CY O'Connor

Charles Yelverton O'Connor (1843 - 1902) was an Irish engineer who is best known for his work in Australia, especially the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. In 1891 O'Connor become Engineer-in-Chief of WA. He was the inaugural Engineer in Chief of the Public Works Department. He undertook projects that allowed the State to expand during the 1890's goldrush, and several of his engineering projects are still vital utilities 120 years later.

Fremantle Harbour

The construction of Fremantle Harbour was probably O'Connor's greatest personal triumph, as his proposal to build the harbour within the entrance to the Swan River was considered impossible. Work commenced in 1892 in removing a limestone bar and sand shoals at the mouth of the Swan River and was successfully completed in 1903. In 1897 the first ocean-going steamer, the Sultan, berthed at South Quay (renamed Victoria Quay in 1901 in honour of the late Queen Victoria). More than a hundred years of continued use of Fremantle Harbour by heavy shipping has vindicated O'Connor's technical judgement.


O'Connor was engineer-in-chief and acting general manager of railways in WA. Upgrades of existing lines and plans for new lines were made, including the second Eastern Railways line through John Forrest National Park to Mt Helena. This is now the northern section of the Railway Reserves Heritage trail. He also instigated new locomotive workshops as well as repair and maintenance shops for WA's expanding rail system. Eventually, this resulted in the building of the Midland workshops, well after his death.

Goldfields Pipeline

This pipeline - perhaps the world's longest water main, and certainly the longest when it first opened - carries water 530 km from Perth to Kalgoorlie. A succession of gold rushes in Goldfields caused a population explosion in the barren and dry centre of WA. The pipeline pumps 5 million imperial gallons (23,000 m3) of water per day from Mundaring Weir to the Goldfields, pumped in eight successive stages through 530 km of 760 mm diameter pipe to the Mount Charlotte Reservoir in Kalgoorlie. The water is then reticulated to various mining centres in the Goldfields. Water spends at least a week in the pipeline from Mundaring Weir to Kalgoorlie.

O'Connor was subjected to prolonged criticism by members of the press and also many members of the WA Parliament over the pipeline, many who believed the scheme was not possible. Before the Goldfields pipeline came to fruition, O'Connor took his own life in 1902 by shooting himself while riding his horse into the water at Robb Jetty, south of Fremantle.The beach where O'Connor died was named after him and there is also a statue sculpted by Tony Jones, of him in the water there.
A bronze statue of O'Connor by Pietro Porcelli stands in front of the Fremantle Port Authority buildings. O'Connor has also an electorate named after him as well as a suburb in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. The lake created by Mundaring Weir is now known as Lake O'Connor, and also provides drinking water for the towns along the pipeline to Kalgoorlie. There are also numerous other "O'Connor" references in Kalgoorlie including buildings, Technical & Further Education (TAFE's) and even supermarkets. He was a bloody legend.

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