The Furphy Heritage
John Furphy, the company founder, was born June 17, 1842 at Moonee Ponds in Victoria. His younger brother, Joseph was destined to become a famous writer later in life using the pen name Tom Collins. He wrote the Australian classic bush novel, ‘Such is Life’, which was published in 1903 when Joseph was sixty.
In 1873 there were about 13 families living in and around the Shepparton area. John Furphy, then 31 years of age, selected and bought ten acres of land fronting Tocumwal Road (now Wyndham Street) and this area is now prime city space in Shepparton. John quickly set up a blacksmith and wheelwright shop and began business. He soon added a steam works and was able to progress from light smithing and engineering to heavier work. About 1878 a Copula Furnace was installed and the iron foundry section of the business began.
The implement and foundry works flourished and by 1880 there were 38 men and boys on the payroll. By 1888 John Furphy could claim to have the most extensive establishment of its kind in Northern Victoria.
In 1906 the business moved from the Wyndham Street position to a site opposite the railway station. The plant was modernised with the addition of a suction gas engine to drive a large DC generator.
J. Furphy & Sons was one of the few electrically powered factories in Victoria at the time and certainly the first in the Goulburn Valley. Some time in 1908 the entire generating plant was moved to the recreation reserve in Shepparton, and the townsfolk were able to witness their first athletic carnival under lights.
John Furphy was a pious man with a strong sense of duty and right like his father. He pioneered Methodism in the district and the first religious service in the area was held by the United Free Methodists in his cottage at the rear of the blacksmith’s shop in 1873. In his 35 years of unbroken association with the Methodist Church in Shepparton he filled every office open to a layman and was a prominent figure in other local affairs.
John Furphy showed the flair of his family in his speaking and writing even in his advertising. In editions of the Shepparton Chronicle published around 1889, he wrote general letters related to his products or some facet of the business which was appropriate at the time.
On his farm gates, John Furphy wrote, “My price for 12 feet wide with rails, hangings, and fastenings with the name of the owner or place cast on the centre in raised letters is only four pounds. I have made very little out of them, except for the satisfaction of spreading the marks of civilisation”.
In another letter to the public he wrote, “The stripper which I exhibited at the Centennial is now on view at my factory. It is the best I know how to make and only modesty prevents my adding – the best in the world”.
John Furphy left Shepparton at the age of 67 leaving control of the business to his sons William, George and Charles.
John Seeley Furphy, son of George and grandson of the founder, started with the business in 1925 and took over most of the casting works in the foundry and supervised the assembly side. He worked closely with his cousin Fred, looking after general production.
In 1938, the partnership was made a company with the six directors being William, George and Charles with Fred, Albert and John. In 1950 the three older directors were bought out and in 1960 John bought out the interests of his cousins.
In the 1960’s John Furphy’s three sons, Andrew, Roger and Timothy were introduced to the company and assisted with its running.
In 1978 the company relocated its operation to its present site in New Dookie Road bounding on the city limits. Modern offices, an Engineering workshop and the Foundry were established first. Since that time continued growth and diversification has seen the addition of a Metal Service Centre, Industrial Store, Hot Dip Galvanizing plant (1984) and a high tech Laser Cutting facility (1997). These divisions combine to form, on the one site, a truly unique metal trades centre.
Subsequent galvanizing plants, developed, owned and operated by Furphys, were established in Geelong Vic (1991), Albury NSW (1994) and Blayney NSW (1999).
Project engineering and fabrication remain however, Furphys core business activity. Since the late 1960’s, there has been a concentrated effort in developing skills and infrastructure for stainless steel, aluminium and mild steel fabrication. Today the company enjoys a national profile of being a versatile, innovative and quality driven fabricator of specialised equipment and structures for major engineering projects.
It also prides itself on the continued service offered to the local community and industry who play such an important role in ensuring the company’s successful growth.
In 1989, Andrew Furphy bought out the interests of his two brothers, effectively leading to the ‘re-establishment’ of Furphys Foundry as a separate company. Andrew continued as Managing Director until 1998. At this time Andrew’s only son Adam, a fifth generation Furphy, assumed the role as Managing Director of J. Furphy & Sons and now leads the company into the new millennium.