Scottish agricultural implement makers at the Royal Show – 1921

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).


Implement makers and their premises in the mid nineteenth century

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…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Source: The photograph of the Gray of Uddingston plough was taken at the Scottish National Tractor Show, September 2013.


Buying a Scottish made tractor cab

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.


Implements and machines used on Midlothian farms in the mid 1920s

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.


Implements and machines used on East Lothian farms in the mid 1880s

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?


Displenishing sales in Midlothian in 1926

Displenishing sales provide an insight into the implements and machines that were being used on a farm when the tenant was leaving a particular farm. They can show the type of agriculture practiced as well as the range of implements and machines used. They can also show whether the Fram was using new and innovative ones or were relying on older ones. 

In October 1926 there were two displenishing sales taking place in Midlothian – at Blackcastle and Burdiehouse. It is worth looking at these to see what implements and machines were being used nearly 100 years ago. There is a great emphasis on ploughing, cultivating, carting, crop processing, and animal husbandry. 

Blackcastle, Tynehead
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
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. 

It is interesting to note for the advert for Burdiehouse that the implements were “the usual” ones for “a farm of this size”. This gives an indication of what was typical for a farm.

The photographs were taken at the Royal Highland Show, June 2019.


What implements and machines were at the Glasgow “Highland” in 1897?

The largest shows of the Highland Show of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland were usually those held in the Edinburgh and Glasgow Show Districts. Not only did they attract local exhibitors within the Show District but also ones from much further afield. The largest number of English exhibitors were also found at these two shows. 

The Highland Show in 1897 provides a good account of what was new and innovative in one of the large show centres at the end of the nineteenth century. There has been a lot of work to mechanise farming, especially harvesting activities (grain and potato) and steps were being taken to mechanise milking, seen in the competition for a milking machine. There was also a large array of implements and machines available to the agriculturist. 

The Scotsman provides an extensive account of the Highland in Glasgow in 1897. It is worth quoting at length to see how it was reported: 

“The space set apart for the implement yard exceeds 5000 feet, and there are 2227 implements shown on 183 stands. Although not the largest show of implements that has been seen at Glasgow, it is all over a good exhibition, and embraces everything that embraces everything that enters into farm husbandry. At Perth last year the number of implements shown was 1945, and at Dumfries in 1895 they reached the large number of 2265. This year’s entry has been exceeded at only seven of the seventy shows held by the Society; and it is larger by 600 than that at last Glasgow show in 1888, but is 400 less than at the show of 1882. Although there are no absolute novelties in the implement section, there is no end of variety, and all the productions of the agricultural engineer are shown with their most recent improvements. The Society do not this year offer prizes for implements, but in connection with the show a competitive test of milking machines took place a month or two ago, when the prize of £50 was awarded to Mr William Murchland, Kilmarnock. His machine will be shown in working operation daily, and will be one of the chief attractions of the show. It was seen by the judges at work on three farms, and on each occasion samples of the milk drawn from the cows by the machine, and from the same cows by hand, were taken and set, in order to test the keeping qualities of the milk. On two of the farms the machine had been at work since 1891, and on the third for two months, and the judges stated that in each case it was found to perform the operation of milking efficiently and speedily. The time occupied for each cow was generally from four to six minutes, sometimes rather less. It seemed to cause no discomfort to the cows, and no injury to the teats or udder. It drew the milk by continuous suction, without any apparent pulsating movement. The apparatus was simple in its construction, equally simple in its working, and not difficult to clean or keep clean. The power required to work the machine was not great, At the first farm a half-horsepower oil engine milked ten cows at a time quite easily. Until this engine was put in recently, the machine was worked by one man, with an ordinary force pump. In every instance, the samples of milk drawn by the machine were found to keep satisfactorily. After a lapse of forty-eight hours they were perfectly sweet and in no respect inferior to the milk drawn by hand. The judges state that they regard this machine as a practical success, and are of opinion that in large dairies, where milkers are scarce, it may be introduced with advantage. 

