The Mysterious Origins of the Bogey Hole

'Wildly alluring - Place of the Heart' by Frances Thompson Newcastle Herald 16 October 2010 p.4-5

We attended an information session yesterday organised by Andrew Ling from the LPMA, and the designers Steve and Barney Collins who took us through their rationale and draft plans to address the safety concerns for Newcastle’s historic Bogey Hole. They want to retain the wildness of the place, and fix up the slippery stairs problem by floating a walkway over the top of the original stairs, then curve around to a platform. It looked pretty good. More information and draft plans can be accessed here on the LPMA’s website – Restoration of safe access to Newcastle’s Bogey Hole . You have until December 10 to comment to If you are interested in attending future info sessions email:

Origins of the name ‘Bogey Hole

by Gionni Di Gravio

The Bogey Hole Baths, under Shepherd’s Hill, belonging to the Corporation, have been enlarged, deepened, and have an iron railing placed around them for safety. Major Morrissett, the second last Governor of the Penal Settlement, made the walk now so popular round the Upper Reserve or Horse-Shoe Bend. He was very fond of sea bathing, and had a hole excavated in the rocks, which he used as a bath. The place was for years referred to as a “Commandant’s Bath”. It was afterwards considerably enlarged and called the “Bogey Hole,” by which it has ever since been known.
– John Windross & J.P. Ralston. Historical Records of Newcastle 1797-1897. Newcastle, 1897. p.40

We haven’t found anything referring to the excavation of baths in Morrissett’s testimony to Commissioner Bigge, and neither would we expect it. It was probably a ‘foreign order’ for the Commandant’s pleasure to pull a number of convicts from another task to his private bath. I have asked NSW State Records to look into whether there exists any records of its original construction.

The earliest reference to it we have found (located in January 2012) is a Conrad Marten drawing dated the 13th May 1841 and held in the State Library of New South Wales. It was labelled “Morrisets Bath”.

76. Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841

Item 76 Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841
from Sketches in Australia, 1835-1865 by Conrad Martens (1801-1878)
View Album:

This drawing then enabled us to locate a mention of “Morriset’s Bath” in the Sydney Morning Herald for the 16th April 1851 p3:

Possessing a good climate and means of sea-bathing, Newcastle is much frequented by invalids and visitors during the summer season, and would be much more so were house-room less difficult to be procured, and the facilities of sea-bathing encreased ; some improvements to this end have lately been made. Formerly “the ladies’ corner” of the beach, and Colonel Morriset’s bath, were alone available for bath-ing purposes, but now a ladies’ bathing-house, which is much in request, has been constructed near to the breakwater on the harbour side. The city contains many good and respectable looking houses, although none of them can lay any claim to architectural beauty.
– See: Port of Newcastle

The earliest mention we have found thus far that in the newspapers as the ‘Bogey Hole’ is from as early as 1861. (Source: Trove)

A search through the meanings of ‘bogey’ prove quite interesting, as all are derivations refer to the supernatural.

bogey – In English folklore a horrible evil spirit or hobgoblin, usually big and black, who scares children. The “Bogey-Man” or “Boogie-Man” arrives at night and appears in bedrooms and at the sides of beds. In appearance the bogey often looks like the dark silhouette of a man. The bogey is called the bwg (ghost) in Welsh, bogle in Scotland, and Boggelmann in German. Among other names are bug-a-boo, boo, bugbear, bock, and boggart. The Irish puca is similar. Bogey also is another name for the DEVIL.
– Rosemary Ellen Guiley. The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. p.33

Bogy, bogey. is related to ‘bogle’ and ‘bug’. Earliest 19th century use as nickname for Satan. Hence the proverb bogey, the “colonel” at golf. Perhaps ultimately cognate with Puck.
Bug = Spectre from Welsh ‘bwg’, ghost.
Bogle [Archaic] spectre (c.1500) Probably from the Celtic cf. Welsh bwgwl, meaning terror.
– Weekley, Etymological Dictionary.

