Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's a Furphy

Some of you will know what a furphy is and also what a Furphy cart is. I would define a furphy as a lie in the worst case, or something misleading like a rumour. It has almost taken on the meaning of red herring.

Furphy carts were built for farmers to move water around their properties by J Furphy of Shepparton, Victoria. Previously they would have used barrels or similar. Come WWI and they found uses on the battle fields of Europe and Africa.

Furphy as a lie or rumour had its origins during WWI when soldiers gathered around the water cart and were told by the cart driver, and told each other, gossip and rumour about the war's progress, where they might be next sent, how well or not the enemy was doing. You get the idea. These stories swapped were often wrong and baseless, hence rumours developed a life as furphies.

While it is interesting history, I assumed the Furphy cart maker was also just history. So I was surprised when I looked down while standing at a tram stop in Carlisle Street, St Kilda and there was the name on the quite new grating, Furphy Foundry.

If you take a gander at the Furphy website, you will see that they make rather a lot of our street furniture. From their website, below is a photo of a Furphy water cart. While what was in relief at the end of the tank changed many times over the years, a little saying was featured for a long time in various styles.

Good, better, best - never let it rest - till your good is better - and your better, best.


  1. Not much as changed people still gather around a source of water but today its called a water cooler that's supposed to contain mineral water now that's what i call furphy :-).

  2. You tellin' me a furphy or what? lol. I wrote about this a few years ago and had a response from a girl who followed my blog. The girl grew up in the area of the Furphy's and indeed went to school with some Furphy's and got told alot of them too :) Have a great day!

  3. Good to hear the company is alive and well, and still relevant in this current day :)

  4. A person needs an enquiring mind and a sharp eye *nod*. If you had walked past the new grating and not noticed the name Furphy Foundry, you would still be thinking that the 19th century history was gone for all times.

    I love blogging :)

  5. You triggered a memory.

    Another word or term that has changed its meaning. "Keeping your nose to the grindstone" these days means focusing on the job at hand, working hard.

    History Today (Sept 2010) said it used to refer to a method of corporal punishment. The first known citation is John Frith's A mirrour or glasse to know thyselfe, 1532: "This Text holdeth their noses so hard to the grindstone, that it clean disfigureth their faces."

  6. I was born and raised in Shepparton and went to school with one the Furphy's. They had a very nice house that I rode by on the way home from school every day.

  7. Nice work Windsmoke. The modern water cart.

    Cazzie, I knew someone wrote about it. It was either you or Jayne. I remember the post.

    Jayne, while I did really know the company was still around, I was astonished that they make all that street furniture.

    Hels, I am normally inclined to look up rather than down. But then I am always looking for the holy grail of PMG, Telecom and Telstra on one pit. I can only get two out of three so far. I think I prefer our modern version of nose to the grindstone. How did that get so corrupted?

    Tony, so making water carts was quite lucrative then? I am surprised they weren't boarders at Melbourne Grammar.

  8. We had a friend called Peter Murphy and he took great delight in the Furphy tale - but thanks because I had forgotten till you posted this.

  9. MC, I bet his history was glorious, even if he was a second cousin twice removed.