Haymaking machinery in 1914

On 25 April 1914 the North British Agriculturist carried an article on haymaking machinery. It is worth quoting to see how that machinery has changed in the last century. It writes:

“The present spell of good weather has made all farmers busy, and it is surprising how rapidly the next two months will flit by, and the strenuous work of hay cutting and making occupies the farmer’s attention. In many cases the farmer is unprepared, and at the critical time he has arrears to make up in thinning his turnips, &c. This is especially the case when sowing has been delayed, as it was last year. Therefore, all the wet days that intervene between this and hay time should be utilised, at least in part, in making preparation for the approaching work. New machines are perhaps needed, and the old ones may need considerable renovation. It is far better to have everything ready a week before the time than be a matter of a few hours too late.

The hay-making machinery of the present day furnishes yet another example of the ingenuity which has been displayed in recent years in applying mechanics to the solution of the labour-saving problem. First and most important, comes the mowing machine, with which everyone is familiar. Care should be taken that the figers are all sound, and that the knife works without friction. Any faulty knives or those which show considerable signs of wear should be replaced. in fact, the whole machine should have a thorough overhauling, and the risk of breakdowns will be correspondingly small.

The small farmer will have little use for the other implements now so extensively used on large farms, excepting of course the horse rake. The swathe-turner, hay-tedder, hay-maker, &c, have however earned their places in the farm-steading equipment. The swathe-turner does away, to a great extent, with the necessity for thorough wedding, though in the practice prevalent in Scotland the swathes are both thoroughly turned and tended. By means of helically revolving prongs or blades the buttons of the swathes are lifted up from the ground and gradually pushed over, and in most cases two swathes are turned into the one windrow. In some machines three swathes are made into a row. The result is that the hay has a considerably increased chance of being better made. One great advantage is that the ground itself is left for the most part uncovered, and has thus a chance of thoroughly drying between the rows, which is conducive to the drying of the hay.

The hay maker and the hay tedder do away with any necessity for hand tossing in bad weather, though the former has often been accused of treating the hay badly. Preferably, the tedder should be used as it gives better results. In the making of the hay, however, in Scotland a rigorous use cannot be commended. The hard, dry, and sometimes over-ripe ryegrasses and clover are damaged, the former by having the stems ruthlessly broken, and much of the valuable clover seed is knocked on to the ground, as are also the fine leaved grasses. The wedding of the hay leaves it to the mercy of the weather, and also by covering the whole of the ground does not give the hay the advantage of drying winds, and reliance has to be placed on the power of the sun. If, however, the weather is muggy, and the hay still retains much of its sap, the weeding is certainly of the greatest advantage, as its action corresponds exactly to the hand tossing which is practised on similar occasions.

The first cycle of operations is completed by gathering all the hay into the rows prior to the making of the elementary rucks or ricks. The horse rake has now been resolved into a standard pattern, either self-acting or worked by the driver. The tines, which extend the whole distance between the two large ground wheels, are so shaped that on the lever being actuated the whole contents are discharged. each tine has a certain latitude, so that despite inequalities of the surface of the land, the tines scrape the soil or skim lightly at a little distance from it. A great improvement has been instituted in recent years by the introduction of the side-delivery rake, which gathers the hay into one long row and this militates against careless driving and inefficient working of the levers by a careless workman. It also is of much benefit in those years in which a heavy crop renders so frequent the tilting of the tines that the wear and tear on the machine is greatly increased. This difficulty is frequently encountered when the clover crop is beyond expectations, and when the conditions for thorough driving have not been of the best.

So, there are some elements that you will recognise, but others that have changed greatly as a result of changed husbandry practices and technologies.

A section of haymaking machinery in the last 100 years, exhibited at Fife Vintage Agricultural machinery Rally, June 2014.

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Recent improvements in haymaking machinery – in 1889

In the 1880s and the early 1890s there were significant improvements in the development of haymaking implements and machines win the Scottish hay field. These were to have a profound impact on the work undertaken for many decades.

John Speir of Newton Farm, Newton, wrote an article on these developments which was published in the North British Agriculturist on 5 June 1889. It describes these recent improvements and their significance. They followed an earlier series of articles from 1886. The article is quoted at length:

“Near the close of the year 1886, I wrote you a series of articles under the above heading, in which were described the construction, use, and advantages of the rick lifter, outside stacking horse fork, and inside or shed horse fork, on the American principle. Then the rick-lifter was in use only in isolated farms in the west, but nowhere else; the American shed form was in use on at least two farms in Ayrshire; while the horse fork, for ordinary ricks, was, as far as I know, only used by myself. The advantages gained by the use of these apparatuses are so great that they are doubling or quadrupling every year in the vicinity of Glasgow, where alone the rick-lifters and forks are made, and in a few years, I have no doubt, they will become as common with us as they are on American farms. In the south-west the growth of timothy as a hay crop has very much increased of recent years, and the stacking of such long, tough hay on many farms was almost the most severe work of the year, and work, besides, which could only be undertaken by strong, able-bodied men. Since the introduction of the rick-lifter and horse fork, not only is the work very much lighter, but each man will secure three times the hay he did before. As several improvement have been made in these machines since I last wrote you on this subject, I thought I might do worse than draw attention to them, seeing the haying season will soon be on us, and farmers will be beginning to consider whether or not they should invest in any of these apparatuses. A new rick-lifting apparatus has also been introduced, which, I expect will be useful in many situations where the expense of the ordinary lifter would be grudged.

The rick-lifter, as far as its main features are concerned, still remains the same, strength being, however, added to parts which were founded to be weak, and weight taken off other places found to be too strong. The best improvement which has been made is in the hauling-on apparatus, the roller of which, in the best class of lifters, is now placed across the front of the platform, but lower than it, whereas it was formerly always placed above the level of the platform. In the old pattern, whenever a large rick had to be lifted, and was drawn anything more than the usual length forward, so as to get the load balanced, the hay became entangled in the roller, and was a serious source of trouble where large ricks, or one having very wide bottoms, were being removed. Now, however, owing to the lowness of the roller, the rick can be drawn forward right over the top of it without ever becoming jammed. Owing to this improvement, the platform can be made much shorter than formerly, and yet be able to accommodate a larger rick; while the whole apparatus, being reduced in size, is more handy and serviceable. Combined malleable and cast-iron wheels, of a light yet strong and neat pattern, are now used by one of the Glasgow makers in preference to the solid wooden wheels used by some makers and the wooden spoked ones used by others. Nearly all makers now use a self-locking apparatus, so that whenever the platform drops down on the shafts its mechanically locks itself, and a handle at the near side of the shafts enables the driver to at once relieve the catch and tip up the load. The pawl of the ratchet wheel is now generally made to work above the lever instead of under it, which, though a minor and simple improvement, is also a very important one.

