AceHistoryDesk – Part of the Australian vernacular, the word “furphy” describes a story that may be untrue or an embellishment: Its origins date back to World War I, when troops in military camps would gather, swapping tales, around water carts manufactured by the company Furphy.
Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Nov.27: 2023: ABC History News: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link https://t.me/+PuI36tlDsM7GpOJe
An inventor is born
This weekend, collectors, enthusiasts and community members alike will gather to celebrate Furphy’s 150-year anniversary of operating in Victoria’s Shepparton region.
Born at Moonee Ponds in 1842 to Irish Immigrants, John Furphy had little formal education and first began business as a blacksmith in 1864.
Originally setting up operations in Kyneton, Furphy moved his business to Shepparton in 1873, after hearing good reports of the area from a family member farming in Kialla.
Furphy went on to invent and produce a horse-drawn water cart with cast-iron ends, which was used for many things, including carting water for troops in the military camps prior to being transported to the Middle East and Europe in WWI.
The water carts have become highly collectable with one selling for more than $60,000 last year.
The long partnership between the Shepparton region and the Furphy name still survives today, with fifth-generation descendants of John’s — Sam and Adam Furphy — running J Furphy and Sons and Furphy Foundry respectively.
Managing director of J Furphy and Sons Adam Furphy said the 150th anniversary was an exciting milestone.
“There is a lot of people internally in the organisation that are proud to work for a company that has been around for that long,” Mr Furphy said.
“It’s part of Shepparton’s DNA.”
Mr Furphy said he tried to not think too much about the legacy and history behind his family name.
It is pretty unique, and I think speaking on behalf of my cousin Sam and I who are both running the businesses that old John kicked off all those years ago, our primary focus is on today and tomorrow, not so much looking back,” he said.
“It is a wonderful legacy and we are very proud of it and I think both of us think our job is just to try and do something that is worthy of what John started.
“John was a pretty interesting guy, I think he was ahead of his time.”
A collector’s item
The celebrations are being held at Shepparton’s Museum of Vehicle Evolution, which houses the Furphy Museum.
The museum’s curator Josh Powell said he hoped to put on a display of interesting and not often seen water carts from collectors around the country.
“ There are a lot of collectors out there, a lot that are very passionate about Furphy products,” Mr Powell said.
One of the collectors attending the festivities is Matthew McQualter from Shepparton, who has roughly 20 Furphy water carts from the 1920 and 30s, up to the 1970s.
Some of Mr McQualter’s earliest memories can be connected to a water cart set up as a sprayer on his family farm.
“I remember the jingle on the end, ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest, too good is better and the better best’.
“I can remember working out the words and reading that, around the time I was learning to read.”
When Mr McQualter was 12 and on a family holiday to Western Australia, he spotted a water cart at a rally.
“I didn’t know the connection to Shepparton, we were on the other side of the country but I just liked them,” Mr McQualter said.
“I got intrigued by them, and turns out we had one back at the farm out under a tree, so when we got home I insisted we get it home and fix it up.
“My grandfather had experience in rebarreling one, we got it fixed up and took it to Shepparton for Furphy’s 125th birthday.
“That event really opened up to me how many different ones there were.”
From then on it became Mr McQualter’s mission to collect as many water carts as he could.
“The more you learn about them, the more intriguing it gets,” Mr McQualter said.
“Plenty of businesses come and go, there are not too many that stand the test of time for 150 years and to be in a regional area like Shepparton is pretty remarkable.”
Mr Powell said Furphy had made many different products over the years that were showcased in the museum.
“ Most of the things in the Furphy museum are the Furphy family’s collection, we do have a few things on loan from time to time,” Mr Powell said.
“It is good that they have a significant interest in their own history.”