Why has the town of Victor Harbor dropped the ‘u’ from the spelling of its name?

The spelling of the town’s name has been a topic of conversation and often controversy for many years. The story goes right back to the earliest years of settlement in the Colony of South Australia.

Local Aboriginal people referred to the current site of Victor Harbor as Poltong. Early whalers, who spent the season in the vicinity, referred to the piece of land as The Point or Police Point, which was in reference to the shape of the coastline and the Police Station site.

Original Victor Harbour

On 26th April 1837, Captain Richard Crozier anchored his ship HMS Victor in the lee of Granite Island and named the sheltered waters Victor Harbour. It is important to note that his spelling of harbour referred to the waters around The Point, not the land.

Victor Harbour was declared a legal port during the time of Governor John Hindmarsh. For a time, the early newspapers referred to it as Victoria Harbour in honour of Queen Victoria who became Queen of the British Empire on 20 July 1837.

Port Victor

in 1863, the township was laid out on the shores of Victor Harbour and port facilities were established. The new town was officially known by the Harbour’s Board as Port Victor and this name was in common use by the 1870’s. The first jetty structure known as Victoria Pier was opened and then extended to Granite Island in 1875. By 1882 the Screwpile jetty and breakwater had been completed. For the next 50 years, the town was officially known as Port Victor but newspapers of the day frequently used Victor Harbour or Victor Harbor when reporting local news. The spelling of harbor and harbour seemed to be interchangeable. In 1912, the first copies of the local paper, Victor Harbor Times and Encounter Bay and Lower Murray Pilot were issued. Two years later, in June 1914, the Victor Harbor ward was separated from the Council of Encounter Bay and named the Corporation of Victor Harbour. At the same time, The Harbour’s Board issued a proclamation stating its intention of changing the name to Victor Harbor, but the drafting of the proposal was overlooked.

The Dropping of the ‘u’

At the beginning of January 1921, it was reported that the French barque Eugene Schneider narrowly escaped shipwreck when it struck Eclipse Reef off Port Victoria in South Australia. Her master had been given instructions to proceed to Port Victor but, because of the similarity of names had, gone to Port Victoria on the Yorke Pennisula.

This event, along with postal confusion, led to the change of name to Victor Harbor. By mid-June, the SA Governmant Gazette announced that all six harbours in South Australia would be spelt without the ‘u’.

Returning the ‘u’

While this may have seemed to be the conclusion to the spelling debate, it was not the end of the story.  In 1922, the local paper rebranded and changed the spelling to Victor Harbour in its title. In 1926, the new railway station was opened with the sign spelt Victor Harbour. This sign still exists today. In 1932, the local paper changed its name to Victor Harbour Times. From the 1920s to 1960s, the press and most citizens used the harbour spelling, although a Vacuum Oil Road map of 1940 spelt the name as Victor Harbor.

Now to Victor Harbor

Transition from Harbour to harbor took some years with both spellings still being used throughout that time. The Victor Harbour High School stood across the road from the District Council of Victor Harbor!

By the 1970s, most clubs, organisations and businesses were using Victor Harbor and the local people were gradually adjusting to no ‘u’ in their town’s name. The Victor Harbor Times dropped the ‘u’ from its title in 1978. In October 1975, the District Council of Encounter Bay and the corporation of Victor Harbor merged to become the District Council of Victor Harbor and in 2000, this name was changed to the City of Victor Harbor.

This points towards the end of Victor Harbor’s naming story…. for now, at least!

If you are looking to find out more about Victor Harbor’s story, call in to the National Trust Museum, we would love to see you!