Imperial quarto (397 × 290 mm), comprising a sheet of thin card (360 × 252 mm) mounted as the rear pastedown in heavy bevel-edged morocco-bound boards, facing a watered silk front pastedown. The card contains a lengthy calligraphic testimonial to John Furphy, in red and black gothic script underlined throughout in red. Original gelatin silver photographs of Furphy (an oval, 108 × 82 mm) and the Shepparton Methodist Church (82 × 131 mm) are inset in the top and bottom left-hand corners respectively; linking them is a hand-coloured border featuring a spray of hibiscus flowers, and across the top is his name in a large and decorative font, heightened in red and gold.
Full black morocco lettered and extensively decorated in gilt on the front panel, and decorated at the rear with the Southern Cross in gilt, within a gilt- and blind-decorated border; gilt inner dentelles; leather rubbed and scuffed, and a little worn at the corners; minor loss to the ends of the spine, where the joints are also starting to split; front panel unevenly discoloured; minor silverfish loss to the surface of the portrait (affecting only one lapel and some plain background); paper a little foxed and dusty; small strip of the 'frame' masking the bottom edge of the photograph of the church is missing (but the identifying caption in the negative is now exposed); overall in very good condition.
'Dear Mr Furphy, [We] ... have heard with very great sorrow of your removal from the District after a residence of about 35 years and an unbroken association with the Methodist Church.... As a Local Preacher you have rendered invaluable Service to all our churches, travelling thousands of miles, at your own charge to preach the glad tiding of Salvation.... We greatly regret your departure from this town ...' John Furphy (1842-1920) is perhaps better known as the engineering blacksmith whose name became a synonym for a 'rumour or story, especially one that is untrue or absurd' (Oxford Dictionary). He was born in Moonee Ponds, and educated at government schools at Kangaroo Ground and Kyneton. After completing his apprenticeship, in '1864 he set up as a blacksmith in Kyneton and stayed there until 1873 when he moved to the newly surveyed township of Shepparton in the Goulburn valley, where he opened the first blacksmith's and wheelwright's shop. His business expanded into ironfounding and by 1888 his establishment was the most extensive of its kind in northern Victoria' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography'). He patented award-winning farm machinery, but his 'most distinctive product was a simple invention which he never patented: a watercart with a 180-gallon (818 litres) cylindrical iron tank, mounted horizontally on a horse-drawn wooden frame with cast-iron wheels. The name Furphy was painted in large capitals on both sides of the tank. These carts, generally known as furphies, were ideal for the transport of water on farms, and an estimated average of 300 were produced annually for about forty years. They were used in large numbers by the Australian army in World War I. Drivers of the carts were noted for spreading gossip, and in time furphy became a synonym for idle rumour'. Apropos this testimonial, 'With his piety and strong sense of duty, John Furphy was prominent in Shepparton affairs. The first religious service in Shepparton was held by the United Free Methodists in his cottage behind the blacksmith's shop in 1873. In his thirty-five years of unbroken association with the Methodist Church in Shepparton he filled every office open to laymen and was well known as an effective preacher. Even his watercarts reflected his moral earnestness. Cast in the metal of one end was a rhymed exhortation to do one's best, and above it an inscription in shorthand warning of strong drink and urging the reader to stick to water'. On leaving Shepparton in 1909, he retired to Melbourne, where he died on 23 September 1920. Fifth-generation descendants still own and operate the Shepparton-based business.