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Online Catalogue last updated 19th of December 2014

Furphy The Water Cart and the Word by James Barnes and Andrew Furphy

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`Furphy' is a uniquely Australian word. The Australian National Dictionary defines it as `a water cart' and `rumour, or an absurd story'. But how did the family name of John Furphy, an iron founder in Shepparton, come to have this extraordinary double meaning?

For Australians on the land the water cart was life-sustaining and indispensable, and the firm of John Furphy is the most famous of its makers. In Victoria and the Riverina, by the time of the First World War, the Furphy was the water cart. The men of the first AIF, waiting to go to war, appropriated the name painted on its side, and took the new word to Gallipoli and the Western Front.

This book challenges some widely held misconceptions about the origin of the word and gives a full and authentic account of the history of the making and marketing of the Furphy. Extracts from soldiers' letters and memoirs illuminate the role of the vernacular in the formation of the Australian identity.

Furphy water carts were made for over 90 years. They are now collectors' items, and tank ends, with intriguing moral and political messages in cast iron, are prized as wall plaques. In the eyes of later generations they symbolize a rural past of simple varieties and individual effort.

The authors

Andrew Furphy, the great-grandson of the creator of the water cart, began his working life by making the famous Furphy water carts in J. Furphy & Sons, from which he retired as Managing Director in 1998 to become a sheep farmer. John Barnes, Emeritus Professor of English at La Trobe University, has written a history of J. Furphy & Sons and a biography of Joseph Furphy, the author of Such is Life. Together they have produced a most readable and authoritative book of a kind seldom attempted in Australia.

Code No. 011599, 142 pages, ISBN 1740970993, $50.00

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