Today I saw a furphy, or maybe a FURPHY.

In Australian informal English, a furphy is a tall tale. The word comes from the portable water tanks manufactured by J Furphy & Son of Shepparton, Victoria. These were found around the rural areas of Australia from the late 1800s, and especially where the Australian Army was stationed during World War 1. Those gathered around them would swap stories, true, mostly true or not mostly true, in the manner of ‘water cooler discussions’ nowadays.

The company still exists, owned by descendants of the founder, and makes a variety of metal items for industrial and rural use. The water cart is still made, having undergone changes of design, but I had never seen one. This afternoon I bought an iced coffee at a fast food restaurant which shall remain nameless. The main street of Sydney is undergoing major development to install light rail tracks. Immediately outside the fast food restaurant which shall remain nameless was a FURPHY water cart (the name is in very big, black, upper case-letters on the side).

To my Irish readers: yes, the name is Irish – John (the blacksmith/wheelwright) and Joseph (the writer, aka Tom Collins) Furphy’s father was born in County Armagh.


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