Adverts for tractor dealers provide one way that we can find out who and where the first tractors were being sold in Scotland. Another way is to see where tractors were being used. Farm displenishing sale notices in newspapers provide evidence of where some of the earliest tractors were used and the context in which they were being used. They list the tractors alongside all the other implements and machines on the farm.
There are few adverts for the “Glasgow tractor”. However, one had been used at the Mains of Dun, Angus, by Robert Rodger. After he died in the summer of 1921 a displenishing sale was arranged which comprised, according to The Scotsman of 10 August 1921, “1 Glasgow tractor, only been in use one season, in very good order; cultivator self-lifter for tractor; disc harrow; Cockshutt plough, 3 furrow; binder, 6 feet for tractor; and all the implements required on a large farm.” In total there were 398 lots. There was a “record attendance” at the sale, according to the Dundee Courier of 19 August 1921. It noted that there were “farmers and dealers from all over Scotland”. The implements and machines had “a very sharp trade” and “highly satisfactory prices” were received. The Glasgow tractor sold for £210.Mr Baird, the incoming tenant, was an extensive purchaser.
The adverts were more usually for Mogul, Titan and Avery Tractors. They started to appear in displenishing sales notices from late 1919 onwards. They were largely used on the larger farms, including Mains of Home farms, where there were a range of arable activities, including the growing and harvesting of green crops, being undertaken. They were also being used alongside horse drawn implements and machines – and also alongside teams of horses as well.
The following are extracts from farm displenishing sale notices which included these early tractors. Notice the large number of implements and machines for sale as well as the range of “modern” implements of the day: there is a considerable amount of mechanisation being used on the farms to make the range of tasks of indoor and outdoor work as easy to undertake as possible.
Flawcraig, Errol, Perthshire (notice in Dundee courier, 31 October 1919) Implements- “Mogul” tractor, 3 furrow plough, large disc harrow, water tank, 4 coup carts, 4 iron carts, 4 metal rollers, 2 brake harrows, 1 4-horse grubber, set circular harrows, 4 set harrows, 4 drill grubbers, potato digger, 2 D. M. ploughs, 2 Sellar ploughs, 4 American ploughs, turnip shawer, 2 turnip cutters, 3 binders, 2 mowers, 2 Hunter hoes, cultivator, 5 cattle troughs, horse rake, manurer distributor, cake crusher, potato boxes, barn fanners, steelyard and weights, 4 sets cart and plough harness & c and the usual barn and stable utensils.
The Home Farm, Parkhill (notice in Aberdeen press and journal, 30 April 1920) Implements-2 binders (Massey Harris), Albion mower, 1 disc drill sowing machine (Deering), 1 broadcast sowing machine, 1 turnip sowing machine, 1 manure distributor, 1 potato digger (Martin’s patent), 1 horse rake, 2 drag rakes, 5 single ploughs, 2 D. B. ploughs, 1 water furrow plough, 3 shim ploughs, 1 three drill plough, 1 seven tined cultivator, 3 water furrer combined, 4 stone rollers, 4 box carts (with tops), 2 long carts (with hay tops), 1 lorry (30 cwt), 1 cattle float, 1 pig’s float, governess car (suit 15 h.h.), 8 sets of harrows, including angle, chain, drag, grass seed, and potato; 3 grubbers (4, 3, and 2 horse), barn fan, weighing machine and weights, 4 box barrows, 2 peat barrows, scythes, wire fencing, yokes and swingletrees, cattle feeding troughs, turnip slicers, 6 sets cart and plough harness, pony harness, and all the usual stable furnishings, including power clipping machine, smithy tools, dairy utensils, including 2 crank churns and 2 plump churns, butter worker, etc, etc. Also, “Mogul” tractor No. B5268, speed 400, hp 16-20, in perfect working order, 1 portable threshing machine, 3 ½ feet, double blast finishing, by Clayton and Shuttleworth, in splendid order; 1 three furrow Cock Shoot tractor plough, steel sheaths; 1 two furrow plough, by Sellar and Son, Huntly, and a number of spares.
Easter Caputh, Murthly (notice in Dundee courier, 9 November 1920) Implements-5 coup carts, corn carts, 4 senior Dux ploughs, swing ploughs, drill ploughs, 3 furrow tractor plough, 3 sets harrows, grass seed harrows, 2 two-horse grubbers, 3 drill grubbers, Hunter hoe, Martin’s cultivator, spring-toothed harrow, circular harrow, corn drill, manure sowing machine, double drill and manure sower (by Wallace), Richmond potato planter, 2 Deering binders, 1 Wood binder, 2 mowers, horse rake, hay rake, turnip cutter, pulper, cake breaker, grist mill, saw bench, sheep dipper and tanks, sheep haiks, troughs, stakes and netting, field feed house on wheels, potato dresser (Phoenix), potato barrow, 2 wheel-barrows, 2 steelyards and weights, sack lifter, corn chest, oil tank (130 gals), 2 steel barrels, drums, 2 straw bunkers, cattle troughs, fire clay troughs, portable boiler, boilers, moveable hen house, coops etc; 20 sleepers, ladders, props, bosses, oil iron &c, governess car, the horse harness, and the usual barn and stable implements and land tools; also, Titan tractor and Avery tractor, both in first class order.
Harvieston, Kinneff (notice in Aberdeen press and journal, 11 November 1921) Implements-Mogul tractor 10-20hp; Sellar tractor, 3 furrow plough, tractor grubber (all as new), 4 box carts with tops, 1 long cart, 1 long cart body, dogcart, 3 iron single ploughs, M.P. plough, 2 D.B. ploughs, plough hurley, 2 sets spring-toothed harrows, set of chain harrows, 3 scrapers, 1 McCormick binder, 6ft cut (almost new); 1 Bisset binder (in good order), mower, potato digger, horse rake, 2 turnip sowing machines (almost new), manure distributor, 2 metal rollers, broadcast sowing machine, barn fan, weighing machine and weights, and other barn furniture; wire and wooden fencing, 3 sets cart and plough harness, gig harness and odd harness, yokes and swingletrees, cart ropes, coir yarn, 2 stack covers, sowing happer, ladders, picks, spades, forks, hoes, graips, and the usual assortment of minor farm implements.
