The elusive Evelyn explained

Karen Phillips explains the name Evelyn and where it came from in this month's column.

By Karen Phillips

It pains me that some people still persist in claiming that Mt Evelyn was named after Evelyn Heales, daughter of Richard Heales, Premier of Victoria 1860-1861 (for whom Healesville was named). Not true!

Mt Evelyn took its name from its station, which was originally called ‘Olinda Vale’. That name pleased nobody. For one thing, ‘Vale’ (valley) was misleading for a station up on a ridge. Residents of Olinda were annoyed that passengers to their town took the train to Olinda Vale, only to find themselves stranded miles from their destination. The station served South Wandin (Silvan) residents, but items addressed to them were often carried on to the next station, Wandin. They wanted Olinda Vale station to be re-named ‘South Wandin’.

The Commissioner for Railways agreed that a name change was desirable, but refused to countenance another ‘Wandin’ station.

At a meeting with the Commissioner in October 1907, Lillydale Shire Councillors Rouget and Wallace again pressed for the name ‘South Wandin’, which the Commissioner again refused. They then suggested ‘Evelyn’ as ‘a name appropriate to the district’. This the Commissioner accepted, and the station name was changed accordingly. No further explanation was given for why ‘Evelyn’ was considered ‘appropriate’. It was most likely a reference to the County of Evelyn, in which Mt Evelyn is located.

Most of the 31 counties in the Port Phillip District proclaimed in January 1849 were named after titled British parliamentarians. Saxby’s Victoria, Place Names and their Origin (1907) states that Evelyn was named after ‘William J. Evelyn, MP for Surrey West 1849-1857’.

The Evelyn family was a distinguished one that included the 17th century writer John Evelyn, and had contributed at least seven members to Parliament. William John was not elected till later that year; he would also represent Deptford 1885-1888. The County name probably honoured him more as head of the Evelyn family than for any achievements of his own. The surname is pronounced with a long E: ‘Eevelyn’.

Mt Evelyn was almost certainly named after the County of Evelyn, which was named for William John Evelyn MP. While I wish the Lillydale Shire Councillors had been more specific about their reason for proposing the name ‘Evelyn’ for the station, I can tell you it was definitely not named after Premier Heales’ daughter Evelyn.

How do I know? Because Premier Heales didn’t have a daughter named Evelyn!