Farm Collector goes to a tractor rally and visits the sights in the United Kingdom.
A gentle rain fell as the Ayrshire Vintage Tractor & Machinery Club rally got underway last July near Ayr on Scotland’s west coast. Sometimes the rain tapered off to a soft mist; at other times it could fairly be described as a downpour. Locals clad in sensible raingear and boots scarcely gave it a second thought. “Western Scotland,” one explained with a smile, “is where the clouds go to get refilled.”
The event was a model of organization. Displays were registered well in advance. When each item arrived on the appointed day, the owner was directed to a reserved spot complete with an identifying number that correlated to information printed in a booklet given out at the gate. Judging of the most interesting exhibit, best car and vintage commercial vehicle was conducted in advance and the results were published in the booklet.
Henry Murdoch, Dalrymple, showed a 1947 Ferguson TE20 P3 and a 1954 Ferguson TEF 20 diesel. “My dad and granddad farmed with horses,” he says. “They stopped that in 1948. Dad got a petrol tractor first, and then a diesel.” So it was only natural that when Henry started a tractor collection, he’d look for a pair similar to those he grew up with.
Restoration of the 1947 TE20 was completed just a week before the rally. Used most recently to load manure, the tractor was complete when Henry got it, “but it was in a pretty poor state,” he admits. “I bought a lot of new parts and had the original engine rebuilt.”
The tractor’s bonnet (hood, to us Yanks) is original; the grille and wings (fenders) are replacements. For comfort’s sake, Henry added a modern seat. He also replaced a leaking fuel tank and repaired leaking oil seals on the rear axle. “It was a labor of love,” he says.
The TE20 has new Goodyear tires – two from Scotland, two from France. “It’s a global village now,” Henry says. His TE20 has an American Continental engine; his TEF is equipped with a Standard Motor Co. engine, with a design assist from engine designer Arthur Freeman-Sanders.
Henry found his TEF 20 at a local dealership. “It started and it ran well,” he says, “but it was a mess.” He had the engine rebuilt and had the entire tractor professionally painted.
Henry’s Fergusons are more than collectibles: They pull their weight at his rural home. “I used to use the diesel to plant potatoes in our garden, but now I use it on the saw bench to cut firewood, and use the TE20 to run a generator,” he says. “Diesel engines were made to work!”
Bill Allan, Silloth, showed a Pollock “tattie digger” (potato digger). Manufactured from 1907 to 1967, the unit was particularly popular in the Channel Islands, a large early potato-producing region in the U.K. Originally designed for use with two horses, Bill’s digger was later modified for use with a tractor.
When he discovered the Pollock, Bill had no idea what he’d got hold of. “I found it in a scrap heap,” he says. “I couldn’t tell what it was.”
Later, he came to understand how unusual the unit is. “Because some of the parts are made of wood, if the digger were to hit a stone, the wood parts would break, protecting the castings from damage,” Bill explains. As part of the restoration, he procured replacement parts made of American hickory.
The unit’s wheels drive a crown wheel; one handle controls depth and gear operation. The earliest Pollocks were equipped with a bag to stop potatoes from rolling too far; later models employed a metal basket.
Bill looked for an original basket for the Pollock for two years. “I finally found one in the Lake District,” he says. “You couldn’t believe anyone would grow potatoes there. It was in a hedge; someone had stuck it there to stop the sheep from getting through. We had to patch the hedge after we took it!”
John Beatty, also of Silloth, showed an even older digger. His is a Jack’s Caledonian, complete with seat and tattie stopper. In 1895, the Jack’s Caledonian won first prize at the Royal Agriculture Society of England show.
“It would actually lift the potatoes out,” he marvels. The fact that the unit is equipped with a seat makes it unusual. “Back when this was manufactured, most farmers would just walk alongside the implement,” he says.
David Brown’s first foray into tractor production – a joint project with Harry Ferguson in 1936 – resulted in the Ferguson-Brown tractor. While that alliance was short-lived, David Brown went on to become one of Britain’s leading tractor manufacturers in the years following World War II.
James “Jimmy” Hamilton, Killmarnoch, displayed a 1968 David Brown Selectamatic 880 with 3-point linkage. “I bought it eight years ago,” he says. “It was partially restored but complete.” The tractor’s chocolate brown and orchid white color scheme was adopted in about 1965, he says.
