33. Joseph “Tom Collins” Furphy (1843-1912), writer
Joseph Furphy was born at Yarra Glen, Victoria. He was the second son of Irish immigrants Samuel and Judith Furphy. Furphy completed his formal education in 1857 and became a “jack of all trades”, working at various jobs including farm labourer, mechanic, gold prospector, and owner-operator of agricultural machinery and farmer.
During these years he began writing, winning his first prize for poetry in 1867. In that same year he married Leonie Celina Germain and became the licensee of the Vineyard Hotel, Daylesford. During the 1870s he moved to various towns in Victoria, and eventually settled in Hay where he established a long-distance carrier business. However, drought and illness ensured business failure.
It was during the 1880s that Joseph Furphy became attracted to socialist principles and began his longtime relationship with Kate Baker, twenty years his junior. In the 1890s he wrote Such is Life, but amendments to the original manuscript were not completed for some years and the book was eventually published in 1903.
In 1905 Joseph and Leonie Furphy moved to Swanbourne, Western Australia to live close to their children. To support his family he worked as a handyman, while continuing to write short stories and poetry. He died on 13 September 1912 of a cerebral haemorrhage.
His success as a writer was posthumous. His book and other writings became popular in the 1930s and 1940s, and can be attributed to the determination of Kate Baker to ensure his work was not forgotten. His cottage in Servetus Street, Swanbourne, has been the centre for WA writers for many years. It has been relocated to nearby Allen Park, Swanbourne, to save it from demolition when the West Coast Highway was widened.