History of Raby

"My plea is a simple one - why the hell should a lovely suburb like Raby be saddled with such a despicable name!"

So wrote a disgruntled resident in a letter to the Macarthur Advertiser in July 1993, setting in train months of public debate. "It sounds like some dangerous disease from some fetid place, " the author claimed, demanding the "atrocity" be changed.

He found some support, but vocal opposition as well. "The wealth of history hidden in the names of places and landmarks of Macarthur should not be lost," insisted one reader. Another wrote: "A rose by any other name is still a rose".

So where does this controversial name come from? After all, the old Raby property of wool pioneer, Alexander Riley, stood on the other side of the Scenic Hills, in Leppington!

The answer can be found in the year 1975, when the site of the modern suburb was little more than farm paddocks, and the upper reaches of Bunbury Curran Creek flowed gently through its hills.

Campbelltown Council, busy preparing for the area's expected urban growth, suggested naming the proposed suburb "Curran" - after the creek. (It is widely believed the name came from Jack Curran, axeman and assistant to early surveyor, James Meehan).

But the idea found little support, and calls were soon being made for it to be named instead after an early farming property, like so many other Campbelltown suburbs.

But here lay a big problem. Modern Raby stands on the border of two old land grants - Varroville and St Andrews. And these names had already been snatched.

So in 1976 the Geographical Names Board approved the title "Raby", using the justification that the new suburb was to be located off Raby Road, which for more than 150 years, had trailed across the hills linking the old Riley family property to Campbelltown.

Alexander Riley (1778-1833) was a merchant and pastoralist who in 1809 was granted 3000 acres on the corner of Bringelly and Cowpasture Roads.

He called his estate Raby in honour of his mother, who had been Miss Margaret Ra by. Apparently "Raby" had also been the name of a family property in England. He used his new Australian farm for sheep breeding, and also introduced the first cashmere goats into the colony.

But in 1817, Riley left his younger brother in charge and sailed back to England to direct his colonial operations from the comfort of London. From this vantage point, he arranged fro Saxon merinos from Germany to be sent to the colony, where they thrived at Raby.

John Macarthur of Camden Park was jealous of Riley's success and profits, writing to his son in England that the Macarthur sheep were "far superior" to Riley sheep. Nonetheless, between 1827 and 1830, Raby flocks won every gold medal for sheep awarded by the Australian Agricultural Society at its annual shows.

For years the property name was synonymous with the surrounding area, and the original name of the Leppington school was Raby Public School.

As a suburb of Campbelltown, "Raby" began to be developed as private subdivisions in the late 1970s. In 1978, Council decided to use "airplanes of the world" as its theme to name the new streets being created.

The first land releases were located between three roads named in honour of famous fighter planes - Mustang Drive, Sopwith Avenue and Spitfire Drive.

A quick glimpse at an aircraft history book would no doubt reveal the names of dozens of other streets developed over the next decade.

Some of these would include: Mirage Avenue, Hurricane Drive, McDonnell Street, De Havilland Crescent, Zeppelin Street, Thunderbolt Drive, Boeing Crescent, Swordfish Avenue, Shuttleworth Avenue, Liberator Street, Stuka Close, and Corsair Street.

It is interesting to note some of the proposed aircraft names Council refused to use for various reasons - Vampire, Messerschmitt, Mosquito, Zero and Phantom.

By the early 1990s, most of the suburb had been completed, although a few pockets were still being released. As late as March 1992, Council was allocating additional street names such as Arrow Place and Skyfarmer Place.

Today it is one of the more prestigious suburbs, boasting picturesque streetscapes and reserves such as Manaleuka Park. This was not only the name of a farm which stood on the site in the 1970s, but was also the name of the Lancom estate that saw the creation of nearby streets.

The old path of Bunbury-Curran Creek has now been developed as Raby Sports Complex and Sunderland Reserve (the latter named after an adjoining road).

An old farm dam has been retained as Lake Burrendah Reserve, which is Aboriginal for "place of the swan". Nearby Kooringa Reserve is derived from the Koori word for "sheoak." Blain Reserve notes an old family which had lived in the area since the 1800s.

The first school in the suburb was Heathfield Public School, which was named after a local farm owned by the Blain family. The school stood in demountables to the west of the modern site of Raby shopping centre.

But in 1986 this temporary school closed and the Robert Townson Public School opened instead. This was named after a local pioneer (see Varroville), and the Robert Townson High School opened next door in 1987.

"Campbelltown's Streets and Suburbs - How and why they got their names" written by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson, 1995, published by Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

Reproduced with permission of the authors.