Bogey – probaby derived from the Slavonic bog meaning god.
Other forms of sprite, spectre or goblin are:
bog-a-boo, boo (Yorkshire)
boggart, bogle (Scotland)
boggle, begest, bar-gest, boll, boman and bogey allied to boll (Northern) – meaning apparition.
– Lewis Spence. Dictionary of Occultism

Colonel Bogey was the imaginary player in golf that the other players were supposed to compete with, instead of with one another.

The scholar who did the hard yards tracking down the etymological origins of the word ‘bogey’ appears to be John Fiske who published his work around 1872. His analysis appears on pages 141-143 of the edition below:

Myths and Mythmakers: Old Tales and Superstitions interpreted by Comparative Mythology by John Fiske.
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1902.

He believes the “Bogie” to be identical with “Puck” and the Slavonic “Bog”, “Baga” of the Cuniform inscriptions, “Bhaga” of Old Aryan in the Sanskrit of the Vedas and “Bagaios” the Phrygian Zeus. It originally denoted an unclouded sun or noon day illumined by the solar rays.

In speaking of the origins of Buckle Street as an older trackway or road used in the sense of Bogle or Bogie, Harold Bayley says:

It was always the custom of a later race to attribute any great work of unknown origin to Bogle or the Devil, e.g., the Devil’s Dyke, and innumerable other instances.
-Harold Bayley, Archaic England pp. 518-519


The elemental Bog is the Slavonic term for God, and when the early translators of the Bible rendered ” terror by night ” as ” bugs by night ” they probably had spooks or bogies in their mind. In Etruria as in Egypt the bug or maybug was revered as the symbol of the Creator Bog, because the Egyptian beetle has a curious habit of creating  small pellets or balls of mud. In Welsh bogel means the navel, also centre o/ a wheel, and hence Margaret or Peggy may be equated with the nave or peg of the white-rayed Marguerite or Day’s Eye?
-Bayley p.233

The Bogey Hole is a special and sacred place that needs to be approached with respect like we would a holy grotto. It is a mysterious place that obviously had connections for our forebears as a place of ancient spirits and ghosts.

It has just dawned on me that perhaps the ‘Bogey’ or ‘Bogey Man’ is none other than Major Morrissett (King Lash) himself.

16 thoughts on “The Mysterious Origins of the Bogey Hole

  1. A couple of other mentions of Bogey/Bogy/Bogie –

    The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional English – Eric Partridge/Tom Dalzell
    Bogey – verb – to swim and wash in a creek, dam etc., especially after a day’s work; ( of working dogs) to take a dip in a body of water to cool down and as a break from work. From Dharug, Australian Aboriginal language of the Sydney region

    Robert Dawson’s Present State of Australia: a description of the country etc….p166 – with members of the Port Stephens tribe – ‘I at length told him we must go, when he said, “Top bit, massa, bogy,” (bathe;) and he threw himself into the water, where he enjoyed himself as long as I could stay.’

    Alexander Harris’ Settlers and Convicts…p132 – ‘I went off into the bush after breakfast, and lying under a thick shady tree read all day till three o’clock in the afternoon: then had my dinner; and in the cool of the evening had a ‘bogie'(bathe) in the river.

  2. Thanks Jen. I think your finds are more closer to the mark! Do you have a date for the ‘new Partridge Dictionary reference’? The Dawson reference is also excellent because we have ‘bogey’ recorded in Canon Carlos Stretch’s aboriginal words notebook as meaning ‘to bathe’ but he provides no source for where the word comes from. This, at least lets us know that it was in use as early the 1820s. So thanks very much for these references. Regards, Gionni

  3. The new Partridge Dictionary was published 2006. They don’t seem to have a reference other than ‘1788’ .

    There is a mention of ‘bogie’ in The Historical Records of New South Wales Volume II (Grose & Paterson 1793 – 1795) p699 in the ‘Journal and Letters of Daniel Southwell’.

    Daniel Southwell arrived on the HMS Sirius in 1788. He recorded a list of words used by the natives of the Port Jackson district and noted ‘bogie’ as meaning ‘to dive’.


  4. from the NSW Heritage Office website on NSW Ocean Baths:

    Bogey Hole

    “The term ‘Bogey Hole’ does not relate to any fearsome bogey man’. The term ‘Bogey’ derived from a word meaning ‘to bathe or swim’ in Dharawal, an Aboriginal language from the Sydney area.

