Place an ad

Furphy fibs pure irony in face of 5th generation solid corporate citzens success

August 26, 2013
 Furphy fibs pure irony in face of 5th generation solid corporate citzens success

MacCracken Resort in Victor Harbour, South Australia has a Furphy Bar. Your correspondent offers this picture of the business end of a 1942 to 1965 Furphys Farm Water Cart from GoSee time spent at the SAParks Conference this month for the information of GoSeers.

J. Furphy & Sons is an Australian engineering icon. As the Furphy Water Cart announces 'Born about 1880' the company remains family owned (5th generation) and operates from its base in Shepparton, Victoria. The company is renowned for its historical links to rural Australia and in particular its most famous product - the Furphy Water Cart.

There is an irony in this (pun intended). First because such a solid citizen among Australian businesses is now Aussie slang for rumors and big fat fibs and secondly because MacCracken Resort honors an opponent of alcohol with a bar.

GoSee spends a lot of editorial time sorting out Fibbing Furphy and his brother Murphy and his law. Murphy at least has his law to support his problematic impact on the world in general, but Fibbing Furphy, frankly is a pain in the nether region. Rumour is Furphy's bread and butter. Little, if anything, is ever checked and his pronouncements are loud and often strident.

On certain websites GoSee, acting in a Moderator role, has spent considerable time throwing buckets of cold logic on Furphy's inflamed imagination. Furphy is master of the improbable and the fact that Furphy comes from a watercart just underlines the bilge spouted.

J.Furphy & Sons of Shepparton Victoria, Australia brought Furphys to life. That was in the 1880's and farms, stock and station agents and the Australian Diggers in World War 1 got to know Fibbing Furphy well in Australia, Europe and the Middle East. The carts were typically placed near the latrine area, the only place in the camp where soldiers were out of the controlling eye of their officers allowing them the freedom to express their thoughts on the latest news that was, at best, unreliable.

A Furphy is associated with going to the parish pump. In this case the font of gossip, rumour and vivid imagination. Furphy has a cousin among sailors. His name is Scuttlebutt. Furphy and Scuttlebutt share the same reason for the mischief they cause as Scuttlebutt was once the drinking water cask on ships.

The 180 gallon Furphy Water Cart unit proved most popular because when filled, it weighed about a ton and was a fair load for a good horse. The tank was carefully balanced over the axle to distribute the weight for the horse whether the tank was empty or full.

Joseph Furphy whose pen name was Tom Collins wrote the Australian classic novel, Such is Life which was published in 1903. Joseph was 60 at the time.

John Furphy an engineer blacksmith was born at Moonee Ponds, Victoria in 1842. His parents were from County Armagh, Ireland.

In 1864 John Murphy started as a blacksmith in Kyneton, Victoria. He moved the business to Shepparton. By 1880 there were 38 men and boys on the payroll and by 1888 John Furphy led his industry in northern Victoria.

Furphy's most distinctive product was a simple invention which he never patented. It was a watercart with a 180-gallon (818 litres) cylindrical iron tank, mounted horizontally on a horse-drawn wooden frame with cast-iron wheels. Furphy became a synonym for idle rumour. The word was current in this sense by 1916 when C. J. Dennis used it in The Moods of Ginger Mick.

By coincidence, Furphy's brother Joseph, who wrote Such is Life while employed at the Furphy foundry, used the pen-name 'Tom Collins', which among bushmen at the end of the 19th century carried the meaning that Furphy now carries.

John Furphy, a pioneer Methodist, was a sober man with a strong sense of duty. His watercarts reflected this. Cast in the metal of one end is a rhymed exhortation to do your best, and above it an inscription in shorthand warning of the dangers of strong drink and urging the reader to stick to water.

The Furphy rhyme is the formula for success in life -


Never let it rest.

Till your good is better

And your better-best.

John's son, William added a Pitman's shorthand inscription in 1920, which translated tells the reader that Water is the gift of God, but beer is a concoction of the devil, don't drink beer. In 1942 this was changed slightly to read Water is the gift of God, but beer and whisky are concoctions of the devil, come and have a drink of water which has since become the more popular, recited version.

A drawing of a stork with baby, appeared with a shorthand message reading Produce and populate or perish.

John Furphy lived in Shepparton until 1909. He left Shepparton at the age of 67 leaving control of the business to his sons William, George and Charles and moved to Melbourne where he died on 23 September 1920. Descendants still operate the Furphy foundry. Adam Furphy a fifth generation Furphy, is Managing Director of J. Furphy Sons and now leads the company.

The Furphy Water Tank continues today. During the dry seasons, many old units are brought in for reconditioning.

This simply involves the fitting of a new galvanized cylinder to the original cast ends using the same methods to those employed over 100 years ago.

Production of the cast iron ends and other components ceased in 1983. It was then that an all new fabricated and hot dip galvanized tank was developed and continues to be in strong demand today. It has all the features of the original tank including size, profile and durability. But the replacement of cast iron components with galvanized mild steel make the tank much lighter and more economical to produce.

Sources: and;

Australian Dictionary of Biography.

T. W. H. Leavitt and W. D. Lilburn (eds), The Jubilee History of Victoria and Melbourne (Melb, 1888)

Read our Email and Privacy Policy