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More Than Just The Plaque

C.Y.O’Connor bust

C.Y.O'Connor Bust
C.Y.O’Connor Bust

Public Art: C.Y.O’Connor bust

Sculptor: © Pietro Porcelli (30 January 1872 – 28 June 1943) 

Date Unveiled: The bust of C.Y.O’Connor (11 January 1843 – 10 March 1902) was unveiled in 1907 under the watchful gaze of the sculptor. It was originally placed against the tower facing the entrance to the bridge. In 1951 a memorial area was built at the weir and the bust was placed on a granite plinth. The plaques on the Pipeline memorial were unveiled on December 14th, 1951 and 24th November 1961. 

Description: The bronze bust of one of Australia’s greatest engineer sits atop a plinth. He is depicted in a suit and tie with his distinguishable mustache.

Location: The bust of C.Y.O’Connor is located as you walk down to the weir from the top carpark, Mundaring Weir, Mundaring, Western Australia.


Mundaring Weir

Constructed 1898-1903 for supply of water to Eastern Goldfields

Premier. Sir John Forrest M.L.A

Engineer in Chief. C.Y.O’Connor C.M.G. M.INST. C.E

Construction Engineer. W.Leslie M.I.Mech.E.

Raised 32 feet 1946-1951 for supply of water to agricultural areas.

Premier. Hon. Ross McLarty M.L.A

Minister for water supply.Hon. David Brand M.L.A

Director of Works. R.J.Dumas C.M.G M.E. M.I.E Aust.

Construction Engineer, D.C.Munro B.E  M.I.E Aust.

Resident Engineer. H.E. Hunt B.E. A.M.I.E. Aust.

December 14th 1951

Agricultural Areas Great Southern Towns and Goldfields Water Supply Scheme

This plaque is to commemorate the completion of the project and was unveiled by

The Hon, David Brand M.L.A.

Premier of Western Australia

on 24th November 1961

Constructed by the Public Works Department 1949-1961

The Hon. Wild M.B.E M.L.A

Minister for Works and Water Supplies


The bust of C.Y.O’Connor was erected five years after his untimely death. However, amongst those who believed a small bust at the Mundaring Weir was inadequate for O’Connor’s achievements was the then actin Prime Minister, John Forrest. He wrote on April 23rd, 1907 to Mr. T. S. McNulty, secretary of the Goldfields Water Supply Administration the following letter…

“Dear Mr. McNulty. –I thank you for your letter of the 15th, in which you inform me that your Minister has approved: of the purchase and erection in a prominent position at Mundaring of a bronze bust of the late engineer-in-chief,
Mr. C. Y. O’Connor. I am, of course, very pleased to learn that something is to be done, but I think the proposal is altogether inadequate for the object it has in view.

On a great work like Mundaring reservoir, which is the beginning of the great water scheme, to erect a small bronze bust in -honor of its engineer would see to me too small a tribute to his memory. What is required. if -I may venture to say so, is a heroic statue, not a bust. I should say that Mr. Porcelli would be able to execute the design for such a statue in the same way as he did the one of my late brother in Perth. and I hope that even now the Government will give up the idea of placing a small bust to do honor to the memory of a great man, and that the statue will find favor. The latter would be a more fitting and appropriate tribute to his memory. I hope you will bring this under the notice of your Minister. Yours very sincerely,

Kalgoorlie Western Argus, The Late C.Y.O’Connor, Tuesday 21 May 1907, page 13.

This letter no doubt instigated the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce to fund a 12 ft memorial to the great man.

Background to C.Y. O’Connor: It would be fair to say that C.Y.O’Connor was an engineering genius. Charles Yelverton O’Connor was brought to Western Australia by the newly appointed first Premier of WA, John Forrest, in 1891, to take up the role of Engineer-in-Chief.

His first major project was the rebuilding of the Fremantle Harbour, which had been an engineering nightmare, due to the rocky bar blocking the mouth of the Swan River. His solution was to simply blow it up and placed two stone moles at the entrance to stop sand entering the harbour, problem solved.

Undeniably, his greatest achievement was the building of the Goldfields Pipeline Scheme. A plan that was initially scoffed at. Can you imagine proposing to build a £2.5 million pipeline that pumps 5 million gallons of water a day, some 530kms, to a town short of water in 1896!? Crazy you might say, but he did it and it was done on time to boot.

Sadly, however, O’Connor would never get to see his greatest achievement completed. On the 10th of March, 1902, whilst riding his horse along a stretch of isolated beach near Fremantle, O’Connor entered the water, near Robbs Jetty, and shot himself. Many believed that the years of criticism from politicians, press, and peers had taken its toll. 

Things You May Not Know About C.Y.O’Connor’s Bust:

In 1947 the bust was removed and placed in the valve house to protect it from blasting work being carried out.

Other Related C.Y.O’Connor Memorials: Horse and Rider Monument and C.Y.O’Connor Monument

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