Muirton, Memsie (notice in Aberdeen press and journal, 28 April 1922) Implements- Mogul tractor, in splendid order; tractor grubber, tractor pole, portable threshing mill, 54in drum, by Marshall and Sons; bruiser, practically new; 60ft endless Belatta belt; 2 box carts, with hay tops and creels; water cart, horse rake, 2 Bisset binders, spare binder parts, metal roller, metal pump, double furrow plough, 2 single ploughs, harrow hurley, spring-toothed harrows, iron harrows, wooden harrows, drill sowing machines, 2 shims, mower, oilcake breaker, spare wheels and axle, 3 box barrows, plump hasher, corn chest, field feeding trough, Martin potato digger, Ballach scarifier, ladders, various sizes; clipping machine, bench, water barrels and tubs, paraffin cask, 2 scythes, chicken coops, grains, forks, hoes, spades, shovels, fencing posts and wire, etc. Two sets of cart and plough harness, stall halters and stable furnishings.
Gateside Farm, Bridge of Earn (notice in Dundee courier, 3 November 1922) Implements-2 25hp Mogul tractors, 16hp Titan tractor, Wyles tractor plough, Ford delivery van, all in working order; 4 Eagle Tractor Waggons, 2 6-ft McCormick and Wood’s binders, 3 corn carts, 6 coup carts, hay mower, double driller and combined manure sower, turnip sower, grass sowing machine, corn bruiser and grister (combined), cake breaker, horse cultivator, horse rake, thistle cutter, corn drill, horse roller, manure distributor, hay collector, 2 tumbling rakes, set circular harrows, turnip pulper, portable boiler, 2 drill ploughs, 3 set harrows, 6 Wood’s 2 wheel ploughs, 3 food coolers, incubators and brooders, harnesses for 3 pairs horses, stable utensils; dairy utensils, including 6 5-gallon flasks, refrigerator, weighing machine, barrows, potato sack filler, swingle trees, feeding boxes and troughs sheep haiks, scythes, shovels, &c
Craighead, Blairdrummond (notice in Dundee courier, 14 November 1923) Implements – Overtime tractor, 28hp, fitted with belt pulley, suitable for fireld or stationary work, in good mechanical order; Fordson tractor (as new condition), 2 cultivators (Newlands and Ransomes), the latter with mould boards for ridging potatoes, horse rake (Newlands), turnip sower; 9ft iron roller for horse or tractor, 6ft iron roller for horse or tractor, broadcast sower (Sheriff’s, Dunbar), 18ft for seeds or grain, hay tedder (Blackstone), Massey Harris binder (6ft cut), for horse or tractor (new condition), Massey Harris binder (5ft cut), 3 hay waggons, 6 box and coup carts, 3 sets diamond harrows, brake harrows, disc harrows (International Harvester) for tractor (new), set spring tooth harrows, set chain harrows, set saddle harrows, hay horse fork, hay horse crane fork (Wilson’s); Hunter hoe, one horse grubber, potato planter (Jack’s), stone roller, 2 Oliver 110a ploughs, 1 I.R.D.C.P. Ransome ploughs, 3 swing ploughs (high cutters and plain), Massey Harris D.F. plough for horses; La Crosse tractor plough (2, 3 or 4 furrows), D. F. tractor ploughs (Speedy); drill plough, Imperial manure sower, triangle, 2 Dickie hay slipes (horse or hand power), Massey Harris mower, set fanners (Scoular’s patent), turnip cutter, turnip pulper, Bamford’s bruiser and grinder for power; hay chopper for power, 9 brake hp engine by Wilson, Aberdeen, fitted with Magneto (unless previously sold), 18-in circular saw bench and belting, 50 gallon oil tank with pump, potato digger (Jack’s Imperial), cake crusher (Bentall’s) for hand or power, grindstone; Stewart’s horse clipping machine, 3 barrows, 2 brooders (Miller’s and Sussex types), dozen coops, portable henhouse to hold 30 hens, horse box (sectional), 5 ladders (20 feet and 12 ft), knife sharpener and stand, swing trees, steelyard and weights (White, Auchtermuchty), 2 corn chests, 2 churns, 300 stack props and a few sleepers, 1 dozen fireclay troughs, 5 sets harness, backbands, also the usual large assortment of barn, byre, stable and dairy utensils &c Note – special attention is drawn to the implements, which are in excellent order.
Interestingly, Harvieston, Kinneff, Kincardineshire, was one of the earliest farms in Scotland to use steam ploughing. This was in the late 1850s. It was to again use steam ploughing in the mid 1920s, through a set hired from Sam Hird, Sauchenshaw. That set can still be found around the rally fields (non-covid years) as the ploughing engine “Sam Hird”, owned by the Barrack family.
The “Titan” and “Mogul” tractors were photographed at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum and the Manitoba Car Museum.
Most readers will associate the scythe as an implement from a byegone era. Writing in 1844 in The Book of the Farm, Henry Stephens noted that “every species of grain is cut down with two small instruments, the scythe or the sickle. The scythe can only be used by men, the sickle by both women and men. Reapers with the scythe must not only be strong men, capable of undergoing great fatigue, but they must use the instrument dexterously, otherwise they will make rough work and create confusion in the harvest field, where every operation ought to be carried on with precision and least loss of time. The scythesman requires a person to follow him and carefully gather the corn he has mown into sheaves in bands, previously laid down for the purpose, and no person is better fitted for this office than a woman. Another person follows the woman, the bandster, whose duty, as his name implies, is to bind the sheaves made by the woman, with the bands he finds lying under them. Another person follows all these, and clears the ground of every loose head of corn with a large rake, and this person may either be a man or a woman. (p. 1050)
Though the technology on the harvest field changes significantly with the development of reapers and binders, scythes still continued to have their place well into the twentieth century. On 31 July 1931, John Hislop & Son, ironmonger and plumbers, Market Place, Carluke, advertised “seasonable lines for the farmer”. These included: “hay rakes, rake teeth, hay forks, reaper and mill saw files, carborundum scythe and reaper stones, scythe blades and sneds, and reaping hooks, stack rope and binder twine.” These included all the hand tools associated with reaping by scythe including sharpeners and rakes as well as blades.
