One street back from the main road running through the Northern Victorian town of Shepparton, stands a sculpture to the man widely regarded as the father of the Australian Novel – Joseph Furphy.The Furphy name is synonymous with Shepparton, with the Furphy foundry an important part of the economic industry in the town and the wider Goulburn Valley. Established by Joseph’s brother John in the mid 1800’s it has grown from a maker of agricultural implements to now being a diversified foundry and manufacturing company specialising in street and park furniture amongst other things. However it is probably best known for the Furphy water cart which carted water for soldiers during World War 1 throughout Europe and the Middle East. It was his brothers foundry in Shepparton which brought Joseph to Shepparton in 1884.
Joseph was born in September 1843 near Yarra Glen in Victoria. From an early age he learnt to read passages from the Bible and Shakespeare and continued to embrace his love of literature throughout his adult life.
His move to Shepparton came in 1884 after some tough times on his property at Corop and with his team of bullocks in the Riverina. Work at his brothers foundry allowed for indulging in his passion for his books after 8 hours of solid work.
On the banks of the Goulburn River, Joseph had a cottage over looking a bend in the river. Out the back he constructed a modest lean to where he would retreat to of an evening and begin to write by the light of a kerosene lamp. Eventually his writings resulted in “Such is Life” written under the pseudonym Tom Collins. As well as this novel he wrote two other books and contributed tales of the bush to The Bulletin under the name of Tom Collins.
Unfortunately his cottage was lost to time and eventually demolished with all that remained being the wilga and kurrajong trees he planted. In 2005 his family and the Shepparton community unveiled the statue above showing Joseph, a true Aussie bushie, stirring his billy can water with a stick.
On the site, along with a sculpture of Joseph is a menhir (standing stone, pictured above left) which describes his novel “Such is life” as a novel which “uniquely expresses his love of learning, life of hard work, egalitarianism and the humour and narratives of an almost vanished Australia”.
If in the Goulburn Valley and if you have an interest in Australian History, it is worth stopping in Shepparton to pay tribute to this remarkable man, who many think wrote the best prose by any Australian writer.
Location: 132 – 134 Welsford St, Shepparton
More information: www.josephfurphy.com.au