By Tessa Rabeau
Many of you may be familiar with the brand ‘Furphy beer’- ads plastered across Australian buses, billboards and bus stops, the slogan ‘Furphy, Refreshing Ale’ has started to become known all around the country. You may be wondering what the relevance of mentioning this alcohol brands’ catchy marketing scheme is, but behind this bombardment of advertisements is a classic story of Australian history that should not be overlooked. This is the true story of ‘Furphy’.
Our story begins with two brothers, Joseph and John Furphy, whose parents migrated to Australia in 1841 from Northern Ireland. They grew up as farmers, as their father Samuel Furphy owned a corn and hay business.
Joseph spent many years attempting to become a successful farmer, however he found that his talent lay in the art of writing. He preached against money hungry men, telling his father ‘that the man who pursued money had made a compact with the evil one’. In 1897 under the pen name ‘Tom Collins’, Joseph wrote ‘Such is Life’ which was published and extremely successful, earning him the modern-day title of ‘The Father of the Australian Novel’.
Joseph Furphy may be the more ‘famous’ member of his family; however, his brother John has also played an important role in Australian history. John Furphy successfully started the ‘Furphy Foundry’ in 1864, specialising in cast iron agricultural farm implements. The most famous of these was the Furphy water cart – a horse drawn barrel used for irrigating crops. The water cart was to become common place on many Australian farms. During WW1 the Furphy water cart was taken to the European war front to carry water to thirsty troops. Whilst the troops gathered around the cart they shared stories of their battles and life on the front. The driver of the cart, of course, would listen to these stories and relay them to the next camp – exaggerating them for the sake of a good story. The word ‘Furphy’ became synonymous with a lie or exaggeration and has become a part of our Australian language. Politicians today frequently spite each other, yelling ‘That’s a Furphy!’. If you ever hear it, now you know the history behind this word.
The popular Furphy beer has been named to reflect the notion of people gathering and sharing stories over a refreshing drink. For our troops in the trenches of WW1, it was one of the few sources of relief available and offered an outlet for those emotionally suffering from a lack of human connection.
So next time you see an ad for ‘Furphy Beer’, you can think of brothers Joseph and John Furphy, a novelist and a manufacturer who contributed to our identity in even a small way, and maybe share this authentically Australian story.