The Nicholson River


As is already apparent from research into Ireland’s family background, his middle name, ‘Nicholson’, has all sorts of resonances. Among these is a river in Australia. The Nicholson River in north-west Queensland was named after the composer’s Great Uncle William Alleyne Nicholson (1816–53), the brother of Ireland’s grandfather John. Traditionally owned by aboriginal peoples including the GanggalidaWanyi, Maga-Kutana, Wakabunga, Nguburinji and Mingin, this important river was named  by the well-known explorer Ludwig Leichhardt (1813–c.1848) during an expedition in 1845. He had met William Nicholson as a student at the University of Göttingen. In his journal Leichhardt wrote that Nicholson’s generous friendship had not only enabled me to devote my time to the study of the natural sciences, but to come out to Australia…. The complete journal can be read HERE.

The state government wants to improve school attendance rates in Doomadgee in far north Queensland.

Nowadays indigenous communities live in the vicinity. For example, the town of Doomadgee west of Burketown (seen right) is positioned alongside the Nicholson River. Once a mission site whose inhabitants were part of the notorious ‘Stolen Generation’, Doomadgee is now an aboriginal reserve.


Leichhardt, Ludwig (1847). Journal of an overland expedition in Australia, from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, a distance of upwards of 3000 miles, during the years 1844–1845, London, T. & W. Boone.




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