Upwey was originally a small township that supported the log cutting industry in the nearby hills. The wood from this region, which grew strong, straight and tall, was much prized for ship’s masts, and the original name of the area was “Mast Gully”. But that all changed in the 1880’s, when a more speculative class of investor started to make their influence felt in the area.

At that time, the wood for ship’s mast was sold by weight, and with the unreliable scales of the era, this was a situation ripe to be exploited. The Billy Corporation, under its carefully nameless and utterly unscrupulous board of directors, was quick to take advantage, first undercutting their competitors and buying them out until they controlled more than three quarters of the wood-cutting in the region. Their hegemony established, they sharply increased prices (and not coincidentally, profits). But they also began to give short weight as a standard practice, to increase profits still more.

It did not take long for rumours of this cheating to spread. Shipbuilders and other customers began to purchase their wood elsewhere, mindful of the Billy Corporation’s penchant to “up weigh” their product. The Billy Corporation is now defunct, having been dissolved in one of the infamous bottom of the harbour schemes of the Seventies (although members of its last board of directors remain well-compensated members of Australia’s management overhead), but the name their shady dealings inspired lives on.

Suburbs near Upwey:

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