Why is the city of Bendigo called what it is?

Related: Abednego goes into private hands

If it weren’t for the birth of English bare-knuckled boxer William Thompson this week 206 years ago, the city of Bendigo might be known by a very different name today.

It is believed that Bendigo was so named because of a local shepherd, who was famous for boxing and thus claimed the same nickname as the more famous Englishman.

Thompson’s nickname of ‘Bendigo’, by which he was widely known, is understood to have been a corruption of Abednego, the Biblical nickname he was given.

But the pugilist and Methodist evangelist never even visited the Australian town which bore his name – he spent his life in Nottinghamshire, where he died in the town of Beeston in 1880, at the age of 69.

The city was known unofficially as Bendigo from its early days, but about 1853-54 it adopted the official name of Sandhurst, so called for a military college in England.

Following a public poll in 1891, the city’s name reverted back to Bendigo.

Despite its somewhat unusual origins, the name is perhaps suitable for a city built on gold – in Spanish, ‘bendigo’ means ‘bless’.

A painting of William "Bendigo" Thompson, the source of the city of Bendigo's name.

A painting of William "Bendigo" Thompson, the source of the city of Bendigo's name.