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Goanna Oil

Goanna Oil

Goanna oil is credited with properties speedily curative of rheumatism. Lying along either side of the back-bone, for nearly the whole length of the body are two beautiful layers of fat, resembling a bullock’s kidney. Rendered down, these yield a pint of amber-coloured oil, useful for many other purposes besides curing rheumatism

STRANGE BUT TRUE (1919, August 23). Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), p. 19


In the bush, nearly any kind of animal oil seems to be reckoned a specific for rheumatism. Goanna oil has many uses and is particularly valued as a lubricant for delicate machinery and gun locks.

When I lived in the bush I used to pass the hut of an old hatter on the way to town and nearly always he opened the conversation with

See any goannas about?

Sometimes I did see one scurrying up a tree, and on being told so he would hobble to the fence for minute particulars as to its whereabouts. But whethere I saw one or not, he’d say,

I’d give a bob for a goanna.

When he got a pad of goanna fat he melted it in the sun. In his opinion melting it over a fire spoilt it. “You want the raw oil,” he told me, “not the boiled.” It seemed to do him good, too, but it wasn’t advisable to get too near him while it lasted.

W.B. West Coast Sentinel (Streaky Bay, SA : 1912 – 1954), Friday 24 August 1928, page 3

Extracting Goanna Oil.

“DEADER” (Pinjarra) asks how to extract goanna oil, and what it is most useful for. On opening a goanna, you will find two layers of fat, one on each side. To extract the oil, put the fat in a suitable vessel, such as a frying pan, saucepan, or a tin with a bottom that will not melt out when put on the fire. Care should be taken not to put it on a blazing fire, as it is best to render slowly so that it will not get burnt. If possible, a bottle with a glass stopper would be better than one with an ordinary cork if it is required to keep for a long time, as the oil will find its way through a cork. The bigger and better condition the goanna is in, the more oil will be got. It is good for the hands if cracks start in winter.

As a healer on horse flesh, goanna oil is declared to have no superior. Sore shoulders, saddle galls, etc., heal as if i by magic after an application.

Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), Thursday 6 December 1934, page 48

The good oil

A tin of Marconi’s Goanna Salve was as welcome in the trenches as a hip flask of scotch. Diggers used it to fix their piles, their foot sores and lubricate their guns.

Any Goanna that died between 1914 and 1918, Marconi said died for its country.

Marconi’s Goanna Salve cured virtually every minor ailment in its original form, though its composition was something of a mystery.

Lower-neck pain and varicose vein, rusty gun and rotten luck – the Goanna had ‘em licked. Baldness, backache, pimple and pile, arthritis, tendonitis, poisoned hand and desert sinus – the Goanna fixed them all.

Or so claimed Old Marconi, the man who convinced a nation to dip its fingers in goanna fat. The legend of Goanna Salve, the miraculous cure-all ointment Australians have used since 1910, begins in the bush. JC Marconi was a travelling puppeteer, the popular story goes, drifting through outback Queensland in a vaudeville troupe when he chanced on an Aboriginal man rubbing goanna fat on a snakebite wound. He studied the Aborigines; saw how they liquefied the fat and mixed it with bush spices to create a wonder salve to soothe their aches and pains.

Marconi peddled the salve across Queensland, selling it in 50g tin tubs. Headache, rheumatism, eczema, cold sores, chapped lips, dandruff, sciatica, squeaky doors – there was nothing the miracle mix couldn’t fix. Mums rubbed it in the kitchen, Diggers rubbed it in the trenches and grand-dads rubbed it everywhere. When boxer Lionel Rose wanted a rubdown, his trainer reached for Goanna Salve.

Researched by Geoff Miller: https://www.psa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/flipbook/4/mobile/index.html

Joseph Marconi (1876-1922)

Marconi opened a shop in inner Brisbane in 1920 and in May 1922, the Marconi Curative Institute, offering massage, hydropathic and herbal treatment. He was particularly interested in the treatment of children suffering from poliomyelitis.

With his carefully cultivated Italianate appearance, Marconi was one of the most picturesque and best known figures in Brisbane. His hospitality was a byword: the small factory under his home, Astra, at Bulimba was a Mecca to local children.

Marconi’s skull was fractured when he intervened in a fracas in Elizabeth Street on 21 October 1922, and he died a few hours later in Brisbane General Hospital. He was remembered by Bulimba schoolchildren in their chant:

Old Marconi’s dead
Knocked on the head
Goannas are glad
Children are sad
Old Marconi’s dead

Marconi’s ‘Australian bush remedy’ became part of folklore.


4 Responses

  1. Phil says:

    The smell of that stuff would clear the town hall

  2. Kevin says:

    Is the picture of the shearing shed in your goanna salve ad
    1. An oilpainting?

    2. A painting over a photo?

    3. A water colour painting original?


    • Kerry says:

      can you please tell me where I could see a copy of the ad to which you refer? I’m gathering information on Marconi and his products, so any advice would be much appreciated.

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