Sunday History Photo / Vic

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 08:14
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The most distinctive product to carry the Furphy brand would certainly be the water cart. The presence of the cart in military camps in Australia during the First World War led to the name of Furphy becoming an indelible part of our language. 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 freedon to express their thoughts on the latest news that was, at best, unreliable. Known as a "Furphy" Water carts were used extensively in Europe and the Middle East to carry water to the troops. The drivers of the carts were notorious sources of information and gossip for the men as they moved from camp to camp. As could be expected, not all their news was reliable and so it was that the word Furphy rapidly became a synonym for suspect information or rumour.

The water cart was in itself a complete invention of John Furphy and was first made in the 1880's. John Furphy, the company founder, was born June 17, 1842 at Moonee Ponds in Victoria, At the time no similar article was used in Australia. Few houses of the time were designed to collect rain water from the roof and hence, water needed to be collected elsewhere and transported for stock and domestic use. The method of carting water was then confined to horse drawn drays or sleds with mounted wooden barrels or casks. At the same time the growing demand for agricultural implements, led to the establishment of a foundry with a furnace to cast components rather than the time consuming task of forging. This became the catalyst for the efficient production of the robust and mobile water carrier known then, and now, as the Furphy Farm Water Cart.
John Furphy was an experienced wheelwright and thus employed a similar method of construction for the water tank. It consisted of shrinking an iron band on the end casting to hold and tightly seal the cylinder or body of the tank, just as the iron tyre was fitted to the wooden body of the wagon wheel. The tanks were made of cast iron ends, 34 inches in diameter with a sheet steel body rolled to form a cylinder. For the first few years the cylinders were made from 1/8 inch black steel . All the sheet steel for the cart barrels was imported from England and Europe. Galvanized sheets were imported when they became available and when John Lysaght began galvanizing in Australia the body sheets were obtained from Melbourne. The first carts were available in 180 and 250 gallon capacities. The 180 gallon 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.

The cart frame was made from wood and was fitted with 30 inch cast wheels. Rubber tyred wheels and a steel chassis were introduced in 1945, greatly improving the mobility of the cart. The first carts found a ready market in Victoria and the Riverina and eventually found their way into all states. The first end castings were plain, followed by the first to have an inscription reading "Furphy" at the top end of the plate. Shortly after this was changed to read "J. Furphy, maker, Shepparton". The value of advertising was recognised and raised lettering listing the products of John Furphy was added. In 1898, John added a short rhyme with a strong message. It read "Good, better, best - 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. Also in 1942, William added a modified version of the saying attributed to W M Hughes, the prime minister of Australia, together with an illustration of a stork holding a baby in traditional fashion. The statement, also in shorthand, read "Produce and populate or perish." Whilst these messages are some of the more notable there were numerous variations to the words cast on the ends produced over the years.
The tank itself remained fundamentally the same for the duration of its life. However, ongoing developments regarding the design of the "utility" arrangement and the increased availability of quality hardware and accessories resulted in the number of models over its history.
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. However, the replacement of cast iron components with galvanized mild steel make the tank much lighter and more economical to produce.
Today, the tradition continues, when 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.
These bottom 3 photo's I took at the fantastic display at Ilfracombe , Qld.

gift by Daughter

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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 08:21

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 08:21
Thanks Doug

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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 10:23

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 10:23
Many thanks Doug.
Furphy & Sons is now a 150yo company in the hands of its 5th generation family and still going strong. One of a very few in Australia.
It can be worth browsing their website here.
Keep them coming Doug.


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Follow Up By: Member - mechpete - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:39

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:39
when I was a kid . in the early 60,s my parents had a carrying business in Shepp,
I can still remember working on the trucks in the school holidays for pocket money . We used to daily pick up water tanks .
some double length ,cast iron pig troughs, half round feed troughs ,
and consign them to all parts of Australia by rail , in the days when we had a decent rail system . the hardest thing we had to do was
shovel the foundry sand out of the rail trucks onto our Bedfords an Austins an drive to Furphys an shovel it in to the binns .
bloody hard work especially if rain had wet the sand first ,
I till drive past Furphys each day going to work , less than a kilometre from home .
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:54

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:54
Mechpete - Gee, that brings back memories! I can recall the Leach Bros next door, with a near-new 1952 Ford V8 truck, carting yellow sand to the glass works in central Perth, from a sandpit near Gnangara Lake.