The above alterations have all been thoroughly tried and have been found to be real improvements, whereas there are several others which have been made, but have not been long enough tested to class them as improvements, or simply alterations or novelties. The most important of these is probably the use of a horse for hauling on the rick, instead of the manual power at present generally in use. This is attained in one system by attaching to the end of the roller a light grooved pulley about 3 feet in diameter and 3 or 4 inches broad, with a curved groove round the face. The other arrangements of the rick-lifter are the same as formerly, only the lever and ratchet wheel are dispensed with, and the end of the shaft is made square, and on which the large grooved pulley is temporarily fixed. The lifter having been put in position, and the ropes or chains fixed as for manual power, a rope 20 yards long or so is wound the large pulley, which is then slipped on the square end of the haulage roller. A horse is now yoked to one end of the rope on the large pulley, and when power is applied to it the rope is unwound while the rick is being hauled on to the platform. The rick having been drawn on, the pulley is taken off, and the rope rewound on it, when it is ready to be used on another rick-lifter, if used on the field. The principal difficulty of this arrangement appears to lie in the enormous distance the horse is from his draught when the rope has been unwound one or two times the circumference of the pulley, which, to have power, must be made large, otherwise the horse will be unable to haul the rick on. An improved modification of this arrangement is likely, however, to be tested this summer.

Another arrangement which has been tried consists of two sets of double pulleys, one set on each side of the rick-lifter. The rick-lifter having been placed in position, one block on each side is fixed to be a strong staple at the front of the platform. Both sets of blocks are then drawn as far asunder as possible, and connected by a short, stout rope behind the rick. The rope of each pair of blocks is then fixed to a plough tree, to which a horse is yoked, and the blocks, when drawn together, pull on the rick. Several ricks of from 15 to 16 cwt were loaded in this manner; but this system suffered the same as the one already described, in the horse being too far away from the load, and the hay at times blocking up the ropes in the pulleys. It had, therefore, to be discontinued, as being no improvement on the hand-lever presently in use. Another arrangement of pulleys has also been proposed, but as yet has not been practically tested the idea only existing in model. Models, however, are proverbial for working much better than full-grown machines.

In the present pattern of rick-lifter, all the levers work up and down like a pump handle. One maker has, however, made a change in this, and adopted a horizontal motion, similar to that of a ship captain. In this case the lever is also lengthened and the power increased, but as it has not yet been thoroughly tested, I am not prepared to say whether or not its adoption will be an improvement. A new style of rick-lifter was last summer made and exhaustively tried and found satisfactorily, a description of which I will reserve for another paper, as full details of it would make this one too long.

What a massive change to the hay field!

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The Highland Show of Edinburgh in 1877 from a north-eastern perspective

Most of the accounts of the Highland show provide an overall account of what implements and machines were on display throughout the implement yard and the motion yard.

A small number of accounts published in newspapers in north-east Scotland wrote articles on the show from a north-eastern perspective. These drew attention to the makers from the north-east that were exhibiting their manufactures at the show. This not only showed what they were exhibiting but also what the north eastern makers were contributing to the show. For agriculturists, it could also provide them with information on what their local makers were making and who they could purchase items from.

Banffshire journal and general advertiser provided one such account in its pages on 24 July 1877. It was a lengthy and detailed account and provides invaluable information on what makers in the region were making and exhibiting. It is quoted at length:

“Implements

The implement yard of the Highland Society always affords scope for a day’s pleasure and instruction, even although as on this occasion there are few novelties of invention. To-day the stands are mostly in complete order, and the heavy machinery in readiness for being put in motion. The number of heavy engines and machines for motion are fewer than they need to be at southern exhibitions. Many are devoted to various implements of husbandry, and among these some of the most attractive are from the northern counties.

Banff is worthily represented by the products of the Foundry of Messrs G. W. Murray & Co. They have one of the largest stands in the yard, no. 130, of 200 feet in length, and display thirty-three different machines and implements. The greatest novelty is perhaps the patent one way plough, which is now ranking as a marked success for use on the farm. They have various specimens of single and double furrow ploughs, thrashing machines, including the successful “Tiny” thrasher, chain pumps, oilcake mills, and various reapers by Hornsby and Wood. Messrs Murray have also a stand of machinery in motion, very much like that which attracted so much attention at Aberdeen last year. Another Banff exhibitor is Mr Francis Murison, Itlaw, the inventor and patentee of the one way plough and combined drill plough, which he shows along with a turnip lifter and drill harrow combined.

The county of Aberdeen is also well represented in the implement yard. Messrs Sellar & Son of Huntly show as usual a selection of ploughs most highly finished. They have samples of the digger or cultivator with two and three breasts, invented by Mr J. W. Barclay, MP; various patent harrows invented by Mr R. Sellar, and grubbers and drill scufflers. Messrs Craig & Clark, Oldmeldrum, have brought prominently forward in connection with their circular-framed grubber or scarifier a combined cultivator and digger which has been tested in Aberdeenshire with complete success, and has been rewarded with the gold medal of the Royal English Society. Several Peterhead firms exhibit. Messrs Mitchell & Son have in one stand under cover the patent farm yard manure distributor, invented by Mr John Fraser. In an open stand they display Pirie’s ploughs, sowing machines and reapers. Mr Jas Simpson, Peterhead, exhibits a broadcast sowing machine.

The city of Aberdeen has several representatives in the implement department. The chief of these are Messrs B. Reid & Co., who in a large stand (130 feet) show various drill and broadcast sowers, of which they are patentees and makers, horse rakes, hand thrashing machines, reapers by various inventors, and besides general agricultural implements, a selection of wire work. Messrs Harper & Co., Aberdeen, have a stand with wire foot bridge, and wire bowers, with iron columns. Messrs Davidson, Aberdeen, have a stand with seven specimens of springed vehicles.

The city of Aberdeen has several representatives in the implement department. The chief of these are Messrs B. Reid & Co., who in a large stand (130 feet) show various drill and broadcast sowers, of which they are patentees and makers, horse rakes, hand thrashing machines, reapers by various inventors, and besides general agricultural implements, a selection of wire work. Messrs Harper & Co., Aberdeen, have a stand with wire foot bridge, and wire bowers, with iron columns. Messrs Davidson, Aberdeen, have a stand with seven specimens of springed vehicles.

From Morayshire there is exhibited by Messrs Munro, Forres, a turnip lifter invented by Mr John Munro. A turnip topping and tailing machine is also shown by Mr Duncan Rose, Academy Street, Inverness.

