What's in a name?

Picturesque Coromandel Valley in the Adelaide Hills was one of the earliest settlements in the fledgling Colony of South Australia.

The area’s name commemorates the 3-masted ship HMS Coromandel, which was built in Canada in 1834.

Under the command of Captain William Chesser, the Coromandel moored in Holdfast Bay on Gulf St. Vincent on 12th January 1837. It was the first migrant ship to arrive in the new Colony following its Proclamation on 28th December of the previous year.

According to State Library of South Australia records, the ship brought 156 passengers (124 adults and 32 children). These emigrants were all under the age of 26 years and were a mix of labourers, mechanics and shepherds – they had skills much needed in the new colony.

The tent community established by earlier emigrants in the sandhills surrounding Holdfast Bay must have appeared quite appealing, because on the day the Coromandel arrived a number of crewmen absconded (the most common theory suggests 10 absconders, but some accounts advocate more). They literally headed for the hills.

There are various theories about the route travelled from what is now suburban Glenelg, but the location of the cave in which they sheltered is known (it is on private property). A majestic gum tree provided an excellent vantage point from which the deserters were able to keep an eye on Holdfast Bay to see when the Coromandel weighed anchor and set sail.

All but one of the deserters returned to the plains to surrender following the departure of the ship. They were promptly placed in custody and held to appear in court on 16th March. As no prosecutor was available on the nominated date they were all set free.

Although now well and truly part of the Adelaide outer metropolitan area, Coromandel Valley retains much of the strong sense of community from its early years as a Hills village.

This is reflected in the willingness of individuals to get involved as volunteers with a wide range of local community organisations, schools, sporting groups and service clubs.

Note: The lookout tree was a local landmark for years, as the sailors had cut footholds/steps up the trunk to give an easier climb. It eventually fell victim to bushfire, but survived long enough to be a feature of an entertaining re-enactment staged by Coromandel Valley community groups during the State’s Sesquicentenary (150th Anniversary) celebrations in 1986.