Part of a collection of eight tractors, his Selectamatic is “just a common production tractor,” he says, but it reflects a deep affection for vintage farm equipment. “I just like tractors,” he says. How could he not? “I learned on a TE20 when I was 8 years old,” he says. “Then I got to drive a Fordson Dexta. When I was just a wee boy, I’d go to the shed and wash the tractors. I was just so keen on them.”
R.W. Bryan brought an unusual pair of engines to the rally: a Hatz ES 75 800cc diesel and a J.A.P. Type 5 petrol. He rescued the German-built Hatz, which was built in 1985, from a scrap heap. “The piston has cutouts to let the valves chase the piston,” he explains. “When the last owner was trying to start the engine, it was knocking. The mechanic who’d repaired it fitted a new piston but put it in the wrong way, so it continued to knock – so it was classified as being beyond repair.”
The engine was abandoned to a scrap heap until R.W. got his hands on it. “I turned the piston and the engine started the first time,” he says with a grin.
R.W.’s J.A.P. engine, built in 1961, was originally used on a saw bench. “It was given to me by my father in 1973,” he says. “It lay outside until 2006, when I restored it.” The engine required a small patch of weld on the fan cover and he stripped and cleaned the magneto and carburetor. He also added an electric start for ease of operation.
The J.A.P. was built by J.A. Prestwich Industries, an English manufacturer named for company founder John Alfred Prestwich. The company was known for its early aviation, automotive and motorcycle engines. J.A.P. stationary engines were commonly used in agricultural applications.
Ian Fleming, who lives near Irvine, displayed a 1937 1-1/2 hp Lister D to the Ayr rally. A fan of “any type of farm machinery,” he had his hands full with the Lister, which was reluctant to perform on demand. The engine was already restored when he bought it, but with the wrong tank. “It should have a D-shaped tank,” he says.
Had the sun been out at the Ayr rally, it would have been eclipsed by a handsomely restored Fowler steam engine. The century-old Yorkshire Belle, built in Leeds by John Fowler & Co., twinkled with festive lights and gleaming brass.
But these were no mere fanciful embellishments. The Yorkshire Belle was a showman’s engine. A generator on the front of the 6 hp engine was used to provide power and transport for a circus or carnival, as well as electricity for lights and rides.
Owner Tom French, Cumnock, whose collection includes a second showman’s engine, says the Yorkshire Belle was in good condition when he bought it. The 11-ton engine was typical of medium to large engines built by Fowler into the 1930s.
Showman’s engines were typically equipped with a full-length roof or canopy extending beyond the chimney to protect the generator (or dynamo) from rain. An extra tube was carried on the roof to use in extending the chimney when stationary. Ranging from 6 to 8 feet, the tube was extra long to improve draft, reducing risk of smoke and cinders bothering crowds at fairs and carnivals. Showman’s engines also often featured a large boom crane fitted to the tender. The crane was used to erect rides and move heavy items.
Tom came too late to experience the steam era. “I grew up with horses,” he says. “They’d just come to the end with steam when I was a boy. But I remember the crews going all over the U.K., from Aberdeen to Dorset.” FC
Tour group visits the sights in Wales, England and Scotland
Setting out from Manchester in central England, the group viewed several private collections, including those of Brian Webster, Robert Leedham, John Gilmour, Richard Sturdy, Willie Robson and Stuart Barbour. All were gracious in opening their shed doors to the group of 25 and answering a flurry of questions pertaining to local farming practices, history and various handsome pieces of antique farm equipment.
Meeting Farm Collector columnist Josephine Roberts was a particular highlight for many on the tour. The group spent a day with Josephine as tour guide (and her daughter Lili as her able assistant), visiting the smallholding near Llanwrst in North Wales where she and her family live, an 800-year-old church nearby and a small private castle in the Conwy Valley that is undergoing renovation.
Both the church and Gwydir Castle were well off the regular tourist’s beaten path and as such offered unique opportunities for tour members to delve into local history and culture. Lunch in the village of Llanwrst rounded out the day.
Other highlights of the 10-day coach tour included visits to the National Railway Museum, Beamish Living Museum of the North, National Museum of Rural Life, Falkirk Wheel, rides on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the steam yacht Gondola, a tour of the Glenkinchie Distillery and a day at the Ayrshire Vintage Tractor & Machinery Rally in Scotland.
Leslie C. McManus is the senior editor of Farm Collector. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com.