One of the greatest objects of interest in the implement yard is the apparatus of binding sheaves attached to the reaper of Wood & Co. That firm have a large stand in the centre of the show. The implement with binding gear is placed in a conspicuous position, and should be seen by every visitor to the show.”

Quite a varied display from makers in the north-east of Scotland.

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The tractor trials of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in October 1922

The tractor trials of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in October 1922

In October 1922 the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland conducted trials of farm tractors and tractor implements at Fordel, Dalkeith. These were important, following on from earlier trials in 1917. These trials were widely reported in the newspaper press and in the Society’s own Transactions.

The following are two accounts of these important trials. The first is from the Aberdeen press and journal of 19 October 1922:

“Tractor trials

Satisfactory work at Dalkeith

(from our own correspondent)

Yesterday the Highland and Agricultural Society continued their demonstration at Fordel, Dalkeith of tractors and tractor implements. The numbers forward surpassed those at the opening proceedings.

Two Fordson tractors operated lots no. 1 and 9 respectively. To both were affixed two furrow Oliver no. 7 ploughs, specially constructed at the instigation of Mr Henry Ford to suit the Fordson tractor. The same shares were used on the previous day on the stubble break, and with disc coulters the work accomplished was deemed highly satisfactory. The furrows were ploughed to a depth of 6 ¾ ins by 10 in wide, clearly taken out, and the green well turned down. Three Case tractors were prominent. The new design. No. 3, with a three-furrow Ransome plough, did admirable work, the feature being the uniformity of the furrows and the compactness in turning. Lot no. 18 was operated on by their 10-18 bhp Modeae, in conjunction with a two-furrow Massey-Harris plough. Here the furrows were turned to a depth of 7 in by 10 in wide, compactly laid over, well taken out, and the work was recognised as being in the front rank. Their heavy tractor A, 15 to 27 bhp, was working a three-furrow Cockshut plough, and the work was fairly good.

Two 25 hp Glasgow tractors stood their tests remarkably. To one was attached a three-furrow Oliver plough with specially-designed Morton mould boards, lea socks, and disc coulters. Furrows 10 in wide by 7 in deep were beautifully turned and well taken out.

The New Morton two-furrow was one of the best in the field, and the work accomplished evinced entire satisfaction. The furrows, 10 inches by 7 inches deep, were turned with commendable precision. Three Hart-Parr tractors were in operation. To one was attached a three-furrow Martin, the work of which did not meet with approval. To counteract this, on lot no. 4 their design with a Sellar two-furrow no. 27 attached, the deficiency was more than made good. A self-lift Begg plough did good work. An Austin with a two-furrow Ransome plough turned a regular, well-set-up furrow. The plough known as R.S.L.D. and is fitted with the new R.N.D. mould board. The International Junior was represented on three lots, their best ploughing been done by a two furrow Sellar attachment.

The British Wallis, with a Ruston-Hornsby three-furrow plough, scarcely maintained its high reputation of the previous day. The furrows were 7 inches deep by 8 ½ inches wide, but were not too closely packed. Two Cletrac tractors, with two-furrow Ransome plough, did fairly satisfactory work, while a 20-hp Blackstone tractor, with three-furrow Howard attachment, was deemed unsatisfactory. Two Simar rotary tillers again operated on the stubble field. The heavy weight, a 28 cwt or 25 bhp machine, had a large following, while their lighter-weight, a 7 cwt design of 8 bhp. Is most suitable for market gardeners.”

The second account was published in The Scotsman of 3 February 1923. In essence it is a summary of the account published by the Highland Society in its Transactions:

“Farm tractors and implements

Midlothian demonstration

Highland Society’s report

The directors if the Highland and Agricultural Society issued yesterday a volume on the demonstration of farm tractors and tractor implements, which was held, under their auspices, at Fordel, Dalkeith, in October. It contains a description of the tractors and the implements by Professor R. Stanfield, consulting engineer, and reports by the Committee.

Tractors

The Committee, in their general observations, record their appreciation of the marked advance which has taken place in tractor construction since the Society’s last demonstration in 1917. They note with satisfaction that many of the suggestions embodied in the report on that demonstration have now been given effect to. This is probably nowhere more noticeable than in regard to weight, the limit of 40 cwt set by the Society being found to exclude very few of the tractors at present in use in this country.

With regard to horse-power, and considering the work which a tractor is required to do on the farm, the Committee are of opinion that a minimum of 25 bhp is desirable. In arriving at this decision, the Committee have in view the fact that the tractor must have sufficient power, not only to draw a three furrow plough under ordinary conditions, but also to pull a cultivator to a proper depth, and taking a width at least equal to the full over-all width of the tractor.

The Committee’s former recommendation regarding the use of spuds, rectangular in section and about 3 ins to 4 ins in width, and from 4 ins to 5 ins in length, is now very generally adopted. There is a marked improvement in the accessibility oof the working parts, and, in most cases, in their protection from the effects of exposure to weather and the entrance of grit.

There is no advance to record in the adoption of spring connections and release devices between the tractor and plough. The use of a wooden peg, which shears through under excessive strain, appears to be the most popular method of release.

The use of an adjustable hitch, fitted either to the tractor or the implements, is now widely adopted with advantage.

It was noticeable that the tractors demonstrated were provided with. A variety of speeds suitable for the different operations which they are called upon to perform.

Practically all the tractors were easily manipulated and turned at the headlands, a 24 feet headland being found sufficient. Some of them could be turned in considerably less. Those tractors having a driving wheel in the furrow are more easily steered, and appear to obtain a better grip.

All the tractors appeared capable of being used with any implement as a one-man outfit.

Ploughs

In regard to ploughs, a distinct advantage since the last trial has also to be noted. Much good work was performed. All ploughs are now fitted with a self-lift arrangement. Many of them are also provided with an efficient means of adjustment to different widths and depths. In view of the varying conditions of soil in Scotland and the variety of work to be undertaken, a plough that is not adjustable must be regarded as being unsuitable. There is still room for improvement in this respect, not only in providing means of adjustment, but in the ease and rapidity with which adjustment may be effected. In this connection it may be noted that a tractor plough, taking 2 or 3 furrows, requires more adjustment than a horse plough.

The ploughs were mostly fitted with revolving discs and skim coulters. It was noticeable, however, that not one of these was capable of effectively paring the turf from the edge of the furrow slice and laying it in the furrow bottom in such a way as not to interfere with the proper packing of the ploughing. In most cases the skimmed portion was merely folded over, and left in such a position that the furrows could not be compactly put together.

Sub soiling ploughs

The committee were impressed with the work done by the ploughs with subsoil attachments, and consider that this is a type of implement which farmers might adopt more extensively with advantage, especially where land has been continuously ploughed for a long period with plain bottomed ploughs.

