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A Furphy water cart
Close-up of the tap end of the same tank.

Furphy is the name of a family and their company,[1] based in Shepparton in Victoria, Australia. The name has come to mean a rumour or unreliable information.

The Furphy water cart

The company, which began in 1864, is most famous for their water cart, designed in the 1880s primarily for farm use, but was extensively used in Australian military camps, and on the battle fields of Europe and the Middle East in World War I. There the water cart drivers were sources of information and gossip for the soldiers, and the term furphy came to mean a rumour or unreliable information.

The term and its origins are the Australian land bound equivalent of the nautical "scuttlebutt" describing gossip around the water keg or barrel (butt) on board ship in the days of sail. These days, the water cooler, tea urn or coffee maker serves the same purpose.

John Furphy, who started the company, attended his local Methodist church and was a lay preacher there. His water carts are known for round cast-iron ends embossed with various wording, including a rhyme and a temperance message in shorthand. The rhyme reads:

Good - Better - Best
Never let it rest
Till your Good is Better
And your Better - Best.

Another shorthand message has varied a little over the years, but one version of it was, Water is the gift of God, but beer and whisky are concoctions of the devil, come and have a drink of water.

The water carts are still made, although the cast-iron ends were replaced with galvanis ed mild steel in 1983.


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  1. The company name is actually J Furphy & Sons Pty. Ltd.