    While the Newcastle Bogey Hole was cut into rock, other bogey holes are ocean baths of the ring-of-rocks type like the Bogey Holes at Bronte, Bondi and Mollymook. The terms ‘bogey’ for swimming and ‘bogey hole’ for swimming place are still in common use in many parts of NSW and Queensland.

    Scuba divers also refer to a certain sea cave in the cliffs of Jervis Bay as the Bogey Hole.”

  5. Another English dialect meaning for ‘bogey’ is wriggle – as in swimming or dancing. In the US, there is the ‘boogie-woogie bugle man from Company B’. Boogie turns up in song lyrics from the 1920s to mean dancing. There is also (to be less polite) the schoolboy’s term for snot, ‘boogers’ or ‘bogey’, ie something long and wriggling. Boogie, like bugger – another word in the same interesting sound group – can also have a sexual meaning.

  6. Is bogey an Aboriginal word? The Oxford English Dictionary does not record any earlier uses of bogey to mean swimming, or boogie to mean dancing prior to 1849 when it first appears in print and is thought by one writer to be ‘Aboriginal’.

    bogy | bogey, n.2

    Pronunciation: /ˈbəʊgɪ/
    Forms: Also bogie.
    Etymology: Apparently Aboriginal word.
    Austral. slang.

    b. A bathing-place, a bath. Also attrib. Hence as v. intr., to bathe.
    1849 A. Harris Emigrant Family viii. 145 ‘Bogie,’ I suppose must be aboriginal also.‥ Its signification is a bathe.
    1893 K. Mackay Out Back iv. 50, I don’t care to bogey in our drinking tank.
    1928 ‘Brent of Bin Bin’ Up Country (1966) ii. 24 They‥took her for bogeys in the swimming hole.
    1934 Bulletin (Sydney) 13 June 19/4 Blacks on the tidal creeks and rivers of Queensland prefer to bogey when the tide is on the ebb.
    1941 S. J. Baker Pop. Dict. Austral. Slang 11 Bogie, a swim, a bath, or wash. (2) A swimming hole, a bath. Also, ‘bogiehole’, ‘bogiehouse’.
    1946 F. D. Davison Dusty viii. 82 They went down for a bogey on warm days.

    For ‘boogie’, the term does not appear until the 20th century in the US.

    a. A party, esp. a rent party.
    1917 (title of jazz piece) Boogie rag.
    1929 in B. Rust Jazz Records 1897–1942 (1978) 516 We’re gonna pitch a boogie right here.
    1960 P. Oliver Blues fell this Morning 163 He re-christened the [boogie-woogie] style after the ‘boogies’ or parties on the South Side.
    1976 G. Oakley Devil’s Music 163 When rent day was due, you ‘pitched a boogie’, inviting the neighbours round and charging an entrance fee of perhaps a quarter and a jug of gin.

    R.M.W. Dixon, Australian Aboriginal Words (OUP, 2006), p. 200, says the word is Dharuk:
    bogey /’bougi/ Also bogie. [Dharuk, Sydney region, intransitive verb root bugi-, ‘to bathe or dive’.] Used as a noun to mean ‘a swim’ or ‘a bathe’.

    However, a search in Google Books prior to 1850 shows that ‘bougie’ is also an English term for a long thin tube or catheter used for surgical procedures. A long thin tube used for musical purposes is called a boogle or bugle.

    The ‘Reel o’ Bogie’ was a Scottish term for a wild dance, with ‘bogie’ here probably meaning bogey, ie the devil. Robert Burns has a drinking song called ‘Cauld Kail in Aberdeen’ which refers to this in the refrain, eg: ‘Gie me a lass baith clean and tight,/ To dance the Reel o Bogie’. This doesn’t sound too decent….

    So, my suspicion is that bogey is one of those English words which Aborigines thought was English, and English thought was Aboriginal.