This method of sub-soiling, where the subsoil is broken up but left in position, can have no disadvantage, and should be highly beneficial in improving the drainage and in mitigating the evil effects of excessive drought.

Grubbers and cultivators

The grubbers and cultivators were demonstrated on a field of unbroken stubble. It was originally intended to show them cultivating across the ploughed land, but this was abandoned in deference to the wishes of the framer, who thought it would be a mistake to cultivate a field so well ploughed at this season of the year.

The work done on the stubble field was creditable to the various implements. For deep work on unbroken or hard land the demonstration showed that a grubber is more suitable than a cultivator. The cultivators shown, however, should be extremely useful for medium or lighter soils.

In selecting a cultivator, it is desirable to see that there is ample clearance not only between the tines, but also between the frame and the surface of the cultivated land. It would be an advantage if grubbers and cultivators were of sufficient width to cover the track of the tractor.

As grubbers and cultivators are mostly required for spring cultivation, a demonstration in autumn does not provide a satisfactory test of their capabilities.

Harrows

The harrows also were demonstrated under unsuitable conditions, these being, of course, mainly implements for spring cultivation. The capabilities of the disc and spring tooth harrows are well known, and used with tractors they can perform much useful work. Various ingenious self-lift harrows were shown, and doubtless the self-cleaning devices embodied in these will prove to be serviceable when operating on dirty land. “

The full account can be read at: https://archive.rhass.org.uk/…/transactions-of…/604035

It is interesting, when reading these articles, to see how far tractors have developed in the last century.

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Authorised agents for sales and service of Fordson tractors in 1922

Who were the early dealers of Fordson tractors in Scotland? 

By 1922 there was already an extensive network of dealers of Fordson tractors in Scotland. These were found throughout Scotland, but especially in the eastern counties where the largest extent of cultivated land. A number of them were already agents for agricultural implements and machines while others sold cars or were motor garages with experience of working with motor engines. For example, The Harper Motor Company described itself as Ford Motor Car dealers in 1920. Henry Alexander & Co., described itself as a motor engineer and garage. Harry K. Brown, was at Crown Garage, and a motor garage. Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons, described themselves as millwrights and engineers in 1925. 

In the early 1920s authorised agents for sales and service included:

The Harper Motor Co., Ltd, Holburn Junction, Aberdeen 
J. Harper & Sons, Blairgowrie 
Frew & Company Ltd, The Fordson Service Depot, Princes Street, Perth 
A McKercher, automobile engineer, The Ford Service Depot, Aberfeldy 
Henderson Bros, service dealers, Stirling and Auchterarder 
Thos Cuthbert & Son, Ward Road, Dundee 
A Simpson & Son, authorised Ford dealers, Commerce Street, Montrose 
H. K. Brown, authorised Ford and Fordson dealer, Raith Motor Works, Nicol Street, Kirkcaldy 

Alexander & Co., Nottingham Place (off Leith Street), Edinburgh 
Henry Alexander &Co., authorised Ford and Fordson dealers, Nottingham Place (off Leith Street), Edinburgh, and at Station Road, Peebles 
Forrest & Scott, Carluke Motor Garage 
James Martin Limited, Kirkintilloch 
J. & D. Waddell, 16 Kingston Road, Kilsyth 
D. R. Gordon, authorised Ford dealer, Bathgate 
Thomas Fairgrieve & Sons, authorised Ford dealers, Stow 
The Border Motor Co., Galashiels 
Croall & Croall, Tower Garage, Hawick 
T. Fairgrieve & Sons, Stow 
W. R. Tullock & Son, authorised Ford & Fordson dealers, Ayre Garage, Kirkwall
William Dunnet, Son & Coy, Thurso

How many of these names do you recollect as Fordson and Ford tractor dealers in later years?

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Mr MacGregor of Banff: or Mr McGregor of Harrison, McGregor and Co (later Guest)

A number of Scottish agricultural implement and machine makers made their way to England to work in the industry. Some of them like David Greig, Harvieston, Kincardineshire, played important roles in major companies such as John Fowler & Co (Leeds) Ltd. Another major figure was Alexander McGregor of Keith, Banffshire.

The Banffshire journal and general advertiser of 14 September 1909 sets out Alexander MacGregor’s story through its obituary. It is quoted at length:

“Death of successful son of Keith The late Mr Alexander McGregor, agricultural engineerMany friends in the North, and a large number of the farming community throughout the country will hear with regret of the death of Mr Alex McGregor, of Messrs Harrison, McGregor & Co., Albion Iron Works, Leigh. Lancashire. Which took place on Tuesday morning. Mr McGregor was in his 74th year. He had been more or less an invalid since he had a paralytic seizure fifteen years ago last Christmas eve, but that did not prevent him paving regular visits to the Albion works until a more recent date, when his health became worse.Mr McGregor was born in Keith on December 3, 1836, and was seventh son of the late Mr Peter McGregor. Born in humble surroundings, he attended the Keith School, but it was not until he commenced work as a youth that he began to show traces of that inventive genius which was to serve him in such good stead later in life. When a comparatively young man, he invented the adjustable and expanding breast ridging plough, which was such a great advance upon the ordinary plough that, he had taken the precaution of patenting it, he would have made a fortune out of it. He was brought up in his father’s business, and became a partner in the firm of Messrs McGregor & Son, blacksmiths and general engineers, mid Street, Keith. The business was sold in 1866 to Messrs Auchinachie & Simpson, and, leaving Keith, Mr McGregor entered into partnership with Mr Humphries at Aberdeen, and they commenced business as plough makers, agricultural implement manufacturers, millwrights and engineers. A disolution of partnership took place, and both Mr McGregor and Mr Humphries migrated to England, where their talents were afforded fuller scope. For some little time Mr McGregor was with Messrs Ransome, the well-known agricultural machinists of Ipswich, but subsequently went to work for Messrs J. & F. Howard, agricultural implement makers of Bedford, where his late partner, Mr Humphries, occupied a position of the manager of a department. It was whilst Mr McGregor was with Messrs Howard that he attracted the notice of Mr Reuben Sims, the then managing director of Messrs Picksley, Sims, & Company, Butts Foundry. Mr Sims offered Mr McGregor good terms to go to Leigh and superintended the manufacture of rakes and other agricultural implements. Mr McGregor accepted the offer, and went to Leigh in the spring of 1867.