Hyslop was not the only ironmonger to advertise scythes and their associated tools. In Aberdeenshire, on 12 September James Mackie & Co., Ltd, ironmongers, seedsmen, grocers, wine and spirit merchants advertised his wares for the harvest field in the Aberdeen press and journal: “large selection of carborundum files, reaper and saw files, oilers, scythe blades, sneds, scythe strickles, stable pails, stable brooms, dandy brushes, horse and cattle comns, bolts and nuts, lanterns, paraffin drums, tanks, and flasks; and all seasonable requirements. Binder and stack covers, different sizes, best value.” His range also includes tools and requirements for working with the modern binders.
In 1931 the scythe was seen as an essential hand tool on the farm – at least in Aberdeenshire. They could be found listed in the contents of displenishing sales, at for example the farms of Waterside of Forbes, Mill of Ennets (Torphins), Middleton (Findon), Milton (Gight, Methlick), Ardoe, Muiryhaugh, Strachan, Rickarton, and Glenhead (Kenmay).
However, in 1931 the scythe continued to be a much valued hand tool. On 26 August that year the Aberdeenshire press and journal noted that “a boom in the sale of scythes is expected by Aberdeen firms of agricultural implement dealers this harvest time in view of the fact that so many fields of grain have been “laid” by recent storms.” It added: “on the last occasion on which harvests were laid low, said an employee of a well-known form to a “Press and Journal” representative, we sold an enormous number of scythes, and while as yet it is rather early to expect orders, we are preparing for a similar demand this year.”
Scythes were essential during poor harvests when the crops were laid and weather intermittent. As the Arbroath herald and advertiser noted on 4 September 1931: “last year quite a number of scythes were put into use in this district at harvest time, and many farmers who had rid themselves of these implements found difficulty in getting supplies in time.”
They continued to be used to open up fields and were invaluable to cut sections that had been “laid” by wind or/and rain that could not be cut by the binder. Writing on harvesting in Mid-Atholl, the Dundee Courier of 1 September 1931 noted their uses “where heads are twisted in all directions the scythe”. It also noted that “some of the heads will be cut green for the feeding of stock, as the grain will not now ripen satisfactorily for milling purposes”.
Scythes – an essential hand tool for helping the farmer in difficult harvests.
The photographs were taken at the National Tractor Show.
Sharp knives were important for harvesting a range of crops, including the grain crop regardless of how it was cut: sickle, scythe, reaping machine or combine harvester.
In 1908 Stephen’s Book of the Farm was updated by James Macdonald. It included a short description of the importance of having a sharp knife: “Keep the knives as sharp as possible, as good work and light draught cannot be had without sharp knives. Where two or more reapers are kept going, it is advisable to keep one man sharpening knives, as then they are always in good repair, and cutting goes on more smoothly and rapidly than when the driver has to look after not only his horses but his mower and knives as well. The most common method of sharpening the knives of reapers is with a fine file for the purpose. Machines for sharpening are now in use to some extent.” Macdonald noted that there was one made by Harrison, McGregor & Co..
Knife sharpeners had been in use for some time before that date. On 23 July 1894 G. W. Murray & Co., Banff, advertised its Victory Knife Sharpener in the Aberdeen Press and Journal. In that same month another local maker, Ben Reid & Co., Bon Accord Works, Aberdeen, advertised its automatic reaper knife sharpener. By 1890 C. F. Wilson & Co., Aberdeen, was advertising its Plano Sickle Grinders as “the best reaper knife sharpener ever offered to farmers”. Some also became especially sophisticated. In 1908 the Aberdeen Press and Journal recorded that at the Highland Show, P. & R. Fleming and Co., Argyle Street, Glasgow, exhibited a “section remover and knife sharpener, by means of which farmers can remove and repair old blades of harvesting machines, etc. It is a very handy implement.” Other makers of knife sharpeners included J. L. & J. Ballach, agricultural implement makers, Gorgie, Edinburgh. A number of these can still be seen around the rally fields. In 1952 David Ritchie, Whitehills, Forfar, manufactured knife-sharpening stands.
Do you remember sharpening knives at harvest time?
The photographs were taken at the Borders Vintage Rally, May 2015.
The Royal Show, or the annual show of the Royal Agricultural Society of England was a key event in the agricultural calendar, especially for English agriculturists. Scottish ones did attend, though their attendance varied according to the location of the show. The same was true for the Scottish implement and machine makers, though some did specially attend when they had new manufactures to show to the public, or when there were key trials for which they wanted to enter.
The number of Scottish exhibitors was generally small. They usually included some of the key ones. They brought with them their major manufactures to introduce them to an English and wider audience. These included ones that they were renowned for as well as improved ones. They also included ones that they considered filled a niche within the market for implements and machines.
The Scotsman included a lengthy account of the Scottish exhibitors to the Royal Show in July 1925. It is worth quoting at length as it says a lot about what was innovative and important about Scottish agricultural implement and machines and who were some of the most important makers. It states:
“For the third time in his history the Royal Agricultural Society of England is this year visiting Chester, and the show which was opened to-day in the implement department promises to be one of the most successful that has yet been held by the premier agricultural society of the Kingdom. It is thirty two years since the last Royal Show was held at Chester, which resulted in financial profit of £2404.
The showyard The site of the showyard at Saltney is an admirable one in every respect, being within easy reach of the railway stations, and owing to its surroundings being almost secluded, about 130 acres have been enclosed as compared with 70 acres in 1893.
