Massey Harris GP Finds Home in Wales

An Abergele, Wales man has rare Massey Harris GP shipped across the Atlantic

| January 2011

A collector’s quest for a remarkable farm tractor can be almost limitless. In Steve Watts’ case, the hunt spanned the Atlantic Ocean. Steve, who lives in Abergele, Wales, U.K., coveted a Massey-Harris General Purpose four-wheel drive tractor primarily because of its groundbreaking technology. And it was rare. When Steve’s friend, John Farnworth, stumbled across a newspaper ad for a GP in Millersburg, Pa., in 2005, it seemed too good to be true. But the two-line description of the Massey-Harris tractor along with a phone number resulted in the lead Steve had dreamed about. 

“I made contact immediately, not thinking for one moment the tractor would still be available,” Steve recalls. “To my utmost surprise, it was. I chatted with the owner, Mrs. Joyce Reinfield, about the tractor. The old Massey belonged to her father who had passed away two years earlier. It had been stored in an old farm shed partially covered with loose straw. Our conversation ended with a promise that Mrs. Reinfield would keep the tractor until I could see pictures. Within two weeks I received a letter containing two photos.”

Steve was anxious to move the process along, but a five-hour time difference required patience. “When I finally made the trans-Atlantic call, I learned that Mrs. Reinfield was true to her word. She had turned away several inquiries from the U.S., South America and Australia,” he says. “I next wondered if the tractor was a runner. She remembered her dad running the tractor a short time before his passing. We reached an agreeable price, but then came the bombshell. Mrs. Reinfield wanted cash as she did not trust banks and would not accept any normal money transactions. My heart was in my mouth for the next two weeks until I learned that she had received her money in the post so the deal was completed.” 

Roots in agriculture
Steve’s family’s roots in agriculture and forestry span more than a century. The challenges of supporting two families off 200 acres of hill farming required Steve’s dad to diversify into sand and gravel quarrying in the early 1960s.

The Watts family’s new home just outside Llangollen in North Wales is set alongside Plas-yn-Pentre (mansion in the village) Farm. The farm was built in the early 1500s and modernized in 1645 to an Elizabethan manor house. Its colorful history includes false walls, tunnels to neighboring fields and “priest holes” dating to a period of religious persecution in the late 1500s.

Steve began working on that farm at age 10. “Plas-yn-Pentre was my savior,” he says. “The bachelor owner, Roy Bailey, was a true gentleman with excellent community values. We milked about 120 cows, mostly Holsteins with a few Jerseys. When I carried the milk churns to the end of the drive Roy would say, ‘Be careful lad, you know that’s liquid gold.’ We also had about 400 Welsh ewes, about 20 pigs and a few hens for our breakfast eggs. I would ask, ‘Why so many hens? We don’t need all those eggs.’ Roy would remind me that the extra eggs would go to the local ladies in our village. ‘In return I get cakes to feed you.’”