That was the stepping stone to a career that was destined to have a great effect upon Mr McGregor’s future, and upon the history of the Lancashire town of Leigh. For about six years he faithfully served Messrs Picksley, Sims & Co., as a foreman. At that time the firm had a small place in Albion Street, which was chiefly used as a warehouse. Mr McGregor, the late Mr Henry Harrison, father of the present Mayor of Leigh, and of Mr T. D. Harrison, the general manager of the Albion Ironworks, resolved to start in business on their own account, along with Mr George Rich. Negotiations were opened with Pickley, Sims & Co., and in February, 1873, that firm sold the three enterprising gentlemen the Albion Foundry. The firm of Messrs Harrison, McGregor & Co., gradually built up a splendid name. The improvements made in mowing and reaping machines and other agricultural implements were so excellent that from a small beginning with about fifty workpeople they increased in leaps and bounds until they became a firm of world-wide repute. Mr Alexander McGregor exercised his inventive genius to the full on behalf of his own firm, and among agriculturists his name became a household word, his fame and that of the firm extending throughout Europe and America. In America, France, and Germany the firm built up a great reputation, the present Mayor of Leigh contributing largely to its success, while his elder brother, Mr T. D. Harrison, also did splendid work on behalf of the firm. The Company were also singularly fortunate in securing as the works manager Mr McGregor’s younger brother Robert, a man of great skill and untiring perseverance. Leigh owes a great deal to the Albion Ironworks, for from employing about 50 men in 1873, it increased so largely that upwards of 1200 hands are employed, the firm being probably the largest manufacturers of agricultural machines in Great Britain. So successful was the Albion Ironworks that the older firm of Messrs Picksley, Sims & Co., could not compete with the new rival, and gradually sank out of existence, the works being closed some years ago and the bulk of the work-people securing employment at the Albion. When in December 1891 the firm of Messrs Harrison, McGregor & Company was converted into a Limited Liability Company, Mr Alexander McGregor was appointed managing director, and held that position until his death. Mr McGregor was twice married. His first wife was Miss Anna Foxcroft, of Leigh, who died about 35 years ago, leaving one son, Alexander, who is now in Canada. His second wife, who survives him, was Miss Emma Murray, of Manchester, and their children are Frank, Peter, William, Minnie, Bessie, Eleanor, and Constance.

As to his general characteristics Mr McGregor was not only an eminently practical man, but he was blessed with great foresight and tenacity of purpose. He had the faculty of commanding the admiration of his workpeople, and they worked untiringly, knowing that Mr McGregor would thoroughly appreciate what they did. In his younger days he was a most energetic walker, and his mind was centred in his business. He had few sporting instincts. His greatest happiness was in developing his works. Politics he did not care for, and he eschewed the, as far as possible. Several high honours would have been conferred upon him had he cared to accept them, but his inclination did not lie in that direction. For a great many years he was a member of the Independent Order of Oddfellows. Genial and generous to a degree, with a courtly and kindly disposition, he made many staunch friends, and he had no sturdier backers than his own workpeople, who recognised and fully appreciated his genius. He is dead, but his work will live after him, and the town of Leigh will never be able to pay the debt of gratitude it owes to him.

The funeral took place at the Leigh Cemetery on Thursday. The deceased’s late residence is not far from the cemetery, and consequently the demonstration of respect that would have been shown in the town had the cartage passed through the chief streets, were not possible. However, the flag at the Liberal Club was at half-mast. The floral tributes were very numerous, and at the funeral there was a large company of mourners.”

Quite a man!

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Mr Ross of Barclay, Ross & Hutchison, Aberdeen

n 1914 Barclay, Ross & Tough conducted its business from Balmoral Buildings, 67-71 Green, Aberdeen, and at Craigshaw, Aberdeen. It was two addresses that became closely known with its successor Barclay, Ross & Hutchison Ltd in 1920. 

The business continued in operation until 1 July 1929 when it was taken over by Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd. In 1933 it advertised in the North British Agriculturist as Barclay, Ross & Hutchison Ltd, associated with Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd”. In that year it exhibited at the Highland Show the “S.A.I. chemical dresser for all seeds”. 

One of the founding figures of the business was Robert R. Ross. He continued to be associated with the business until he retired on 1 July 1929. The Aberdeen evening express, provides an account of his work in an obituary of 22 May 1940. It is worth quoting at length: 

“Late Mr R. R. Ross
Agriculturists and business men throughout the North of Scotland will learn with regret of the death yesterday, at his residence in Hardgate, of Mr Robert R. Ross, a member of the firm of Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Hutchison, seedsman, and implement makers, Aberdeen. Mr Ross was eighty years of age.
Mr Ross was for many years secretary of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society. In that capacity he helped greatly to increase the membership, and in several directions he was responsible for widening the usefulness and influence of the Society. 
A man of tremendous energy and initiative, Mr Ross played an important part in the development of the agricultural industry in the North-east. 
His firm was kept invariably in the forefront in producing up-to-date machinery and other labour-saving equipment necessary for successful farming. 

Mr Ross joined, in the closing year of last century, the firm established by Mr Morrison Barclay in 1871. He retired from business eleven years ago when the firm was taken over by the Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd. He, however, remained a director of the company up to the time of his death. 
Courteous, genial, and obliging, he enjoyed a great popularity.
When a young man Mr Ross was a member of the Aberdeen Rifle Volunteers and attended the Wet Review in 1881. He was a member of the Aberdeen Wet Review Veterans’ Association. 

Mr Ross is survived by two daughters and by one son, who is in New Zealand. Two of his sons were killed in the last war.”

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The implement department of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association Show in 1882

he Ayr Show of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association was one of the most important agricultural shows for implements and machines in Scotland. The most important one was the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

The Ayr Show as important not only for local makers but also those coming from further afield, especially in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was also attended by some of the major English makers such as John Fowler & Co., Leeds.

The west of Scotland newspapers, including the Ayrshire newspapers and the Glasgow herald published extensive accounts on what was exhibited at the show. The agricultural newspapers such as the North British agriculturist also published accounts.

An informative account of the implement department at the 1882 show was published in the Glasgow herald of 26 April 1882. It provides context to the display, including numbers of exhibits, trends between the years (1882 was at the start of a long agricultural depression), changes to the awards system for implement makers as well as what was on display. It is worth quoting at length for the amount of detail it provides:

“Although the exhibition of implements is one of the most interesting to farmers as connected with the cultivation of their land, it has never had much attraction for the general public, and the attendance yesterday, though not smaller than on any previous year, could not be said to show any advance. Those who passed up and down the yard were almost all farmers who had an eye for the practical, and were either on the outlook for some particular implement, or were scanning the different stands in the search after new inventions. For the past few years there has been gradual decrease in the entries in this department, but this is easily accounted for when the depressed state of agriculture is considered, and the inability of the farmer to do more than purchase what was actually required to carry on farming operations. In 1879 the implement entries were 931, in 1880 they were 816; and last year 786; while this year there is a further reduction, and the number now stands at 748. No doubt this is caused by the withdrawal of many of those exhibitors who dealt in fancy articles, and who chose such gatherings as splendid opportunities for doing a goodly stroke of business. Whether they have been disappointed in their expectations we cannot tell, but the fact remains the same, and the display, so far as the real merits of the exhibition are concerned, is none the poorer for their absence.