So numerous are the exhibits in the implement yard that no less than 11,000 feet had to be provided for the 438 separate stands, and in addition there are many “open space” exhibits. The collection of machinery is not only varied but comprehensive, and embraces all the most recent inventions which agriculture engineering skill has produced. The leading firms in England are strongly represented, and visitors may spend hours very profitably in witnessing at work the many appliances which steam, petrol, and electricity have enabled the implement manufacturer to bring to bear on the economy of the farm. Thirty new implements have been entered for the Society’s silver medal, as against 39 at Chester in 1893. A number of these can hardly be described as strictly new, but they all contain some improvement in details which secures greater perfection in construction and more efficiency in working. Two new implements are entered by Scottish exhibitors. Messrs John Wallace & Sons, Glasgow, show a potato digger which is fitted with adjustable graips, trees for two or three horses, and a patent wheel gig arrangement. Messrs Storie, Ltd, Kelso, exhibit a surface sowing coulter, with disc shoe, which can be fitted to any make of drill.
There are more than a dozen Scottish implement makers represented, and considering the expense that is involved in the conveyance of a large collection of heavy implements, they make a creditable appearance. Taking the exhibitors from the north of the Tweed in the order in which they appear in the catalogue, the first stand is that of Messrs Barclay, Ross, & Hutchison Ltd, Aberdeen, who show threshers and a manure distributor. Messrs W. Elder & Sons, Ltd, Berwick on Tweed, have a large display of broadcast sowing machines, turnip sowers, drill rollers, coup carts, hay bogies, and thistle and bracken cutter. The Aberdeen firm, Messrs R. G.Garvie & Sons, show thrashing machines with bagging elevator, an artificial manure distributor, a saw bench, and a broadcast seed sower
Messrs George Henderson, Leith Street, Edinburgh, display their Waverley manure distributors with patent enclosed and self-lubricating driving mechanism, a thistle cutter, corn bins, hay collector, water troughs, and fencing plant.
Ayrshire is represented by Messrs Alex. Jack & Sons, Maybole, who have on view their patent potato diggers, which have provision for altering the set or angle of the digging forks, Imperial manure distributors, lime and basic slag distributors farm carts, and horse hoes.
Messrs Marshall & Philip, Aberdeen, make a feature of spraying machines. The Dumfriesshire firm of Messrs John S. Millar & Son, Annan, specialise in windmills, cream separators, churns, and pumps, of which they show a large variety. Messrs Storie, have a large assortment of implements, including manure distributor, drill scarifier, and turnip and manure sower manufactured by the Leith firm, Messrs A. Ballach & Sons. Vaccar Ltd, Gretna, show pumps, milking units, and samples of lubricating oils.
Messrs John Wallace & Sons, Glasgow, have the largest Scottish exhibit, which includes the Wallace engines, the Glasgow cultivators, horse hoes, corn bruisers, chaff cutters, oilcake breakers, grinding mills, and Oliver ploughs. Messrs J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas, show their Royal medal milking machine and manure distributors. Messrs Watson, Laidlaw, and Co., Glasgow, has a varied collection of cream separators, including a belt-driven separator of 900 gallon capacity. Messrs A. Cross & Sons, Glasgow, are among the exhibitors of chemical manures and feeding stuffs.”
A century ago there was an “imposing exhibition” of implements and machines at the Royal Show which was held at Derby. While the Show was largely attended by English makers, a few Scottish makers also attended. This year they had an “imposing display” These were among some of the most important ones with nationally known – and also international – reputations. Their attendance provides information about who were the important makers in Scotland and what implements they saw as being important for the English market.
The Scotsman provided a comprehensive account of the Scottish implements at the Royal Show in its pages on 28 June 1921. It is worth quoting at length:
“The Scottish implements trade is well represented in the imposing exhibition. In the implement section, which was the only department open to-day, several firms from the other side of the Border exhibit typical collections of the agricultural appliances which are manufactured in the northern part of the kingdom, and in the products of which the makers show a considerable amount of skill and enterprise. Two of them are from Ayrshire, and are firms which are never absent from the national Shows of England and Scotland. Messrs Alexander Jack & Sons, Maybole, as usual, represented by a selection of implements so long associated with their business. They have always made a speciality of their Caledonian and Imperial potato diggers, and these are shown with all the latest improvements. As specimens of their manure distributors they exhibit four of the new finger-wheel delivery class. The farm carts with coup body are a type which the firm have introduced from Scotland to England.
Messrs Thomas Hunter & Sons, Maybole, have a stand is useful articles, including their manure distributors with transport and ordinary chain, and cultivating appliances. The enterprising makers, Wallace, Glasgow (Ltd), are the largest of the North country exhibitors, their stand comprising some thirty different articles of farm husbandry. In the forefront are their well-known Glasgow tractors, which have received with great favour by prominent farmers in the Lothians and throughout Scotland and England. One of the tractors is shown on an inclined green bank, illustrating the hill-climbing feat which it performed at the recent Lincoln trials. They also show the Oliver self-lift tractor ploughs, automatic tractor disc harrows specially designed for light tractors, potato planters, and diggers, and a combined double-drill plough and manure distributor. Messrs J. & R. Wallace, Castle-Douglas, show, in addition to different types of manure distributors, their milking machine, which is a popular labour-saving device in the dairies of the South-West and West of Scotland. It is now fitted with the new ball type pulsator, which requires no oil. Messrs William Elder & Sons, Berwick-on-Tweed, have no fewer than sixteen separate articles on view. Their broadcast sowing machines are shown in various sizes, and have been adapted to suit different quantities of seed. Prominent on the stand is a turnip-cutting cart. Their double-drill turnip, mangold, and rape sower is fitted to sow ten different quantities of seed. Hay bogies, scarifiers, and other articles in use at this season are included in a varied and extensive collection.
Among the exhibitors from Aberdeen are Messrs Robert G. Garvie & Sons, who show a combined portable thresher and oil engine mounted on a rigid frame, and fitted for use by one or two horses, threshing machines, and manure distributors. Messrs Barclay, Ross & Hutchinson exhibit the Austin tractor thrashing machines, manure distributors, and a cultivator. The Bon Accord Engineering Company have on view a thrashing machine, 3 feet 6 inches wide, and two smaller types, oil engines, pumps for water or liquid manure, and drain-clearing rods. Messrs Marshall & Philp, Aberdeen, show a series of spraying machines for limewashing and fruit trees. The known Aberdeenshire makers, Messrs Sellar, make a feature of their ploughs, which are shown in great variety. Their wave disc manure sower and their scarifier disc drill are implements of proved utility. Among exhibitors of wind-mills are Messrs Millar & Sons, Annan, who show two of their wind-mills and pumps suitable for different requirements. They also show their automatic cream separators, combining petrol motor and separator in one unit, as well as churns.