The exhibition of implements is the largest that has been seen at the Highland Show for the last twelve years, and in every respect the department is most complete. Every class of machine used in husbandry is on exhibition, and no more striking example of the great progress that has taken place in the economy of the farm could be afforded than the present display of machinery for facilitating the farm work of today. One of the first stands to command attention is that of Messrs George Gray & Co., Uddingston Plough Works, where a very fine assortment of ploughs of all kinds is on view. Next to this stand is that of Messrs John Drummond & Son, engineers, Cumnock, who exhibit two kinds of superior thrashing machines. A large and complete stand is that of Messrs A. Newlands & Sons, Linlithgow, where all kinds of farm machinery are on view. One of the features of this stand is the display of drill ploughs, which baulk up the drills in such a fashion as to leave no green potatoes. A particularly good implement is the potato-lifter, which so works as to lift up the tubers without injuring them. The action of the machine is the same as that of a man lifting potatoes. Its action is very natural. In most machines of this kind the action is rotary, but here the machine only describes a half-circle, with the result that the potatoes are delved out as if by manual labour. The invention, which is patented by Mr Newlands and Mr Burns, a potato merchant, has been in use this year digging out the green potatoes at Girvan. Another exhibit at this stand worthy of mention is a self-acting horse-rake of very simple mechanism. Passing on, the next stand to call for notice is that of Mr William Elder, Berwick upon Tweed, who shows a varied and interesting group of machines. A feature is the improved mower and reaper, worked from the hinge bar instead of from the pole, thus dispensing entirely with side draught. The broadcast sowers of this firm are known all over the country, and are great favourites on many leading farms. Some improvements have been introduced into them this year, and seed box having been made larger, to mention only one improvement. The steel-board ridging ploughs are so constructed that the draught weight is reduced to a minimum.

Great labour-saving implements are the drill rollers and grubbers, which are so notched as to break the clods, and can be adjusted to any size or width of the drill. Mr A. Pollock, Mauchline, shows a very good collection of labour-saving applicances, and it may be mentioned that many of the products of this firm have already been booked, so great is the demand for the machiens of this prominent Ayrshire maker. A very good substantial combined reaper and mower of a new style, with a tilting board for hay and corn, is one of the features of this stand; while a hay and straw press, which is on show, is so arranged that one person can lift it by its own lever on to its wheels in one minute after the men stop baling, making it easy for transport. Practical agriculturists should make a pause at this exhibit. The distinction of having won the gold medal at Haddington belongs to this press. A very handy rick lifter is case-hardened in the centre of the wheel as well as in the axle, thus adding to its durability. This machine only weighs 6cwt gross. A patent hay collector is also on view, as well as an improved potato digger; while there is an example of Nicholson’s patent switchback hay turner, which Mr Pollock was the first to introduce into Ayrshire. There are also shown a double cheese press and a patent curd mill, similar to those used in the Dairy School at Kilmarnock. The features of the curd mill are the round teeth and the open grating in the centre, enabling it to break up more effectively, and without getting twisted round the breaker. 

Messrs George Sellar & Son, Huntly, have a goodly show of ploughs, harrows, grubbers, and binders. Messrs P. & R. Fleming & Co., Glasgow, have one of the largest stands in the implement yard. A prominent feature is the corrugate d steel shed fitted with the horse fork. Beneath the shed is a large assortment of dairy and laundry utensils, while a large Bradford windmill is one of the features of the landscape. It is claimed for this windmill that the highest wind will not overcome it, and certainly it has plenty of opportunity of distinguishing its capabilities yesterday. The firm also show many of the machines for which they are the agents. Messrs John Gray & Co., Uddingtson, have on show a large display of ploughs and other agricultural implements; while Mr Charles Weir, Strathaven, exhibits rick lifters and churns. Mr Thomas Turnbull, Castle Bank, Dumfries, has a stand on which he shows an improved Dumfries broadcast sower for grain and grass seeds, along with chaff cutters and grinding and churning mills. Weighing machines have of late been coming to the front in farm work, and the stand of Messrs Ward & Avery, Glasgow, devoted to these exhibits, is therefore all the more interesting. Messrs Henry Pooley & Son, Glasgow, also show in this department a number of weighbridges of various capacities. Mr John Scoular, Stirling, makes a large display of agricultural appliances; and the stand of Mr J. P. Cathcart, Glasgow, is also a most complete one. The machines of Walter A. Wood are exhibited at the stands of Messrs P. & R. Fleming, Glasgow, and George Sellar & Sons, Huntly. Messrs Kemp & Nicholson, Stirling, have a large stand on which they show horse rakes, reapers, mowers, hay collectors, spring carts, farm carts, vans and lorries. The Morgan hay baler at this stand is a machine which can load 50cwt of hay on an ordinary railway wagon, pressing hay to double the density of the old-fashioned press. An improved cart turnip cutting machine is worthy of notice here. Messrs James Grey & Co, Stirling, have also a goodly collection of implements. One of the largest stamds in the show is that of Messrs A. & J. Main & Co., Edinburgh and Glasgow. The chief exhibits at this stand are the Deering binders, an American make of machine which has been pushing its way to the front in Scotland.