The Ford was loaded by hand, with shovels - but it was equipped with a super-duper G-Well underbody hoist for unloading! The Leach boys would still cart about 4 or 5 loads of sand a day, on a 13 mile lead (21kms) into the city.

The sound of that old flathead V8 working her guts out, hauling about 5 or 6 tons of damp yellow sand up the local hills, still stays with me! But they thought they were Kings of the Road with that rig!

Cheers, Ron.
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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:46

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 11:46
Another interesting article of Australiana - thanks Doug!

I was just pondering - virtually everyone knows about Furphy water carts, but the rest of their advertised products are virtually unknown.
What does a Furphy steel delver look like? I've never seen one - or if I did, I didn't recognise it. I'm guessing it was a ditching implement?
What about a cast iron pig? That one has me beat.
I know what a swingle tree is, I've seen a Furphy spike roller in a clearing sale, and land graders, chain yokes, plough wheels and iron castings are self-explanatory.

I also see where Furphys even built rail waggons, such was their manufacturing capabilities. Rail wheel and axle casting required some pretty sizeable facilities that usually only rail workshops possessed. Was the Furphy foundry really that large?

I'm also pondering how the early Cupola Furnace of 1878 was fired. I'm guessing it was wood fired, and the air blast was provided by a steam-driven fan?
Electric power didn't generally appear until the 1890's, and Furphys didn't go over to electric power until 1906. So much information and knowledge is now lost. Thanks for any further info.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 14:57

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 14:57
More good work there Doug, interesting and informative as always.
Many thanks.

if you are interested in the history of Iron and Steel making in this country from its earliest inception around the Mittagong /Picton/Bowral area of NSW, leading all the way up to BHP in the1970s or there abouts, Get a hold of a book called "A measure of Greatness"

It is a fascinating read and as you obviously are into metal, given your trade, as I have been, you will find it hard to put down.

Definitely worth the effort.

Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 15:26

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 15:26
Thanks, Bruce - Sounds like another good book to add to my three, already-bursting bookcases!

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 20:31

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 20:31
A bore drain delver, Ron?

Photos of a delver are scarcer than rocking horse poo on ever reliable Google, so it's up to me to paint a word picture. Have seen them made out of wood, with a metal tip, but think the better ones were steel.

Imagine 2 mouldboards, set at about 30 degs to each other, with a pointy bit at the tip. A chain was hooked on at a point that would make the delver "try" to pull away from the tow method, whether it be horses, tractor or even Landrover.

The delver would be dropped into the bore drain, then towed along the drain, clearing any blockages, and generally opening up the drain to help the water flow, fully along the drain. Some drains went for many clicks, often servicing 2, 3 or more properties, from one artesian bore. The drains, when used for sheep, lasted a while, but cattle would quickly block off the smaller drains.

Imagine there'd be some delivers still in use, as many flowing bores have not been capped yet, so would be flowing into drains. Phew........


Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 20:40

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 20:40
This is an old, very old wooden delver, Ron. Thanks to Ann Britton for the photo.


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Can't remember most of it.

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Reply By: wombat100 - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 14:28

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 14:28
We have a Furphy tank 'cast end'. Got it from a junk yard at Walgett about 30 yrs ago for $10 from memory. Had it lightly sandblasted and painted up and still looks good as new !!

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Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 16:28

Sunday, Oct 19, 2014 at 16:28
Hi Doug

I still have here opn the farm an original Furphy grader...originally towed behind a horse...modified for tractor...used to level land

I have used it many times in previous it just sits there for nostalgia reasons

Life is a journey, it is not how we fall down, it is how we get up.
VKS 1341

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