Messrs Watson, Laidlaw & Company, Glasgow, exhibit eight “Princess” cream separators of various sizes, the largest having a capacity of 330 gallons. The Dairy Supply Company have an extensive stand on which they show the Amo milking machine, a pasteuriser, a complete milk plant for grading, a “milk cream separator”, and other dairy utensils. The East Lothian maker, Mr David Wilson, East Linton, has half a dozen exhibits. The principal one is his potato raiser a machine adapted for raising potatoes, sugar beet, and bulb crops. He also shows a one-horse potato haulm cutter, potato sorters, a potato washing machine, and a mixing machine and riddle combined for mixing artificial manures.”
All of these names are ones that come up again and again as attending at the Royal Show. The manufactures are of particular types: the basic implements and machines required on a farm, as well as threshing machines and oil engines which utilised the Scottish engineering tradition. They also show innovation, as in the Glasgow Tractor. Their manufactures can still be seen around the rally fields (in non-covid-19 times).
During the summer months there were plenty of jobs to do on the farm to keep it looking trim. This included keeping down weeds, including thistles. On some farms bracken could be a problem. Both were not the easiest to remove. Hand tools were available to take out thistles in pasture. These enabled the thistle to be pulled out at ground level. Mechanical means were much more efficient.
By 1952 farmers could buy a number of machines to cut bracken and thistles. The Farm Mechanization Directory of that year lists 6 makers, of which three are Scottish. Two are well known makers of implements and machines: J. Bisset & Sons Ltd, Greenbank Works, Blairgowrie, and the other James A. Cuthbertson Ltd, Station Road, Biggar. The third was more locally known: G. C. Irving, Main Street, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire.
The machines made by Bisset and Cuthbertson were both tractor drawn. The one made by Bisset was of a horizontal rotary propellor type and landwheel driven. It could be used for bracken, thistles and other weeds. Cuthbertson made a multi-wheel cutter machine which was adaptable to undulations of the ground. The one made by Irving was a self-propelled machine. It was a self-propelled machine, with the operator walking behind it. It was powered by a Villiers engine and had a 4ft wide cutter bar.
English machines were made by W. M. Brenton, East Cornwell Iron Works, Torpoint, Cornwall, Crawford, Prince & Johnston Ltd, Syston, Leicestershire and R. S. Warren, Covert Lane, Scraptoft, Thurnby, Leicester.
Implement makers and their premises in the mid nineteenth century
I am always interested to find accounts of what the premises of our Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers look like. ScotlandsPlaces website includes the Ordnance Survey Namebooks which provide information about place and building names at the time that the Ordnance Survey was undertaking its first edition maps between the mid 1850s to the mid 1860s. Each county was surveyed at different times within this period with those of East Lothian, Fife and Kinross being early ones and Inverness-shire, Aberdeenshire and Orkney being among some of the later ones.
The Namebooks provide a snapshot at the premises of the Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers at a time when the sector was changing rapidly and the number of new businesses increasing rapidly. For some of them, it shows their trades and premises before they became closely associated with the making of agricultural implements and machines. For example, in Maybole, Ayrshire, where Alexander Jack set up business, the Namebook records that between 1855-57 there was a sawmill – “Recently built and carried on by Mr A. Jack-a very extensive sawmill with a large storeroom and engine [house] connected to it – one of the houses [three,] the other two storey slated and in excellent repair – saws driven by an engine 10 horse power- Property of A. Jack.”
There are relatively few premises in Scotland that were recorded as an “agricultural implement” manufactory or premises. One of them was in the parish of Huntly, Aberdeenshire: the “Agricultural Implement Works” at Factory Brae. This was “a large block of buildings in which are manufactured ploughs, harrows, and various other agricultural implements. Messrs Sellar & Son, proprietors.” By that time the ploughs and other manufactures of George Sellar & Son were well known in Scotland and further afield.
There is another “Agricultural Implement Manufactory” in Shettleston Parish, recorded between 1858 to 1861. It was occupied by Law, Duncan & Co. It comprised: “long rows of houses used as workshops, & having a yard attached. Every description of Agricultural Implements are made here, including Ploughs, Harrows, Thrashing Machines, Shovels, Spades &c. Also every description of wooden materials used for Agricultural purposes. Engine Boilers are also made, but only when specially ordered. The principal & almost sole trade being Agricultural Implements.
The largest number of references to “agricultural implement” works was in Lanarkshire, in the parish of Bothwell. These names were collected between 1858 and 1861. These related to two businesses and to three implement manufactories: those relating to J. Gray & Co., J. Hornall, and those of J. Waddell & Sons of Crofthead which had been used by John Wilkie of the famous Wilkie plough fame. Here is what the Name Books state about the premises:
1. Near Townhead: Agricultural Implement Manufactory, “A large house made of zinc & iron having skylights in the roof. There is a large yard connected with it & having Tram Road” joining from the “Clydesdale Junction Railway”. Every description of Agricultural Implements are made here- both wood & iron. Locomotives are also made, but they are for agricultural purposes. Wrought by the Proprietor in Company with others.- J. Gray & Co.
2. Agricultural implement Manufactory “A Manufactory for producing all descriptions of implements used in Agriculture. This same factory was famous in the County for its style of implements under the late Mr Wilkie. It was partly burned recently & is at present idle. The property of J. Waddell & Sons of Crofthead”.
Crofthead “A superior house having several dwellings in the same property, as well as an Agricultural Implement Manufactory, belonging to & partly occupied by Mr J. Waddell. The name is well known. The garden of Crofthead is on the opposite side of the Road-the west.”
3. Agricultural implement Manufactory “A Manufactory for making all kinds of Agricultural Implements. [ ] let by J. Hornall, the propert of Mr Gray. There is a long wooden shed here for sawing timber in.”
