How the billy got its name

bulli miner drinking billy canTHE story goes that the humble “billy can” got its name from the goldfields. In the early days of the diggings in NSW and Victoria, the miners consumed considerable quantities of tinned foods. One particular brand of beef, in big round cans, was known as “Bully Beef”. When the meat had been taken from the cans a wire handle was attached and the tins were used for cooking. The cans were at first called “bully cans”, but the name supposedly evolved into “billy cans”.

Photo: Bulli coal miner drinking from a billy can C1930. Fairfax Archives.

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One thought on “How the billy got its name

  1. This sounds feasible I guess.
    I always thought it evolved from “gilly can”. Gilly, or sometimes geelie, was the aboriginal word for water in Qld, or so I was told years ago.
    My Dad always referred to urinating as “having a geelie”.


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