narrandera Railway Bridge

The first inhabitants of the area now known as Narrandera were the Wiradjuri people. The name "Narrandera" is said to be derived from the Wiradjuri word "Narrungdera" which means "place of lizard or goanna".

The first white man to pass through the district was the famous explorer, Captain Charles Sturt. Sturt camped on the edge of the Murrumbidgee River on 10th December 1829. A memorial to the explorer is situated near the camp site.

Many Irish settlers followed Sturt into the area to take advantage of the rich loam that surrounded the Murrumbidgee River and by the end of 1833 the entire Narrandera frontage of the river had been claimed for farming purposes. The Narrandera area continued to increase in importance as it proved an ideal spot to cross the Murrumbidgee River for those heading to the Victorian gold fields. Most of the development at this stage had been concentrated on the southern side of the river but because this area flooded easily development moved to the northern side away from flood areas.

In 1860 the government surveyed the area and the village of Narrandera was proclaimed in 1863. However, it wasn't until 1885 that the Narrandera Borough was proclaimed with the first election on the 2nd June. The amalgamation of Yanco Shire and Narrandera Municipal Council in June 1960 led to the formation of Narrandera Shire Council.

1858 saw paddle steamers being introduced as a means of transport. Bullock land travel proved costly, unreliable and for passages very uncomfortable. Paddles Steamers meant that the cost of transporting goods not only reduced but also new important markets were opened for pastoralists in Melbourne and Adelaide.

To cope with the demand for more land Chinese workers were brought in to clear it. The Chinese proved very hard workers as they were keen to earn money to support their families still in China. The Chinese were also well known for growing vegetables and for their cooking skills. They introduced a new style eating to the district.

Like many other isolated areas Narrandera residents believed that rail transport was needed to ensure the growth of the area. The first train to arrive in Narrandera came in 1881 with a rail link between Grong Grong and Narrandera. With rail the development of the village of Narrandera expanded with new buildings being erected near the railway while many remained near the river. Many of these historic buildings can still be seen today. With the railway came a dramatic increase in Narrandera's population with up to one thousand people moving to the area.

In 1906 Narrandera took on the title of "Gateway to the MIA" with the building of the irrigation canals that links the drier areas of Leeton, Griffith and Coleambally with the water in the Murrumbidgee River. This was an important development in the area as land could be used for more intensive farming such as rice and citrus fruits.

In 1938 Narrandera saw another surge in population when the No8 Elementary Training School was established at the airport. The aim of the school was to train pilots to fly tiger moths aircraft. These aircraft and their crew played an important role in World War 11. The training school was very successful, training thousands of men until 1945 when it was closed. A museum associated with the training school can be found in the Narrandera Park.

Another population increase occurred in the 1970's when twenty koalas were released with the formation of a Koala Regeneration Park. The koala numbers have continued to grow and they have made Narrandera their home. The koalas can be seen today throughout the area known as the Narrandera Common which is between the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Canal and the Murrumbidgee River.

The two main villages in the Narrandera Shire are Grong Grong which takes its name from the Aboriginal term meaning "bad camping ground" and Barellan. Barellan was proclaimed on the 19th May 1909 one year after the rail link between Temora and Barellan was established. Well known National and International tennis champion Evonne Goolagong (now Evonne Cawley) grew up in Barellan. Evonne spent her early years in Barellan where she began playing tennis.

Other well-known residents of Narrandera Shire are novelist Thomas Alexander Browne and poet Father Patrick Hartigan. Thomas Brown moved to Narrandera in 1864 as the manager of his brother-in-law's sheep station and he also served as a magistrate on the Narrandera bench. While in Narrandera he began his writing career and in 1865 he had his first book published under the name of Rolf Boldrewood the following year. Browne's most famous novel was "Robbery Under Arms" which was based on the bushranger era.

Father Patrick Hartigan is better known as noted poet John O'Brien. Father Patrick was the parish priest at St Mel's Catholic Church for twenty-seven years. During this time he wrote his collection of verse entitled "Around the Boree Log". Some of the well-known poems in this collection were Said Hanrahan" and "The Old Bush School".

Although not well known nationally, Narrandera benefitted greatly from well-known philanthropists Frank Duval, Dr Harold Lethbridge and Robert Hankinson. These men's donations to the community gave Narrandera a strong foundation to build upon especially in the field of health, education and history. Robert Hankinson gift of the Royal Dolton fountain is one admired by many today in Victoria Park.

One former resident of Narrandera who plays an important role in today's society is Marie Bashir, the New South Wales Governor General. Marie spent all her young life in Narrandera and considers Narrandera her home.

Bill Gammage more recently took his place in the history books when he wrote and published a book on the history of the Narrandera Shire. This book was used as a text book in many Universities throughout Australia. This complete history of the Narrandera Shire is available to purchase from the Narrandera Information Centre.


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