The Name Books remind us of the importance of local history in looking at the Scottish agricultural implement makers and the need to link people and place. A new study that does this really well is A. M. Findlay’s, The Wilkie Plough, as part of her research into the Wilkie family of Uddingston, Lanarkshire. It tells the story of the development in its local setting of John Wilkie whose Wilkie plough became known throughout Scotland and much wider. The Wilkie Plough was an important part of the Agricultural Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and a key plough in the development of ploughs and ploughing in Scotland and further afield. Copies are available on Amazon or through A. M. Findlay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There were a small number of tractor cab makers in Scotland in the second half of the twentieth century. They included Reekie Engineering Co Ltd, Arbroath, Ryeside Agricultural & Engineering Works, Dalry, Ayrshire, Scottish Aviation Ltd, Prestwick, Ayrshire and Alexander Duncan, Inchbroom, Nigg, Aberdeen. At its height, there were 25 tractor makers in Britain making tractor cabs.
The largest of the makers was Alexander Duncan, Inchbroom. Alexander Duncan was the son of a farmworker. His father was grieve at Cairnbrogie, Oldmeldrum. He served his time as a millwright with James Milne, Aberdeen. He started a joinery business in 1954 which manufactured caravans in the summer and tractor cabs during the winter; he started full-time cab production in the 1960s.
The name Alexander Duncan is first recorded in agricultural trade directories in 1959. By June 1961 it had become an incorporated company: Alexander Duncan (Aberdeen) Ltd, a name it continued to use until it ceased business in 1999.
The business was an innovative one. In its early days it exhibited at the Highland Show. It is recorded in the show catalogues for 1959 to 1965. In 1964 it entered its safety and anti-roll frame for tractors for the New Implement award at the Show. In 1971 it was developing a new cab designed to cut out tractor noise – the Super Safety Cab: it was rubber mounted and fully enclosed.
An article in the Aberdeen press and journal of 14 August 1970 provided some insights into its business and range of activities. Mr Duncan said “We make cabs to fit any British tractor. We make cabs for about 25 different kinds of tractor models. All our cabs within the next two months will be fitted with quick release mechanism … they are the most advanced in Europe. We have capacity to make about 100 cabs a day. At present, we make about 125 a week and to lift that to 100 a day would mean trebling our labour force to about 70 men.”
The early and mid 1970s were exceptionally good years for the business. On 23 December 1971 the Aberdeen Press and journal noted that it was “working flat out” to produce orders for home and export. It had large orders from Portugal and Poland, in addition to extensive consignments, including ones behind the “Iron Curtain”: “Currently they are working an 11-hour day to keep up with business and, even with those hours, such is the pressure of work that they find themselves falling behind.” At that time it made around 80 different models.
When it launched its new low noise cab in February 1972 there was a significant demand for it. It resulted in extensions to the factory and the 80 strong workforce; a new steel store was built by early 1975. On 13 April 1972 the Aberdeen Press and Journal carried an interview with A. Duncan: “We have developed a new cab giving dramatic reduction in noise-level to the operator, but the demand for the cabs we make just now with the staff 100 cabs behind orders, although they are working at least a 10-hour day, will probably mean. More rebuilding and more men to get our new cab into full production.” The cab was used on tractors such as Roadless Traction for their high-end horsepower Ford-engined machines. At that time the business was making 100 new cabs a week.
By January 1975 the business had a backlog of 3000 cabs; it also had to refuse orders at home and abroad. That backlog was dealt with by contracting work out to other businesses in the north of Scotland and Duncan’s undertaking final assembly and painting itself. By March 1975 the Aberdeenshire Evening Express noted that the business was producing 500 cabs a month and had a backlog of between 200 and 300 orders. Its staff had increased to more than 100 workers. By that time it was producing a range of optional extras including a heater. For operators in dry and dusty conditions it also produced an air-filtering and purifying unit.
Alexander Duncan (Cabs) became the last tractor cab manufacturer in Britain. It closed its doors in 1999. In an article in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 11 September 1999 Robert Duncan noted: “The decline has been a gradual process. Many manufacturers started fitting their own cabs in the 1970s. All the cab manufacturers have now become large multi-nationals – and even some of them are now going together.” He noted that in its hey-day the plant employed 90 staff and made cabs for Massey Ferguson, John Deere, Ford and David Brown.
The displenishing sale was held on 18 September 1999 (see Aberdeen press and journal, 20 September 1999). It was well attended by more than 200 buyers looking to purchase 660 lots. The auctioneers, TSA, noted that “The sale was well attended and prices generally exceeded expectations”.
Here is how the Aberdeen Press and Journal described the legacy of Alexander Duncan (Aberdeen) Ltd on 12 November 1999: it was “one of the UK’s biggest tractor cab designers and builders in its hey day as well as the last independent manufacturer in the country. The Duncan cab became legendary throughout the agricultural world when tractors came without cabs fitted as standard.” It produced over 80 different models for 25 different kinds of tractor manufactured in the UK.
The photographs were taken at B. A. Stores, May 2019.
By the 1920s adverts for displenishing sales include a wide range of implements and machines on farms. There are implements and machines for a wide range of processes in preparing the land, raising and harvesting crops, and processing them, as well as husbandry. There are also a greater number of accessories, for example for the barn.
The adverts include a larger number of machines with the names of their manufacturers. These include Massey drills, Hunter hoes (from Hunter of Maybole), Massey binders, Wallace binders, Wallace mowers, Woods hay tidder (or tedder), Avery weights, Paxton plough, Corbett’s fanners, Jack imperial manure distributor, and Jack scarifier. All of these were from leading makers. There are fewer references to the materials used to make the implements and machines, signaling the widespread use of iron and metal. Stone continued to be used in the making of rollers. There continues to be a significant number of horse harness and manufactures for looking after horses and horse drawn implements and machines. In these adverts we still see very few tractors for sale: Currievale, Currie, had a Fordson tractor and plough for sale in January 1927.