  7. Bogey is definitely derived from the Polish_Slovonic word BOG-BÓG for GOD! Specifically God of GOOD. What we are looking at is the forgotten history of POLISH BRITAIN which I have been uncovering over the decades. (With a deep satisfaction)

    This is a short list of POLISH words, otherwise considered ENGLISH.

    Not a word in any British history book under 100 years of course.
    Im over 65, am fully Polish_English bilingual live in Australia, and have been deep into linguistics from the age of 6 years. And Yes Australia is a Polish word.

    Here is a test for you. So you think you can speak good English do you?
    Then hwat ( Correct english misspelling of the original Polish WAT whhw, ie not ‘what’ <transpose) do the following words actually mean in English

    I think you will find these words are meaningless to you. If not let me know by email.

    Good luck POSSUMS.!!!!

    Anthony Jeleniewski , Essendon, Australia.

  8. From the discussion, so far, there would appear to be two likely origins of bogey being used to describe Morriset’s swimming hole. They would be the possible reference to the man himself by those who worked on constructing the bath, or perhaps a reference to the dangerous nature of constructing it. Having seen the way this area is scoured by heavy, violent and sudden wave activity on many occasions, I would be very surprised if lives were not lost during construction. The second and perhaps, more likely possibility being the adoption of the Aboriginal word and its highly appropriate use to describe the bath’s purpose.

    As a 60 year old Novocastrian, born to a family with it’s roots in Newcastle for well over a hundred years, my gut instinct is to accept the theory of a ‘place of danger’ in the same way as the ‘Bogey man’ was used to instill caution/fear by my parents, there was many a stern warning about the ‘Bogey Hole’ in my childhood years.

    Having said that, the Aboriginal terminology, is compelling.

    An aside: Bogey has been in use by U.S., British and Australian,aircrew to announce the presence of a potentially dangerous aircraft for as long as there has been airbourne conflict. Although never having heard the term used at sea, I would suspect it would have been in use there at some time and would reinforce the danger warning probabilities of its use in reference to Morriset’s bath.

    Confirmation of either theory would be great.

  9. Keith, like your theory.

    My following comments are in connection to those made “Convict Era Tunnel (c1816) and Brick Culvert (c1850s). Comments submitted by uoncc.

    The Bogey Hole that the convicts built is long gone with only a slim 1 inch high by 2m long section left, roughly speaking.

    To use Bingle’s report (written 1821) (printed 1873) is a valid bit of research but in disregarding further research you are not restoring a story to a place but creating a new one to suit your views. In your reply you state that Bingle’s description of the Bogey Hole is valid as it is a “eye witness account.”

    63 years after Bingle’s report and 11 years after it was printed things changed!!!!!

    I now provide the following descriptions recorded by the Newcastle Morning Herald:

    NMH, 18 June 1884, Page 3
    “The well known in short, locally historic bathing place, “The Bogey Hole,” under Shepherds Hill, has lately undergone so complete a metamorphosis that few of its old habitues could now recognize it. The contractor for improving it has already cut a series of steps and planked them from the Recreation Reserve near the Hospital for the Insane, right down the mouth of the Horseshoe Gully. Across this bridge is being formed and along an opposite escarpment a sidling track has been partially cut out. Thence a good approach follows to the Bogey Hole itself. A workmans camp has been pitched on the cliffs near the old coal seam, the latter having been so far dug out that an excellent supply of bituminous coal is now exposed and may be had “addibitum” for the mere trouble of picking it out. A glance from the overhanging cliff shows that the contractor has not been idle. A broad deep race has been cut in a northerly direction from the old bathing excavation, and all around huge boulders have been dynamited away. When complete there will in all probability be a space fit for a hundred yards swimming match in what is known to old country clubs as “a four lengths sprint.” For some days past work has been temporarily impeded through rough weather, but sufficient progress has already been made to afford a tolerably fair index that, when complete, the job will be a satisfactory one. We are rather inclined however to think that the contractor has rather bitten his fingers by the low amount of his tender.”