Another feature in implements for the past few years in the absence of all novelties. That some of the makers are busy on new implements we knew, but the times are not such as to hasten the production of these, and hence those placed in the yard yesterday were, with one or two exceptions, well-known and tried machines with minute alterations which have been suggested by practical experience. Another thing which strikes the visitor is the absence of some of the well-known English makers, who are allowing their goods to be brought before the farmers through their own agents. There is still another matter which affects makers more particularly, and that is the issue of medals to exhibits. In deference to the wishes of the makers the association decided to give no such awards, and this was carried out for a year or two, but when the committee came to draw up the premium list this year, it was stated that a desire had been expressed that some medal should be given for special new inventions. This was agreed to, and accordingly the notice was appended. This came under the notice of the committee of the Scottish Implement Engineers’ Association, and strong remonstrations were then made that this was really taking a step backwards, and losing the ground which had been already gained. These were duly considered by the committee of the Ayr show, to whom it was explained that the engineers wished trials to which, if desired, medals or prizes might be attached, but that they had no desire for medals without trials. It was further asked, if the committee decided to go in for trials that they give three years’ notice of the implements to be so tested, so that every opportunity might be given for the production of the best implement. After full deliberation, it was agreed to depart from the announcement made in the premium list; and at the same time, we believe, a feeling was expressed that they might enter on the new field of testing implements by another year. This decision satisfied the members, and prevented what at one time threatened to bring about a rupture of those friendly relations which have always subsisted between the Ayrshire association and the implement makers.

Coming to look at the exhibits as laid out, the largest display is that of Messrs Alexander Jack & Sons, of Maybole. This firm has made a name for itself for the manufacture of the Buckeye reapers and mowers, but this year they have introduced a new feature, and have brought out a potato digger, for which they augur great success. In carts and lorries they stand almost foremost, and as usual a large number of these are on the ground. Close beside this stand is the broadcast sowing machine of Mr Thomas Turnbull, of Castlebank, Dumfries. It is on the well-known principle illustrated by Mr Benjamin Reid, of Aberdeen, and is placed on a swivel to assist removal from field to field. Adjoining this is a large stand filled by Mr Jas P. Cathcart, of Glasgow and Ayr. It is filled with a collection of useful agricultural implements, chief among which are several of Mr Walter Wood’s enclosed gear two-horse mower. One fault with this machine was the short knife bar. In this machine a longer bar has been put in, and there is also added an improved reaper attachment. It was expected that this firm would exhibit one of their sheaf-binders, but as the Highland Society have offered a special premium for these machines it has been decided to keep it back till that time, so that all the improvements suggested by experiments may be added. Mr Cathcart also exhibited Gray’s pulverising plough, which looks a useful implement, and one likely to perform well the task for which it is designed. There is also in this stand one of Black’s improved box churns with a perforated division, which is said to greatly quicken the process. The inventor says, that “the peculiar construction of the breaker throws the milk with great force through the perforation, breaks up and extracts every particle of butter in a remarkably short time, and in a manner quite unequalled by any former invention.”

At the end of the field, among machinery in motion, is one of Messrs Jeffery & Blackstone’s new stone mills for grinding and kibbling, exhibited by Mr Robert Wallace of Whitletts, and driven by one of Messrs J. & T. Young’s engines. These grinding mills are fitted with stones instead of iron grinders, and being mounted on a horizontal spindle are thus made to run a vertical direction. The makers contend that it can be driven at double the speed of the ordinary mills, and there can be no doubt that it was performing excellent work yesterday. Messrs W. N. Nicholson & Son, Newark-on-Trent, show an improved Gardner single-action turnip-cutter, which is fitted with a patent arrangement said to insure the last piece being cut. Passing along to the stand of Mr Thomas Hunter, of Maybole, we find a very large collection of implements, among which is noticeable the well-known turnip-topping and tailing machine. There is also a new machine which has been tried once. It is called a “Dunlop three-drill plough”. When preparing the land for potatoes with a single plough, one of the horses passes along one of the furrows, and, by making deep indentations in the bottom, destroys the surface for planting, and often leads to irregularities and blanks. With this implement the horses walk in front of the ground to be turned up, and in this way an even bottom is left for the seed potato. It is calculated that one pair of horses can go over about nine or ten acres a-day with the machine. Mr Dunlop, who has assisted Mr Hunter with the invention, has tried the machine, and he is satisfied that it will save a good deal of labour, and prove very effectual.

Not far from this stand is another novelty exhibited by Mr Thomas Reid, Monkton Miln. It is described as a “Patent combined machine or implement that will open three drills at once for farmyard manure, or open two drills, sow light manure, and cover at same time eight acres a-day. Turnip or other seeds can be sown at same time-all with one pair of horses. Also, plant potatoes, whole or cut, and cultivate and raise root crops.” It has two drills in front, with manure boxes above. As the machine moves it causes a central roller to revolve, and this carries the manure down and allows it to fall to the ground. Then the three mould boards follow, and cover up the manure, and behind these again are placed three turnip sowers, thus performing three operations at once. The inventor also claims that by removing the manure boxes and substituting potato planters he can accomplish a large amount of work with little expenditure of horse-power. So far the machine has not been thoroughly tested, and though the theory is good it would be unwise to speak too confidently of its merits. Messrs John Wallace & Sons, Glasgow, have a goodly representation of their machines on the ground. This firm was the pioneer in potato diggers, and their machine has stood every test applied to it, and has been so successful that not a few of those being manufactured are practically on the same principle. Their reapers have also undergone some minute alteration, which improve their usefulness. Messrs Wallace also showed an Anglo-American chilled plough, for cross ploughing red land or stubble. This implement is remarkably simple and light, and the English makers have improved on the American model by broadening the front wheel and lowering it slightly, so as to meet the irregularities of the land. The other stands are well worthy of a visit, but they contain no novelties, though filled with implements which have been long usefully employed on many farms.”

An informative account of a great display.

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Another look at the “Highland” of ninety years ago

Newspapers in Scotland carried extensive accounts of the Highland Show. These included extensive accounts of the implement stands, the new implements, the livestock displayed and the award winners. Because of the extent of the implement yard, accounts of it tended to be extensive, though the amount of space devoted to each stand was brief. They provide useful information for the historian today of agricultural implements and machines. Often they provide information in the absence of other sources. We have posted an account of the Highland Show in Inverness from The Scotsman. It set out what attracted its reporter.

