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John Furphy

blacksmith, inventor, businessman
17th June 1842 � 23rd September 1920


A Furphy WaterCart
A Furphy Water Cart

John Furphy set up a blacksmith's forge in Shepparton in 1873. At this establishment he produced a range of agricultural equipment, much of it of his own design or invention.

The best known of his products was the 'Furphy Water Cart' (see picture on right) which came into its own during the First World War. In the battlefields of Europe. Often the only source of water for the Australian troops was the Furphy Water Cart. Diggers would gather around the carts, much the same way that modern day office workers might gather around the water cooler or coffee machine, and yarns would be exchanged and 'news' of dubious veracity provided by the cart drivers who had come in from a different area of the front. Over time, an unfounded rumour became known in Australian vernacular as "a Furphy" and the expression is still commonly used today. (See our Melbourne Quiz for other Victorians whose names have entered the language.) Nowadays those interested in unsubstantiated rumours usually subscribe to high profile email newsletters. We should also mention that, although there seems no dispute that the colloquial word "Furphy" is related to Furphy's liquid cartage equipment, it may have a less savoury origin. Furphy's carts were also used to remove liquid sewerage from the front lines in WWI and it may be this function (and content) was the original source of the slang "Furphy"

Furphy's water carts always had a phrase or homily cast into their back panels. A typical one reads:


You can find Furphy equipment on display at many history & heritage festivals around Victoria and particularly at the Echuca Steam & Horse Festival.

John's brother Joseph wrote under the name of Tom Collins and his novel Such is Life is so important that we have listed Joseph Furphy among our 200 Significant Australians.

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