The Dickie Hay Turner

Little-known in the U.S., side-delivery rake and hay turner was a post-war sensation in the U.K. and European export markets.

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Several years ago, during a trip to Great Britain, my wife and I visited the home of John Farnworth in North Wales. John is a renowned historian of Massey-Harris, Ferguson, and Massey Ferguson farm equipment. In addition to authoring 18 books on these farm equipment brands, John has assembled a large collection of his own.

“My collection consists of more than 30 tractors, mainly Massey-Harris and some odd Massey Ferguson and Ferguson,” he says. “I also have more than 30 Massey-Harris implements and about 15 rare Ferguson implements.”

During our visit, we were privileged to view his extensive assemblage. Among the various pieces of equipment was a Dickie side-delivery rake and hay turner. Dickie manufactured the implement in Scotland. However, it was marketed by Massey-Harris in the U.K. along with several other countries.
John says the implement was used mainly for hay, but sometimes for straw in the early combining days. “In my youth, I saw one operating on my grandfather’s farm and, more recently, demonstrated at shows,” he says. “I bought mine from a large Ferguson collector in Herefordshire. It’s functional and in original condition. Recently, I was able to get some replacements tines which were needed.”

Hay turner launched to great fanfare

Tom Barclay, Reference and Local History librarian of the South Ayrshire Council Community Development Libraries in Ayr, Scotland, provided insights into the history and marketing of the Dickie hay turner.

William Wilson Dickie, who founded the firm William Dickie & Sons in East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire, descended from a family in County Ayrshire, Scotland. This company specialized in farm equipment, primarily windmills.

William Dickie designed the original hay turner that would later be manufactured by his son, James. Founded in about 1912, James Dickie formed James Dickie & Co. with manufacturing at the Victoria Stamping Works in Ayr, specializing in drop forgings. While the newly created company primarily focused on producing parts for engineering firms throughout Great Britain, it also built swath turners and side rakes.

A red hay turner in a field

With the assistance of a small staff, James Dickie re-designed and adapted the hay turner to meet modern farming practices. From The Ayrshire Post of Jan. 23, 1948: “The result has been a machine of moderate price to the farmer, capable of turning over hay twice as fast as the old machines. Selling agents, Massey-Harris, Ltd., are distributing them at home and abroad as fast as they can be produced.”
The Ayrshire Post went on to report that, “After the hay turner passed tests with flying colours about three years ago, the Massey-Harris Company voted it one of the best machines of its type in the country and shortly the 5,000th model will be off the assembly line. In the early stages of the post-war drive to put Britain back on her feet, several English firms supplied some of the parts, but now the machines are constructed from components made either at the Ayr or East Kilbride foundries. The re-designed hay turner will go over the country and abroad with the majority destined for Iceland along with some going to Holland, Denmark and France to provide foreign exchange in addition to giving added impetus to the grow-more-food-at-home drive.”

Massey-Harris built a tractor factory near Kilmarnock in County Ayrshire in 1946. The association with the Dickie company may date to that time; certainly the factory continued under Massey Ferguson. No records indicating the actual countries to which the hay turners were exported are known to exist, but it is unlikely that any were marketed in North America. The duration of the marketing arrangement between Massey Ferguson with the Dickie company is also unknown.

John has a 1941 Dickie catalogue that lists numerous agriculture-related products. Earlier, Dickie was known to have made horse-drawn equipment. By the time of Dickie’s association with Massey-Harris, their equipment was becoming dated. “In 1953, the merger of Massey-Harris with Ferguson killed off Massey-Harris-type equipment in favor of Ferguson’s very extensive equipment range,” he notes. “In turn, this set the pattern and style for all future agricultural implements of all makes.”

Industrial revolution delivers era of promise

Scotland played an active role in the agricultural and industrial revolutions that swept through the British Isles. The industrial activity was centered in Glasgow on the River Clyde. This activity extended down the west coast to County Ayrshire, where there were large deposits of coal and iron.
The economic impetus there prior to the industrial revolution was primarily agriculture. In addition, handloom weaving of textiles, along with fishing and overseas trading, were brisk in the coastal towns.
During the years between 1790 and 1880, major demographic changes transpired. Agriculture, especially dairy farming, remained important. However, innovations in farm technology resulted in a reduced workforce. Mechanized textile production impacted the weavers, as did the blockade of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, when cotton shipments were interrupted.

A green cover of a parts list

Many workers sought work in the mines and industrial complexes that sprang up in the towns of County Ayrshire. Demand for ironwork rose steadily. The River Clyde became a major global shipyard. Smaller iron- and steel-hull steamships were established on the nearby Ayrshire coastal cities, including Ayr.

Global economic trends hamper industry in Scotland

As time passed, the once important industrial town of Ayr evolved into an administrative center. Local foundries and stamp work served the workshops as well as the local infrastructure and agricultural concerns.

Like the rest of Scotland and Great Britain in general, Ayrshire’s industry went through a downturn that started between the first and second world wars. During World War II, food supplies from overseas were threatened by German submarines in coastal waters.

A black and white photo of a person and a hay turner

The government took charge of agriculture production and enforced measures to insure production of crops for human consumption. This continued through the 1940s and 1950s with farmers being subsidized, thus creating an excellent demand for the manufacture of farm machinery.

By the late-1950s and into the mid-1960s, industrial output in Scotland collapsed. Overseas mining and steel production reduced shipbuilding. The smaller firms that depended on the industry tried to adapt in a post-industrial era, but many failed. Some of those smaller metal-working firms have survived, but with a dramatically reduced labor force. FC

Freelance writer Fred Hendricks of Mansfield, Ohio, covers a vast array of subjects relating to agriculture. Email Fred at

Ayrshire county has more than one claim to fame

A brown cow in a field

Ayrshire dairy cattle originated in the same county as the Dickie hay turner. The Dunlops of that ilk are credited with breeding these cattle. In a nod to the family credited with advancing the breed, they were known as Dunlop cattle for a time. Later, they were known as Cunninghame cattle. The reference to Cunninghame recalls extensive cattle docks that were utilized at Cunninghamhead Station for loading and export.

The cattle eventually became known as Ayrshire when their characteristics became well established. In 1786, the first Ayrshire show was sponsored by the Highland Agricultural Society. According to the Ayrshire Breeders Association of America, the first Ayrshires were imported into the U.S. by H.W. Hills of Windsor, Connecticut, in about 1922. – Fred Hendricks

  • Updated on Jul 19, 2021
  • Originally Published on Jun 24, 2021
Tagged with: Dickie side-delivery rake, hay turner, Massey Harris
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