Beach name divides opinion

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
The beach, 60km east of Albany, was a safe haven for whalers 170 years ago.
Camera IconThe beach, 60km east of Albany, was a safe haven for whalers 170 years ago. Credit: Laurie Benson.

It is a question likely to start a debate at the dinner table, or ahead of a fishing trip: Is it Cheyne, Cheynes or Cheyne’s Beach?

No clear consensus exists.

An online poll of Albany Advertiser readers resulted in 150 votes for Cheyne and 1100 votes for Cheynes but official documents show little consistency.

Even the beach’s entrance has been caught up in the debate — originally printed Welcome to Cheynes Beach, a pedant scratched off the “S”, only for another to replace it.

You might be confident, but somebody you know is likely as sure of their opposing opinion.

Attempts to put a lid on this local debate sparked a search of pre-federation newspapers, local government documents and interviews with those in the know.

Three variations exist, but only one can be correct.

Come on a journey through time.

Even the beach’s welcome sign has become a victim in the debate.
Camera IconEven the beach’s welcome sign has become a victim in the debate.

It’s the 1870s.

The WA colony is growing, and pioneer George McCartney Cheyne has recently died.

Cheyne (1790-1869) came to Albany from Scotland and spent decades here as a merchant, master whaler, grazier and sandalwooder — and the operator of a private port at the bay sharing his name.

The region was largely JUempty when he landed in King George Sound in the 1830s.

Cheyne bought land from Albany to Cape Riche in his quest to build a fortune.

Soon he had developed a reputation as a welcome host to whalers at the beach central to this debate.

In an era when contemporary newspapers spun dramatic tales of whaling and of death at sea, He invited sailors to rest, process their catch and trade at his isolated bay.

Reports from the time named his safe haven Cheyne’s Beach — which, according to digitised records, was the dominant name of the era.

Between 1870 and 1890, records show 18 uses of Cheyne’s — and only two reports of Cheyne or Cheynes.

However, when the State Government struck apostrophes from all landmarks 30 years later, Cheyne’s was effectively eliminated from contention.

Cheynes Beach Caravan Park owner Joanne Marsh claimed to know the true answer, saying she had received confirmation from Main Roads and the City of Albany.

“It’s officially Cheynes without the apostrophe,” she said.

“It was his beach, so it’s Cheynes Beach.”

Joanne Marsh is confident - it’s Cheynes Beach.
Camera IconJoanne Marsh is confident - it’s Cheynes Beach.

That view is shared by fisherman Tony Westerberg, whose family has worked in the waters off the beach for four generations.

“That’s what it’s been known as in the family,” he said.

However, to muddy the waters is the fact several landmarks across the region were given Cheyne’s name following his death, with a glaring constant in each.

They included Cheyne Creek, Cheyne Ledge, Cheyne Head, Cheyne Island, Cheyne Inlet and Cheyne Point.

Perhaps, then, it figures the bay would be Cheyne Beach.

The bay is known for its whales.
Camera IconThe bay is known for its whales.

That would fit with official records.

Recent Department of Transport and City of Albany documents call the area Cheyne Beach and nautical maps allegedly name the area Cheyne Cove.

Cheyne or Cheynes — there is little consensus and the debate could seem to go on indefinitely.

Museum of the Great Southern programs officer Malcolm Traill said the Cheyne or Cheynes issue was similar to other local debates: Is it King George, King Georges or King George’s Sound — Frenchman, Frenchman’s or Frenchmen Bay?

“Locals will call it what they want, even if there’s a definitive ruling by the naming authorities,” he said.

Mr Traill, for the record, sided with Cheyne Beach.

“This is the sort of thing that will divide anybody,” he said.

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