There are some implements that you might not recognize – dum tams are a metal arm with a marker at its end, attached at right angles to a plough, and used to mark the limits of ridges for the spreading of dung. Slipes were a kind of sledge, sliding cart, or drag – a wooden or other platform without wheels for moving heavy or cumbersome loads, hay, peats etc.
Blackcastle, Tynehead (from advert in The Scotsman, 28 October 1926) The whole of the farm implements, including-6 swing ploughs, 2 D. M. ploughs, 1 potato ploughs, corn drill (Massey Harris), broadcast barrow, 3 turnip barrows, 3 land rollers, 1 scarifier (new), Hunter Hoe, 3 cultivators, 1 set chain harrows, 6 sets English harrows, 1 set grass seed harrows, 7 grubbers, 4 binders, turnip cutter, turnip cutting cart, 2 manure distributors, 9 box carts, 2 box cart bodies, 2 long carts, 7 long cart bodies, 1 cart frame, 2 dumb tams, 13 sheep hecks, 5 cake bins on wheels, 6 cake bins, 2 corn chests, net stobs, 11 hand made wire nets, sheep cake and turnip boxes, clipping stool, set fanners (Corbett’s new), 2 sets barn weights (1 set new, by Avery Ltd), 3 Hurleys, 2 sack barrows, stack and binder covers, ropes, hen coops, wheelbarrows, ladders, grindstone, and a large assortment of small tools. Also 14 sets cart and plough harness, 15 stall collars, riding saddle, lady’s riding saddle, &c.
Burdiehouse Farm, Loanhead (from advert in The Scotsman, 28 October 1926) The usual farm implements required for a farm this size, including:- five box carts, 4 long carts, 2 binders (Massey Harris), 2 hay collectors, 9 sets harrows, 3 double grubbers, 4 drill grubbers, cultivator, D. D. manure sower, Hosier corn drill, 5 ploughs, 2 iron rollers, 2 stone rollers, drill roller, turnip barrow, 3 corn chests, potato boxes and baskets, 12 FC troughs, 2 hen houses, 6 chicken coops, small tools, &c. Four sets cart and plough harness, dairy utensils, quantity household furniture.
Saughtonhall Mains, Gorgie (from advert in The Scotsman, 16 October 1926) 10 close carts, 10 long carts, dreg barrel, 3 cart frames, 4 binders, 3 mowers, broadcast sower, grain drill, double drill manure sower, manure barrow, 4 horse rakes, hay tedder, hay collector, 6 ploughs, 3 drill ploughs, 2 double furrow ploughs, 2 dum tams, 4 cultivators, pulveriser, 4 drill grubbers, scarifier, 5 sets harrows, 2 set square harrows, 2 set grass seed harrows, Permiter harrows, 2 set saddle harrows, Norwegian harrow, 5 iron rollers, 1 iron roller (2 horse), Cambridge roller (2 horse), stone roller, drill Cambridge roller, disc barrow, potato planter, potato digger, potato sorter, potato riddles, weights, stack scaffold, 2 turnip sowers, turnip slicer, 1200 potato boxes, 100 potato baskets, 20 rolls wire netting, net stobs, ladders, stack props, 3 sowing sheets, 3 stack covers, 4 binder covers, cart cover, 8 bales binder twine, cart ropes, 3 wheelbarrows, corn and meal boxes, barn and stable utensils, 3 cross cut saws, 2 dry feeders, incubator, henhouse and brooder, 12 hen coops, hen troughs and fountain, old iron, &c &c. Harness- 9 set cart and plough harness, set harness, 4 muzzles, 9 feed bags, 6 stable lamps, &c.
Currievale, Currie (from advert in The Scotsman, 26 January 1927) Implements – 7 box carts, 1 long carts, 5 cart frames, 2 hay bogies, iron rollers, horse rakes, potato digger, barrows, sheep racks, grubbers, hay collectors, water barrel on wheels, potato planter, turnip sower, broadcast sowing machine, potato sower, scarifier, Fordson tractor and plough, drill ploughs, Dux ploughs, Hosier drill, swathe turner, manure sower, broadcast manure sower, mowing machines, swing ploughs, Paxton ploughs, 8 sets cart and plough harness, &c.
The Haggs, Kirknewton (from advert in The Scotsman, 9 November 1927) Implements – 6 coup carts (broad wheels), 5 long carts (broad wheels), water barrel on wheels, waggonette, governess car, 3 binders (2 Massey, 1 Wallace), 2 mowers (Wallace). Hoosier grain drill, broadcast sower, double drill manure sower, Manure sower, potato planter, potato sorter, turnip sower, horse rake, hay turner, 3 hay collectors, cultivator, 4 chill ploughs, 2 drill ploughs, 4 drill grubbers, 3 sets harrows, 3 sets grass seed harrows, potato harrows, 2 metal rollers, Cambridge drill roller, Dum Tam, swingle trees, fanners (good), sack steelyard, turnip cutter, 3 ladders, stack props, 2 wheelbarrows, 2 stack covers, sheep wire netting, dairy utensils, incubator (70 egg, almost new), 1 brooder, barn and stable utensils, cart and plough harness for 4 pair, set driving harness, horse clipper, and a quantity of surplus household furniture.
Heriotmill, Heriot (from advert in The Scotsman, 5 May 1928) Implements – 4 close carts, 4 long carts, luggage cart, binder (Massey, Harris), reaper, 2 metal rollers, 2 rick lifters, double plough, potato plough, 2 Dux ploughs, horse rake, hay tidder (Woods), Jack imperial manure distributor, 2 hay slipes, Jack scarifier, swingle trees, turnip barrow, water cart barrel, stone slipe, harrow slipe, grubber, cultivator, hay collector, 3 sets harrows, grass seed barrows, meat cooler, turnip slicer, sheep turnip cutters, 6 sheep hecks, sheep nets and stobs, 6 corn chests, 30 corn boxes (12 of them new), 200 flakes, 5 bars, cattle dishorner, 50 gallon paraffin oil drum, set of fanners, binder twine, mangle, 2 overend churns, 5 sets cart and plough harness, 2 sets pont harness, and all the barn and dairy utensils, &c &c.
