Tom Collins, a slang byword for the source of all rumours, was the pseudonym adopted by Joseph Furphy. The son of Protestant Irish immigrants, he was born at Yering Station, Victoria, in 1843. As a boy, he helped his father work the land, and later became a goldminer, labourer and farmer before running bullock drays in remote south-west New South Wales for seven years with his wife and children.

After drought and illness wiped out his two bullock teams, Furphy began working at a foundry in Shepparton, Victoria, owned by his brother. There he began writing for The Bulletin. His masterpiece, Such is Life, was submitted to them in 1897 and published in 1903.

A year later, he and his wife moved to Perth to settle near his sons. He died there in 1912. His other books – Poems (1916), Rigby’s Romance (1921) and The Buln Buln and the Brolga (1948) – were published posthumously.