    NMH, 19 November 1884, Page 3
    (Part of larger article) see “IMPORTANT BATHING IMPROVEMENTS, etc”)
    “Arrived at the site, of the old “Bogey Hole” a stranger would be perfectly astonished at the change that has come o’er the spirit of the dream. From being a dull, damp, miserable looking rockhole, almost inaccessible, the place has been metamorphosed into one of the finest swimming baths in New South Wales – we might almost say, about the finest in Australia, and challange contradiction. Broad flights of steps have been cut from the rocks above, and ledges for dressing or promenading formed in all directions.
    The old “cave” has now several tiers of rock-cut dressing shelves provided, and all around additional conveniences are not wanting. Of the bath itself too much cannot be said. It measures over fifty feet long, by nearly as many broad, and shelves from a depth of five feet six inches, to three feet six inches at its shallow end. The bottom is almost as smooth as a billiard table, free from boulders or jagged stones, whilst the pure, sparkling sea-water is so transparent that one could almost distinguish a pin or a button at the bottom of the deepest part. Being, of course, absolutely enclosed, the intrusion of sharks, “stingarees,” jelly-fish, or anything of the sort, is quite out of the question. A sluice is also provided, by means of which at any time the water can be let out, and the interior cleansed. The barrier against forming a swimming club is at last satisfactorily removed; and doubtless before many weeks are over one will be in full swing.
    A spin of twice up and once down the bath gives as nearly as possible one hundred yards; and as the depth is regulated strictly on a par with that of nine-tenths of the leading English and Continental baths, there is nothing to prevent our crack swimmers making a match or a series of matches at any time. Accommodation of every sort is being provided; and it is well worth the while of those who have not been thereabouts for some time to stroll over with a towel and judge for themselves.”

    These articles are clearly public records and therefore not bias to any claims as to the history of the Bogey Hole site.

    The “bath” was not “expanded by public works over the years” as claimed in your reply and if so claims of evidence of convict “pick marks”, for theoretical example, could never be validated to provide evidence of convict involvement in the construction of the present day Bogey Hole.

    To provide a comparison example some “shaft” coal mines were “open cut” mined to extract the last of the coal. The “shaft or adit,” usually a round hole in the ground, was the visible evidence of underground mining which would have been removed as part of the excavation of the “overburden” (dirt) to gain access to the remaining coal (pillars) that was left to support the roof of the underground mining.

    At the end of the “open cut” mining clearly nothing would remain of the original “shaft” and tunnels to validate any claims that “open cut” mining involved underground mining practices.

    To say convicts were involved with open cut methods of mining would be clearly a lie due to technology and engineering issues of the day. To say convicts mined the area before the open cut methods were used would be closer to the truth.

    Its simple case of great grandfathers axe. Two handles and a new axe head, replaced over the years, and still some people will be stupid enough to claim the axe belonged to their grandfather.

    If anybody wished to challenge my comments concerning the loss of the Bogey Hole in 1884, it is a simple matter to request the original plans, at Newcastle Library, and view the original diagrams of the excavation of the convict Bogey Hole (shaded in Blue) and compare the excavation work (in pink) that was proposed and completed to form what we see today.

    It should be a simple matter to check my facts, if you wish, as the library accepted my research and added it to their local history collection around 17 years ago.

    I was surprised when I found the folder (this year) which I had donated as I had forgotten I had given it to the library. How long have you had an interest in history? Long enough to forget?

    An academic degree takes a second to read but a life has many stories to justify qualifications.

    Historians record history this is a fact, but I ask what do you do with the people who become history? Apparently you ignore them!

    1. Thanks Graeme. So your point is that when people refer to the Bogey Hole they should refrain from referring to it as a convict built place, and alter their description to reflect that it now resides on the site of an original convict era bath, that was later destroyed in the 1880s to construct the bathing hole as we know it today. Correct?

      1. Yes, the bogey hole location “was” the site of a convict built bathing place.

        In relation to heritage listing, the site still has its aesthetic features that may demonstrate the reasons for the sites title of a “bogey” hole. These being an isolated and dangerous place with a “cave” (roof) that lends itself to mystery and fear.

        Yes, bathing has occurred at the site for longer than the present hole has existed.

        Public bathing use could be seen as a separate issue to private bathing use in relation to heritage listing. Is the site the oldest “public bathing place” or the oldest bathing place?

