Golden Pipeline

National Trust of WA

Explore The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail

A self-guided drive trail between the Perth Hills and Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields. Go with the Flow. Follow the water to discover more about the audacious goldfields water supply scheme and Engineer CY O’Connor.

Discover The people and the Scheme

“Future generations, I am quite certain will think of us and bless us for our far seeing patriotism, and it will be said of us, as Isaiah said of old, ‘They made a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” – Sir John Forrest

The Scheme Need for the Scheme

Tinned Dog

This is a great country for tinned stuff of all kinds and the roads are littered on both sides with old empty meat cans and burnt out fires. Everything is tinned – meat (locally known as ‘dog’), butter, jam, fruit, fish, vegetables, plum-puddings, tomatoes, potatoes, soups.

Besides these you get compressed vegetables, preserved potatoes, evaporated apples and peaches, and compressed chaff.John Aspinall

The shortage of fresh water on the Eastern Goldfields had many ramifications, some obvious and others not so. It affected the diet of even the prospectors living in the more permanent settlements since, without water to spare, fresh fruit and vegetables could not be grown locally. And the dilemma for prospectors on the move was whether to carry heavy tinned food or to carry dried (compressed) food in the hope of finding water to reconstitute it. Prospector John Aspinall mentions a particularly dry spell when he and his mates could not prepare any food that required water e.g. porridge.

The Honourable Davie Carnegie and his fellow aristocratic friend, Lord Percy Douglas (son of the Marquis of Queensberry of boxing rules fame) were travelling from tea plantations in Colombo (Ceylon) back to the United Kingdom when they heard the news of the discoveries of Coolgardie. They left their ship in Western Australia and joined the rush.

In Spinifex and Sand David Carnegie writes how delighted he and partner Gus Luck were when they shot an emu at a waterhole while prospecting for a mining company in 1894. “What a feed we had! I suppose there is hardly a part of that bird, barring bones, feathers and beak, that did not find its way into our mouths during the next day or two!”

He records that in stocking up for their prospecting trip they had bought supplies of tinned food. A storekeeper had palmed off all his minced mutton on them – no matter what the label, the contents were always the same.

“… we used to call it venison, beef, veal, or salmon, for variety’s sake! ‘Well, old chap, what shall we have for tea – Calf’s head? Grouse? Pheasant? Hum! What about a little er – minced mutton – we’ve not had any for some time, I think’.”

The irony is that when they returned from their prospecting expedition the mining company’s representative in Coolgardie welcomed them with great hospitality and invited them to tea at his camp.

“Here he produced whisky, and what he told us he considered the very best of tinned meats. ‘So help me never, it’s MINCED MUTTON’ shouted poor Luck, as the tin was opened.”

At least by this time can openers were readily available. The 1895sketch here of a can opener appeared in My Fourth Tour of Western Australia by Albert Calvert. Looking something like a bent bayonet, the large curved blade was driven into the can’s rim then forcibly worked around the rim.

Walker Hodgson. Can opener illustration from 1897.

The first practical can opener was developed 50 years after the introduction of the metal canister (hence can) to store food, when the thinner steel cans came into use. The original can openers never left the store – cans were opened in the shop before being taken away. They became popular when given away for free with canned beef as a promotion by a manufacturer.

The first cans made of solid iron, weighing more than the food they held – all thought went into sealing the food into the cans – little into how to get it out again. Cans came with instructions to “cut round the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer”


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