australia

Meanwhile in Australia, tallow, the main soapmaking ingredient, was supplied for different reasons.

The Richmond River district on the north coast of NSW provided rich soil for grazing cattle but excess cattle was unable to be sold during the depression of the 1840's.

Governor Gipps provided the solution in 1843; slaughtering and boiling down sheep and cattle for tallow helped to establish a minimum price per head, and helped to stabilise the economy.

A squatter from Yass, Henry O'Brien, and his brother-in-law, William Wilson, built the first tallow cauldrons at Five Dock, Sydney.

tallow exported to the UK

Tallow was mainly used for soap and candlemaking in NSW, and it was worth £28 per ton in 1851 when it was exported to England.

When the tallow supply from Russia was cut off during the Crimean war, the price rose to £58 per ton and even higher.

Boiling down plants were built in the Clarence District in northern NSW and the first vats were located at Grafton. Vats were soon existence throughout the district and four thousand head of cattle were boiled down annually.

By 1860, the Clarence District supplied 45% of the tallow exported from NSW.

The largest plant on the Richmond was capable of processing 100 bullocks in one day, and the boilers held a capacity of seven large bullocks.

Woodcutters and carters brought in supplies of firewood; trees were felled to keep the fires burning.

Men with pitchforks threw the meat out to hundreds of pigs that were kept for sanitation purposes.

The lean meat was not processed, but given to workers or anyone who rowed his boat up the river for his weekly supply.

The sole purpose of felling trees and slaughtering cattle was to provide the animal fat needed for soap. Fortunately, advances over the last century have provided us with ways of saving our precious resources.