Today, we include an account from the Aberdeen free press of 25 July 1892. This includes an extensive account on the development of mechanisation in the nineteenth century as well as key implements and machines. It refers to ones that were particularly important for the farmers in the north.

The account states:

“HAS Inverness 1892

Since the last show of the Highland Society was held at Inverness, great improvements have been effected on implements and machinery. Inventors never appear to tire of trying to bring out something new, as is well proved by the large number of patents that are applied for every day of the year; and when they find it impossible to invent new machines, many of them tax their brains to the utmost to improve in detail those that are in existence. In this latter respect abundant evidence is given at the Inverness show, a large amount of brain-power having been expended in taking advantage of the laws of nature towards improving and perfecting in the smaller details the implements and machinery used for agricultural purposes. In the minds of those who have often visited the Highland Society’s shows, and whose recollections can travel back well on to half a century of years, what an enormous contrast is presented! In those days the first sound that would have greeter the ear of many a farmer when he got early out of bed in a winter’s morning would have been, perhaps, the constant thud and whack of the flail from the surrounding barns of the smaller farmers and crofters; and if he had peered into the barns of the larger farmers about four or five o’clock in the morning, more than likely he would have found the farm servants busily engaged either in threshing or in dressing the corn by an old creaking fanner or “winnoster”, which might have been heard for a long distance off. The light by which the work would have been done would have been found to stand out in strong contrast again that of modern days, a “wick” made out of rushes and burning in “train” oil being considered a great improvement on the old and troublesome for sticks. The threshing mills, too, in those days were clumsy enough, and hard to drag, as the horses could well have testified, and the other implements of the farm were usually more unwieldy. The climax of science was considered to be reached when the skilled millwright was called in to do his part in putting in a mill. From small beginnings in the direction of improvement great progress has been made during the last twenty-five years, for even during that comparatively short period the most of the really useful modern agricultural implements have been brought forward and perfected. Reaping machines, when they were first seen, were almost laughed at, and the men who bought them were looked upon by a good many as faddists, and objections by the hundred were presented as to their ever coming into use. But what changes days and years can produce. The reaper and binder, which may not be looked upon as one of the greatest wonders on the farm, was looked upon but a very few years ago as a machine which might possibly be adapted to cut down the wheat of the prairie lands, but it looked like an idle dream to suppose that it could ever come into ordinary use. Last year a large number of farmers were “converted”, as the public trials which took place at various centres over the country the binders amid twisted corn performed their work in many cases better than the man with his scythe could do, and it was almost a debateable point if it could not even compete with many of the back or side-delivery reapers. The old objection, too, was also almost overborne that a pair of good hardy horses could not pull the machine, as it was acknowledged by many that they could do so with ease and without almost turning “a hair”. The other objection as to price is being gradually removed, as the scale of being lowered, and the weight of many of the machines has in many cases now descended to about half a ton.

On entering the gate, the first thing that will appeal to the eye and greet the ear will be the immense array of labour saving implements and the roar of machinery performing work, from driving sewing machines, to threshing and grinding mills, will all alike demonstrate that progress of a very marked character is being made. As showing in marked contrast side by side the rate of progress made, a mill may be seen at work near the entrance gate driven by a powerful engine grinding grain, while in a recess of the machine the electric light flashes out its brilliant light as if trying to compete with a still more powerful luminary overhead. A rapid survey of the showyard will show that inventors are striving hard to put “steam” itself as a motive agent in the background, as gas and electricity are not only now strong competitors where only a few horse power is required, but an engine is shown on the ground of about ten horse power, which is driven by petroleum, the oil being first heated then exploded like gas. Descending the scale to details, the improvements that have been effected on all kinds of machines are legion, and all tending in the direction of lightening labour and of making the work more easily and effectively performed. The hook has given place to the reaper and binder, the flail to the “tiny” threshing machine, the “rashen” wick to petroleum, gas, or the electric light, and all round abundant evidence is afforded that, great as the improvements are, the end of the century will only usher in another age which will be “yet much more wonderful”. Among those in the dim and distant future, as concentrating almost within itself one of the potentialities, electricity will more than likely play an important part, while the explosive forces-the tides, the waves, and the waterfalls-will be put in harness and compelled to do their quota of work.

Messrs G. W. Murray & Co, Banff Foundry, Banff, at their stand, no. 25, show a large and varied assortment of agricultural implements. The Company are agents for the celebrated Toronto steel binder, which ahs gained for itself an excellent reputation in the past as a machine which will cut all conditions of crop, and give purchasers entire satisfaction. It is light in draught, and easily within the power of two horses. In practice it is a machine which requires little repairs, as it is made of malleable iron and steel. They also show their famed Victory Reaper, which has been well known for many years over Scotland, and this season several important improvements have been effected. The demand has been so great this season that unless farmers place their orders early they will run the risk of being disappointed. The firm also call special attention to their one horse reapers, which will be found very suitable for small farmers in the north, as they are light in draught and quite within the power of a single horse, or if two horses are available they can be attached if desired. They exhibit a good selection of drill and swing ploughs of various patterns for one and two horses. The drill ploughs have steel boards, and the workmanship if the whole is highly finished. They also show one and two horse chain pumps, corn bruisers of various sizes, and last, but not lease, their celebrated Victory knife grinder, which can be driven by hand or foot. They also show several hand, horse, and water- power threshing mills of their own manufacture, which they warrant to do the work in a satisfactory manner. Murray’s turnip-sower, potato planter, and their new three-tined grubber are likely to attract attention. They also act as agents for the sale of Massey, Harris, & Co’s “Sharp” hay rake, of which it is stayed forty thousand have been made, and the demand for them this season in the north has been exceptional, owing to their ability and cheapness.

Stand no. 33 is occupied by George Sellar and Son, Huntly, with an exhibit of their implements. Part of their stand was shown at Aberdeen, and was fully described by us in our report of the Royal Northern Society’s Show. The chief feature of the stand is their display of ploughs, which are shown in every variety, with mould boards varying in length from 4 feet to 2 feet in length. The introduction of Anglo-American ploughs had the effect of shaking the confidence of farmers in ploughs with long boards, and the demand has now settled down for a good, strong, swing plough, with a medium length of board, as represented by their no. 27. This is a plow which can be turned to all sorts and conditions of work, is light in draught, and does not leave the furrow slice too cohesive and plastered up. The long boards, such as no. 29, have been relegated to ploughing matches. Two samples of steel grubbers are shewn-made of steel throughout. The advantage of steel in the construction of grubbers is that when the implement strikes a stone, steel will, although bent, spring bank into its original position, while iron, on the other hand, remains bent. The grubber thus getting off the truth, gradually gets worse until it has to be refitted again by the blacksmith. The harrow made by this form are also of steel, without any bolts in them. The turnip sower which they exhibit seems to have been in some measure remodelled. It looks much more compact and in every way lighted. The rollers are self-shifting, to any size of drill, and the seed can be seen passing from the seed boxes into the pipes, so that no mistake can occur with the seed stopping. The Johnston binder is also shown on this stand, which, along with the others, require to be thoroughly tested before their good qualities can be confirmed. Altogether this stand is attractive, and ought to command some attention.