Since at least the eighteenth century East Lothian has been renowned as a leading agricultural district. This included the laying out of the “improved” farming landscape, draining, the use of steam power (for threshing, ploughing, cultivating etc), and other new implements and machines.
Adverts for farm displenishing sales in the county in the mid 1880s, at a time of agricultural depression that was to continue until the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century, demonstrate what implements and machines were being used on some of the farms. They included manufactures form leading makers in Scotland including Sinton of Jedburgh, and Shirreff, Finlayson, as well as others in England, including J & F Howard and Richardson. We see reference to iron and metal rather than wood. We see new technologies being used such as reapers – sometimes in large numbers as at West Fortune – double furrow ploughs (introduced from the late 1860s onwards), Norwegian harrows (from the 1850s), as well as horse rakes and American rakes. Interestingly, there are not many planting or sowing machines, though these are mainly for turnips and broadcast sowing. Nor are there many potato spinners (though there are potato ploughs). There are some implements and machines for hay making.
West Fortune, near Drem (from an advert in Haddingtonshire advertiser, 24 October 1884) Implements – twelve close carts and wheels, 7 long carts, 5 reapers, 1 mower, 1 corn drill (Shirreff’s), 1 manure distributor, 2 large grubbers (Finlayson’s), 6 drill do, 6 pair harrows, 3 Norwegian harrows, 1 pair light harrows, chain harrows, 1 turnip barrow, 3 metal rollers, 1 potato plough (Howard), 3 drill ploughs, 6 ploughs, 2 oilcake breakers, corn bruiser, 9 stack stances. 1 cart frame, 3 turnip cutters (cattle), 2 sheep do., 2 double furrow ploughs, 1 stubble rake, 1 American do., ladders, blankets, bickers, cattle boxes, beam, scales, and weights, steelyard, fanners, barn utensils, corn bags, graips, forks, spades and shovels, 12 sets cart and plough harness.
Muirpark Farm, Tranent (from an advert in Haddingtonshire advertiser, 24 October 1884) Implements-6 short carts and wheels, 2 long carts and broad wheels, 2 long carts without wheels, 2 frames for short carts, 2 reapers and mowers (one nearly new), 1 horse rake, 2 metal rollers, 1 Norwegian grubber, 1 turnip barrow, 2 large grubbers, 2 drill grubbers, 4 common ploughs, 3 double mould ploughs, 1 double furrow plough, 3 pairs of harrows, 1 pair of drill harrows, 1 chain harrow, 1 turnip cutter, 1 hay collector, 1 wheelbarrow, 1 framed potato riddle, 1 set fanners, 2 barn barrows, bushel, weights, and riddles, and a number of bags, hay forks and rakes, stable utensils, forks, graips &c. 6 sets of harness, cart ropes, and ladders, dairy utensils and patent churn (Sinton’s, no. 3), water barrels, meal ark &c.
Rockville, near North Berwick (from an advert in Haddingtonshire advertiser, 30 October 1885) 6 close carts with wheels, 3 long do. Without wheels, 1 cart frame, 3 common ploughs, 1 double mould do., 1 pairing do., 3 two horse grubbers, 3 drill do., 4 pair iron harrows, 1 do. Grass seed do, 1 do. Drill do., 1 brake do., 1 Norwegian do., 1 single horse roller, 1 Cambridge do., 1 do. Drill do., 1 turnip sowing machine, 1 corn drill, 2 reaping machines, 1 stubble rake, 1 oil cake bruiser, 1 cattle turnip slicer, 1 sheep do. Do, 1 water puncheon with pump and hose, 2 dog kennels. A number of watering tubs and troughs, pig troughs, sheep feeding boxes, heck, nets, wire netting, stobs, flakes, &c, dumb tom and fearing poles, 2 long stack ladders, 4 small do, forks, grapes, shovels, spades, cart ropes, &c. 1 four wheeled dog cart, harness, riding saddle, and bridge. Set of breaking tackle &c, 6 sets cart and plough harness, 2 corn chests. Barn utensils-1 pair fanners (Richardson’s), weights, measures, sack barrow, a number of sacks, riddles, &c, also, a number of shearers’ blankets, bickers, tins &c. The above implements, &c, are all good, being only a short time in use.
Duncanlaw, near Gifford (from an advert in the Haddingtonshire advertiser, 7 May 1886) Implements – 5 close carts and wheels, 2 long do, and do, 2 do. Do without wheels, 2 cart frames, 3 common ploughs, 2 double moulded do (with markers &c), 5 pairs English and Scotch harrows, 1 grubb harrow, 2 Finlayson’s grubbers, 4 drill, do., 1 iron plain roller, 1 iron drill do., 1 iron plain roller, 1 iron drill do., 1 broadcast machine, 1 turnip do., 3 reapers (in good order, corn or grass), sheep turnip cutter, 2 cattle do., cake bruiser and belting, water barrel on wheels, lamb cart on wheels, horse rake, hay humbler, chain harrow, sheep dipping machine, sheep nets and stobs, hammer and spile, beam, scales and weights, steelyards, graips, forks, shovels, &c. Barn utensils-2 sets fanners, bruiser, stack ladders, bosses, traces &c, Also engine boiler, thrashing machine, humblers, cart and plough harness and gig harness.
Bankrug, near Gifford (from an advert in the Haddingtonshire advertiser, 21 May 1886) Implements – 5 close carts and wheels, 2 long carts, 3 cart frames, 2 reaping machines, 4 common ploughs, 1 double mould plough, 2 grubbers, 2 drill grubbers, 1 iron roller, 1 Cambridge drill roller, 4 pairs harrows, 1 chain harrow, 1 turnip sowing machine, 1 horse rake, 3 water barrels, 1 barrow, 2 feeding boxes, 1 turnip slicer, 1 oilcake breaker, 1 corn bruiser, 1 pair fanners, weighing machine and weights, barn utensils, meal chest, corn bags &c, 5 ladders, forks, graips, &c, a quantity of fence wire netting., cart and plough harness.
Do you notice any particular trends in the implements and machines advertised for sale? Is the range of implements and machines wider than you would have thought would be used? Are there any particular implements or machines that attract your attention – and why?