IF you have ever done the Australian football pools, you will know that Down Under there is a place called Woolloomooloo. It is worth three points on the coupon just trying to say it.

But there was also a Woolloomooloo on the edge of Durham City.

Billy Mollon has become intrigued by it when he began researching Emily Wardropper, who was just 16 when she died in 1871. She was buried in St Giles’ churchyard, and a haunting picture of her memorial is in the Gilesgate Archive.

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The Northern Echo:

ANCIENT CHURCH: St Giles', where Emily Wardropper is buried, with Durham Cathedral in the background. Work on St Giles' began in 1172.

According to Billy’s research, Emily was born in the home of her parents, Thomas and Jane, in Gilesgate, which was called Woolloomooloo Cottage.

Woolloomooloo is in Sydney, Australia, and seems to have got its name in the 1790s when the first settlers heard the native Aborigines talking about “wallabahmullah” – a young black kangaroo.

But why should a cottage in Gilesgate be named after an Australian joey?

Billy has a theory.

Wardropper is a very distinctive Durham name. It is a name that came over with the Normans. A “wardrobe” to them was an official who was in charge of the robes and garments of a household.

In 1854, a Thomas Wardropper died in Sherburn Hill in Durham. He was a well known engineer who, in 1836, had gone to Russia with the country’s first mainline passenger engine, Provorny, which had been built by Robert Stephenson & Company in Newcastle. Wardropper spent three years working on the Tsarskoye Selo Railway, Russia’s first public railway which ran from St Petersburg to Pavlosk, making sure Provorny ran on time.

So was this pioneering Thomas Wardropper related to Emily’s father, who was also called Thomas Wardropper? Indeed, just as the first Thomas Wardropper had gone to work on Russia’s first railway, had Emily’s father gone down under to work on Australia’s first railway – the Sydney Railway, which opened on September 26, 1855?

And while there, had Mr Wardropper fallen in love with the wonderful name of Woolloomooloo and brought it back to Durham with him?

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