The Fuss Over The Name

After the Competition

The African Realty Trust, in an advertorial when they announced the winners in The Transvaal Critic on 16 October 1903, wrote the following:

…Perhaps it is fortunate , after all, that this name was suggested by so many, for while the prize becomes less to each, a greater number receive a goodly amount as it is, and they have the satisfaction of knowing that their name was so generally popular and will be the more likely to prove so in use.

… It is not to be expected that everybody will be pleased at first, any way. It stands to reason that almost everyone will feel a certain disappointment, naturally, and many a one will say, “Oh, my name was lots better than that!!” But we all knew that everybody copuld not win, and it is not an Anglo-Saxon trait to take it hard when we lose a prize, in any game.

However, the more we think of this name and the longer we use it the better we will like it, for it must appeal to all as an excellent choice, selected on practical grounds, as the Judges’ letter asserts.

In conclusion, we take this opportuinity to extend heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed to this contest, as co-operating with us in the appropriate naming of this New Suburb, which is soon to become an important part of Johannesburg.

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

The naming competition didn’t end with the winners being declared. This story had legs and the name of PARKHURST happened to also be the name of a famous prison on the Isle of White in England. And this association to a British Gaol unleashed a wave letter writing to newspapers in Johannesburg. The Editor of The Transvaal critic on 23 October 1903 had the following to say:

“I must congratulate the Committee chosen by the African Realty Trust, Limited, to select a name for Johannesburg’s new suburb! They have succeeded in arousing an amount of public interest in the ‘selection’ that should be regarded by the A.R. Trust as eminently satisfactory. ‘Parkhurst’, the name picked for the place, is likely to prove huge in the advertisement line. Here a selection!”

A correspondent, signing himself ‘Pro Bono Publico’, writes me that, bearing in mind that ‘Parkhurst’ is the name of an English prison, it may prove somewhat embarrassing for future residents in our charming suburb if they continually receive letters endorsed ‘Try Cell Sixteen’, ‘Not known in the Lifer’s Wing’, ‘Discharged on May 3rd, but wanted on another charge’, ‘Escaped on June 8th – supposed to have gone to the Seychelles’, ‘Hung on March 5th’, and suchlike damaging critiscisms? Confusion, he says, is certain to arise, and he concludes that it would be well if the much criticised name were changed ere someone gets a dose of the cat-o-nine tails by mistake.

Another dubbing himself ‘Fair Play’, asks to be allowed to draw attention to the manifest unfairness of the ‘New Suburb’ competition. All the original senders of names, who hailed from all parts of South Africa, were utterly put out of court by the change of conditions, and expressions of amazement and dissatisfaction are heard on all sides. He goes on to suggest that:

“If it were necessary to chose the name of a prison or lunatic asylum, it would have been well to have taken one with a good old fashioned ring about it, such as Newgate, Portland, Broadmoor, Colny Hatch, or Hanwell. If it were deemed advisable to choose one from abroad, surely Sing-Sing, the well-known American gaol, would have hit the mark!”

He trusts that the names of various districts of ‘Parkhurst’ will be suitably selected – “might I suggest Lag’s Lane, Sandbagger Street, Burglar’s Buildings, Coiner’s Chambers, Maniac Mansions, Cranks’ Cresecent and Hallucination House.

The Parkhurst Poem

In the same editorial as the above letters, another reader was moved to compose and send in a poem about the Naming Competition. It is repeated in full below.

The Rand Daily Mail on 16 October 1903 contained a letter from somebody who signed himself ‘Cantab” which said that Parkhurst simply meant “grove-grove”
The three Judges are comemorated in three of the five distinctive street names in Parkhurst and may be found in the small section to the south-west of the Braamfontein Spruit off Victory Park Road near Pirates Club.
The other two are Kings Place (named after King Edward VII of Great Briton) and Parkhurst Road near the bottom of 11th Street.

Three judges on the country called,
To help them name a valley;
But when they chose we stood apalled,
At Holt, Quinn and Rogaly.
The name too surely showed no wit,
And wasn’t here invented.
‘Twas one that seemed to better fit
A place for men demented.

Twelve thousand Scribes suggestions sent;
But some were plainly jestors,
Who seemed on pun and mischief meant
While teasing tired testers.
A month was spent ere judgement came;
Whatever did beguile ‘em,
To hit on Parkhurst – just the same
As Isle of Wight’s asylum?

How pleased the folk who here reside
Will feel at the nomenclature.
All “Parkhurstites” will swell with pride;
‘Tis only human nature!
In ages hence when Jo’burg grows,
And strangers ask the story,
The answer’ll come – “We’re, we suppose
A famed Reformatory!”

If wit has weight it seems the plea,
That they have half an ounce’ll
Be recognised in all the three
Who grace the City Council.
And when the streets have grown apace,
And houses high have risen,
They’ll p’r’aps forget they named the place
The same as Parkhurst prison!

1 photo(s) Updated on: 16 Mar 2015