To the Adelaide people of the late Victorian era, one of the few aboriginal people who was well-known was a so-called ‘fringe-dweller’, Tommy Walker. He frequented and camped in the Eastern Park Lands in the second half of the 19th century.
Tommy, or to give him his correct name, Poltpalingada Booboorowie, was not a Kaurna man. He was a Ngarrindjeri man who was born on the shores of what we call Lake Albert near the Murray mouth. Many of his fellow Ngarrindjeri people took up living in the nearby Point MacLeay mission, or Raukkan, that was set up in 1959.
Poltpalingada didn’t appreciate the restrictive confines of the mission so he and his companion Mary came north, to live in Adelaide in the 1880’s – mostly in the Park Lands to pursue a life of more freedom. He was a renowned mimic with a “sharp wit and acid tongue”. Tommy Walker spoke fluent English and his popularity with the public was so great that the government gave him a pass for free travel on public transport.
His begging was popular with the public because it resembled street theatre in which he would recount his most recent arrest, and jokingly send up the latest magistrate who had sentenced him
Tommy Walker died in 1901 and his death was marked by a relatively long story in The Advertiser on page 4. But he was not King Rodney.
The actual “King Rodney” or Ityamai-itpina was a Kaurna elder who lived well before Tommy Walker, at the time European settlement began in the late 1830’s. There are no known photos or even sketches of King Rodney.
King Rodney or Ityamai-itpina had a connection with the Adelaide Plains as a general area, not necessarily this Park area alone. He was a Kaurna elder with whom the colonists supposedly “negotiated” occupancy of the Adelaide plains. Little did he know what was going to happen to Kaurna land over the next few decades!
The name Ityamai-itpina is hyphenated. That is a a clue to its meaning. In the Kaurna language, “itpina” means “father” so Ityamai-itpina means Ityamai’s father. We’re not sure what he called himself before his son was born!
It was in the late 1990’s that the City Council began deciding what Kaurna names to give to each of the Parks. The Council consulted a Kaurna language expert, Professor Rob Amery of the University of Adelaide who made a series of suggestions for Park names. The name Ityamai-itpina was assigned in 2002. Fifteen years later, in 2017, the Council gave it an English name as well – King Rodney Park, referring to the same Kaurna person, Ityamai-itpina.
FROM HERE – WALK WESTWARDS, BACK ALONG BARTELS ROAD, TO THE STARTING POINT OF THIS TRAIL ON THE CORNER OF EAST TERRACE