Thomas Gibson & Son, Bainfield Ironworks, Edinburgh, at stand no. 39, have a large space allotted to them, and their entries, numbering 135 in all, occupy several pages of the catalogue. The goods are all of their own manufacture, and in a number of the articles shown they claim originality in construction and design. One of the principal features in this stand is the new patent channel iron fence, with wood top-rail, the latter making the fence much more visible for hunting, and less dangerous on the side of public roadways than ordinary iron fences. They also exhibit a tripod tree guard, invented by Mr A. A. McLeod, park superintendent, Edinburgh. The tree is surrounded inside the guard by close wire-mesh netting, seven inches in diameter, making the guard entirely rabbit-proof. The price is very moderate. They also show a new and improved con rick stand, with improving air-bossing, an arrangement which would enable farmers to take in their crops when wet, and it is also of the greatest advantage in respect that in wet seasons the grain of fodder won’t heat, this being prevented by the free access of air to the stack.

The Bisset back-delivery reaper have for years been well to the front of the north, and at stand no. 5 Messrs J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie, show a good collection of their “Speedwell” self-acting, back-delivery reaper. They also show their Bisset Binder, which was described at the Aberdeen show, the principal features of which is that there is no “canvass” required, the grain being conveyed on an endless spiked chain.

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The first motors and motor tractors at the Highland Show of 1904

The Highland Show was an important forum for the display of agricultural implements and machines. This included the introduction of new implements and machines such as mowers, reapers, binders, traction engines, tractors and so forth.

The Highland Show in 1924 was held at Perth, in the Perth Show District, one of the 8 show districts. The Perthshire advertiser looked back at the show held in Perth in 1904 when it had been last held there. It noted that this was the first show “where motors and motor tractors were first seen”.

Let’s see how it referred to that show of 1924 and the upcoming one of 1924 in an article from 2 February 1924: “Owing to circumstances which are well known, the Highland and Agricultural Society’s annual show was held in the county town of Fife in 1912, when, in its ordinary rotation, it would otherwise have been held at Perth.

The great national show to be held on the South Inch, Perth, on 15, 16, 17, and 18 July, ought therefore, to be invested with more than ordinary interest, as no fewer than twenty years have elapsed since the great exhibition was formerly held at this centre.Perth is recognised as one of the most convenient, as well as being one of the most lucrative, centres at which this show is held. It is of interest also to recall that the secretary of the Highland Society, Mr John Stirton, MA, is a Perthshire man, belonging to a well-known farming family in the Stanley-Bankfoot district, where a brother, Mr William Stirton, to day carries on the family tradition. Many of the outstanding directors of the Highland and Agricultural Society have been Perthshire proprietors and farmers, and the show held at Perth have always been marked by unusual enterprise and excellent organisation.

The show this year will be the tenth held by the Society at Perth, the first of whose shows was held at Edinburgh on Thursday, 26th December, 1822. At the first venture the premiums amounted to 10 guineas all told, 5 guineas for first and 2nd prizes for pairs of oxen of the Shorthorn breed not exceeding four years; of the Aberdeenshire breed not exceeding three years; and of the Angus, Fife, Galloway, and West Highland breed not under four years. At the coming show in July the prize list amounts to between £5000 and £6000. From the “Transactions” of the Highland and Agricultural Society we read that “The Society has had few more successful shows than that which took place at Perth on the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd July, 1904. The South Inch, given free with a supply of water by the city of Perth, formed an ideal showyard in every way.

First appearance of motor tractors

Nowadays the implement section of the Highland is an immense exposition in itself. It was at the Highland Show in July, 1896, that the first exhibition was given of a road motor seen in Scotland. Then at Perth, at the 1904 show, an equally notable feature was the first show yard appearance in Scotland of motors designed for field work. A writer of the day says:-“There would seem to be little room for doubt that motors have come to stay”. He was a shrewd observer of events. The motor tractors exhibited in July underwent practical field trials in September. In the showyard the motors were exhibited hauling reaping machines and waggons, and “their appearance excited much interest and favourable comment among visitors. It may, indeed, be said that the ease with which the motors were worked and manouvered in the parade ring tended to remove any unfavourable impression that may have existed in the minds of those who have been reluctant to contemplate the introduction of mechanical haulage other than at present in vogue for field work. In these days of keen competition it is more than ever necessary that work of all kinds should be executed as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and, in the agricultural motor, even in its present stage, there appears to be a machine which will assist towards the desired end.”

The practical trials of the motors in the cutting of corn and ploughed land took place at the late Mr W. S. Ferguson’s farm of Pictonshill, near Perth, on September 15th, 1904, “in the presence of a fairly large company of deeply interested agriculturists”. The motors tested were “The Ivel” and “The Scott”. Since then, of course, motor tractor implements have undergone nothing short of a revolution, but these early motors made a big impression at the time, and the improvements that have taken place may be said to have been built upon the foundations which in these early days were well and truly laid.

A criticism of the work done in 1904, which appears in the “Highland Transactions”, states that: “The motors were under perfect control, and considerable admiration was expressed at the ease with which they stopped and started during the cutting. In fact, in this respect, they seemed superior to horses. The exhibitors of the two motors supplied the following data as to the total cost per acre and the time required for performing the work. Mowing 6d to 1/9 per acre; 15 to 30 mins time required per acreReaping 1/ to 1/9 per acre; 30 mins time required per acrePloughing 4/ to 5/ 1 11/2 hrs to 2hrs time required per acreCultivating 1/6 to 4/ per acre; ¾ hrs to 1 ¼ hrs time required per acre.

The report concludes: “Taking the trials as a whole, they were in every way a success, and in recognition of the substantial progress which the makers had made in bringing out a thoroughly useful agricultural motor, the Committee awarded one of the Highland and Agricultural Society’s gold medals to each of the two exhibitors.” The Highland and Agricultural Society is to be congratulated on the encouragement it has invariably given inventions and manufacturers of agricultural implements to carry on the good work of reducing farm labour costs.”

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