Woonona street named after premier Jack Lang

Lang Street Woonona, controversially named after former NSW Premier Jack Lang in 1934. Photo: Google Street View

Lang Street Woonona (sign circled), controversially named after former NSW Premier Jack Lang in 1934. Photo: Google Street View

By MICK ROBERTS ©

Former NSW Premier Jack Lang

Former NSW Premier Jack Lang

THE McKinnon family settled in the Illawarra during the 1850s, first at Berkeley and later drifting north to Bulli and Woonona.

Neil McKinnon owned a large tract of farming land around what is today Hillcrest Avenue, Woonona. His family home, “Corry” sat in Luxor Street.

The farming property was subdivided for a housing estate in the early 1920s. The South Coast Times reported on June 13 1924 that the contractor, Mr Kelly, was “making headway on the roads of Mr. Neil McKinnon’s subdivision”.

The scenic surroundings of the new subdivision are unrivalled, and already prospective buyers are placing their respective fancies. The sale will take place about the end, of September, by which time the roads will be finished, and metalled in accordance with the demands of the Shire Council.

As the roads were laid out, there was one existing road that ran through the middle of the farm known locally as McKinnon’s Road, and leading westward towards today’s Mountain Road, off Balls Lane. Today it is known as Lang Road.

The naming of the road caused some controversy in 1934 when Bulli Shire Council decided to re-label it after controversial Labor premier, Jack Lang. John Thomas Lang, usually referred to as J.T. Lang during his career, and familiarly known as

Jack, was premier of NSW for two terms (1925–27 and 1930–32). He is the only premier of an Australian state to have been dismissed by the state governor.

Woonona resident Betsy Wynn wrote to the Labor dominated Bulli Council objecting to politicising the Shire’s streets, stating councillors should be instead naming roads after local pioneering families. The South Coast Times reported on Friday January 19 1934:

1934 Bulli Shire Council advertisement announcing the naming of the Woonona street.

1934 Bulli Shire Council advertisement announcing the naming of the Woonona street.

Regarding council’s intention to name road in McKinnon’s Estate as Lang street, advising that ever since this 20 ft wide road was granted to Mrs McKinnon by the Quarter Sessions, such road has been known as McKinnon’s Road, and she cannot see any good reason for changing the name. If a personal name is required, why not select a person who has done service in the Shire for the benefit of residents. Surely one such person has a stronger claim for perpetuating their name in the Shire than Mr. Lang, a class politician. She, therefore, objects to this road bearing that name.

Crs. Quilkey and McCarter moved the letter be received. Cr. Thompson said he did not know who the street was being named after but agreed that many local people had done service. He moved as an amendment that the matter be referred to the Woonona Progress Association with a suggestion that name having some local significance should be given this street. The clerk, said the objection had been received within the necessary time. Cr. Quilkey said the suggestion for the new name had come from the residents of that street. It did not necessarily mean the name referred to any politician. Cr. McCarter objected to the matter going to the Progress Association, as it was a political body. The motion was carried.

The naming of the street after Jack Lang made news across the country, with the Mirror in Perth, Western Australia even taking up the story. It reported on January 27 1934:

Lang is evidently not a dark-haired boy with one resident of Bulli, who strongly objected, as the owner of five allotments in the locality to McKinnon’s-road Woonona, being renamed Lang-street. She contends that the name of the local person who gave his services to the shire had a stronger claim to perpetuation than that of any class of politician. Bulli Council decided against the objection, on the ground that a greater number of residents in the locality suggested Lang-street.

A compromise was met, with another street in the residential estate named after the McKinnon family.

Neil James McKinnon, who lived in his residence, “Corry”, in nearby Luxor Street, died aged 71, the year after Bulli Shire Council snubbed his family in favour of a controversial Labor premier Jack Lang.

McKinnon is buried in Bulli Cemetery.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2015

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