        If you wish to state that the present bogey hole is convict built maybe we should change the name of Newcastle Baths back to “the square hole” as the previous bathing hole at that site was called.

        Like the Bogey Hole the “square hole” was consumed by the construction of the baths.

        Maybe some people might want to argue that the “square hole” was enlarged.

        If it was enlarged rather than removed the title of “Newcastle Baths” is historically incorrect as it does not recognise the enlargement of the existing bathing place.

        Again I will say that if the “square hole” was removed when the Newcastle Baths was constructed then the present day title “Newcastle Baths” should be acceptable without argument.

        The “square hole” was a private venture just like Morriset’s “foreign order” and then at a later date the “square hole” was converted into a public bathing place.

        Same story, different times and different place.

        Most people would not know what I am talking about as the “square hole” is not a well known as part of Newcastle’s history.

        Should we refer to the former Newcastle Hospital as convict built as the hospital occupied the site of the convict hospital up until recent years?

  10. A belated contribution to this discussion. I have no expertise in Aboriginal languages nor the origin of Australian slang. But as a local historian I can observe two things: Australians in the nineteenth century, particularly in the country had such a close relationship with local Aboriginal groups; working and warring and interacting and co-habiting. As a consequence, there was much cross-pollination of the two languages. As the result, in publications like “The Bulletin” a sort of street argot of “pidgin Aboriginal” words and phrases emerged. This was around the 1880’s and 1890’s. Words like “Binghi” (the stomach), “Baal” (bad or not) “Bundi” (for club) and many others.
    It is possible to read in local histories of coastal places up and down the coast from Sydney, reference to “sea bathing” and the use of local “Bogey holes”. For instance, at Bondi, local white people observed the local Aboriginal inhabitants diving and swimming in the sea. At that time most white people did not swim and were scared of the sharks. Aboriginal women and children often cooled down in the hot weather frolicking in naturally occurring pools in the rocks beside the ocean. Often on the rock shelves. They called these “Bogey” holes. From the Sydney language word for “To swim, dive, or bathe” (Macquarie Dictionary: Macquarie University: 1983). For a good many years, Aboriginal people and sailors were amongst the only people who could actually swim !. Colonel Morrisset’s pool would have been for cooling down and the healthy new fashion: “sea bathing”. Of course, also unlike Aboriginal inhabitants, European born men and women did not bathe in public together. So I believe the word “Bogey” stems from the Sydney Aboriginal word for “To Swim”.

  11. Further to the above, Jacqueline Troy’s “The Sydney Language” is readable Online. In it, she notes from various sources, seven records of uses of the word: “bugi”; “bogi”;”boga”; “bogay”; “boge”; and “bogee” meaning “to swim” in the Sydney Aboriginal Language. Amongst others is Judge Advocate David Collins. So there appears to be a much earlier established provenance, than a 1900 “Maitland Mercury” publishing of an article on the NQ Bellinden-Ker Mission, where the Deaconess Ethel Colyer records the use of the word; or 30 miles south of Cairns, where Erskine Deame recorded its use “most universally adopted by the whites in these parts” in May 1910.

  12. My 1895 Websters International Dictionary has the following:

    Bogey – noun, A goblin; a bugbear. See Bogy.
    Bogy – noun; plural Bogies – (see Bogle) A Spector; a hobgoblin; a bugbear.
    Bogle – noun, {Scot. And North Eng. Bogle, bogill, bogill, specter; verb, to terrify.
    Boggard – noun; A bogey.

    I am preety sure the word “Bogey” has nothing to do with “indigenous Australian” culture.

    Funny coincidence that the same word would be in use on opposite sides of the world prior to European arrival in Australia.

    Something I also found, on the Internet: (I have no faith in this source.)

    Boggard – Bogart – to monopolise or keep to oneself selfishly.

    Morisset certainly seemed to have exclusive use of the “original” swimming hole he had dug out of the rock.

    Sorry I have not found a “paper reference” to back up this definition but it seems to provide an answer to the question of the origin of the title “Bogey Hole” prior to its demolition and use by the public after enlargement.

    I would like to beleive this but without a “paper reference” we may as well be using Wikipedia.

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