Aussies set the record straight after Brit mocks city's name

Australia has a plethora of weird and wonderful place names, but there is some rhyme and reason to the name given to Townsville.

Australia isn't short of peculiar place names but one Brit's attempt to mock an Aussie city for its appellation has proven misguided.

"Amazing creativity when naming settlements in Australia," the man said on a popular Facebook group dedicated to interesting discoveries on Google Maps, sharing a screenshot of Townsville and garnering more than 300 laughing face reactions.

"Do you know how many towns it takes to create a ‘ville’?" another soon asked.

In fact, his post sparked hundreds of comments. Some pointed out the name shared that of the fictional city in the popular cartoon Powerpuff Girls, however a wave of users took it as an opportunity to share other weird and wonderful place names across Australia, with Humpty Doo and Nar Nar Goon among the most popular.

An aerial view of Townsville.
Townsville is the largest city by population in North Queensland. Source: Getty

Yet a handful were were eager to set the record straight and share that Townsville's name doesn't simply derive from the size of the settlement.

Those educated users correctly noted the city was in fact named after the hugely-successful English merchant Robert Towns.

Controversial history of Robert Towns

According to the City of Townsville council, the city received its name in 1866 in honour of Towns, whose legacy remains a controversial one. He is often dubbed the 'Godfather of the slave trade' and brought South Sea Islanders to Queensland to work on cotton plantations.

Robert Towns in a black and white photo sat in a chair.
Robert Towns pictured in 1873 shortly before his death. Source: Mitchel Library, State Library of NSW via City of Townsville

At the height of his success, before financial difficulties in his later years, he had business interests right across the world.

"His ships transported sandalwood from the New Hebrides; whale oil and beche-de-mer [sea cucumbers] from the Pacific; sugar, tea, rice and coffee from Asia; gold-seekers to California; convicts and cheap labour from India and China. His motto was to sail “to Hades and back if there was a profit in it", the City of Townsville notes.

Townsville now has a population of more than 180,000, the largest in North Queensland where it is seen as the region's unofficial capital.

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