The Deering pony binder is fitted with roller and ball bearings while the Deering ideal mowers and combined mowers and reapers are also fitted in a similar fashion. The Deering Harvester Company introduced ball bearings into their machines five years ago, and since that time many other firms have adopted this contrivance. One of their pony binders is fitted with slot conveyors instead of canvasses. Their McDonald turnip topping and tailing machine won a silver medal at the Dumfries Highland Show. Shown for the first time was the one horse back-delivery reaper and mower, which is specially adapted for small farms and crofts, and which is used as a supplementary machine to the binder for opening up fields. With Brown’s Cammo cart turnip cutting machine, also exhibited at this stand, a cartful of turnips can be cut in seven minutes. Messrs Thomas Hunter & Sons, Maybole, show a very nice collection of implements of general utility in the cultivation of the soil, chiefly applicable to the root crops. Mr Wm McNaughton, Stirling, shows hand presses. Messrs J. D. Allan & Sons, Dunkeld; Mr William Dickie, East Kilbride; Mr Matthew Dunlop, Glasgow, and Messrs John Turnbull & Sons, Dunmore, Larbert, have all good collections of various kinds of agricultural implements. Messrs G. McCartney & Co., Old Cumnock, exhibit a couple of thrashing mills- one of them a high speed machine fitted with riddle and fanners. An attractive display is made by Messrs Thomas Sherriff & Co., Westbarns, Dunbar. A feature of their exhibition is an improved broadcast sowing machine for grain and grass seeds, which at Haddington Show on Saturday was awarded a silver medal. This comprehensive stand also includes a collapsible sheep fodder rack of novel design.

Messrs John Wallace & Sons, Glasgow, like many other local firms, have a large display, comprising the City of Glasgow and the Thistle binders, the popular Massey-Harris cultivators, and the Champion potato-digger, with two and three horse trees. The hay “tedders’ exhibited by the firm are worth the attention of visitors. Driven by one horse, they are every day coming into greater demand. Naturally a prominent machine on the stand of Messrs J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie, is the firm’s open back binder, which was shown at the trials in connection with the show at Edinburgh in 893, and obtained a favourable notice from the judges then. Among the firm’s other exhibits is the safety potato digger. Messrs Alexander Jack & Sons, Maybole, have a large stand, on which are specimens of the strong and compact Empire binder and the well-known Caledonia potato digger, which, being fitted with enclosed gearing, is capable of standing a great deal of wear and tear. The digger, which was first at the trials of the Leicester Royal Show a year ago, holds a prominent position in the market as a perfectly arranged machine. A moderately priced horse hoe and specimens of the Dux Canadian ploughs are among the other exhibits by which the firm is represented. 

The motion yard is not very extensive, but it is extremely interesting, and embraces an excellent collection of machinery of the farm. Mr H. B. Fleming, Kirkliston, shows the “Bisset” reaper and binder. Messrs Carrick & Ritchie, Edinburgh, show a large collection of their improved turbines, pelton wheels, jet water motors, and other appliances for the utilisation of water for power for mills, farm machinery &c. the application of water power to country house lighting by electricity is illustrated by a combined turbine and dynamo. Another novelty is a combined jet water motor and dynamo suitable for lighting a small house containing thirty lamps. Another application of water power for the ventilation of buildings is shown. This is a very compact combination of a jet motor and ventilating fan, by which the town water supply entering a cistern may be made to yield up its power in driving the ventilating fan, and then pass into the cistern for domestic use. Messrs Ben Reid & Co., Aberdeen, have an attractive stand, at which the show in notion five thrashing machines of the newest and most improved type, fitted with double blast and barley awner. They have also at work one of the Massey Harris Brantford binders, fitted with the original patent slat conveyer. They likewise show their well-known broadcast sowing machines and manure distributers, together with a varied assortment of useful articles for farm work. Thrashing machiens and engines are the leading features of the stand occupied by Mr R. G. Morton, Errol, and these are of an excellent description, neatly designed, and well finished. Windmills are conspicuous objects on the stands of Messrs P. & W. Maclellan, Glasgow, and Messrs John S. Millar & Son, Annan. As in former years, Messrs Thos Gibson & Son, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, have one of the largest individual spaces in the yard allotted to their exhibits. Their name is so well known for ornamental iron work that little need be said on their behalf. Mr William Sinton, Jedburgh, shows an interesting assortment of churns; and Mr John Gray, Stranraer, has on view cheese vats, presses, refrigerators, and other dairy utensils. The Dairy Supply Company, Edinburgh, exhibit a large collection of separators and other appliances of a useful character. The Sorn Dairy Supply, Glasgow, have a working dairy, which should prove a source of much attraction, the process of buttermaking being carried on daily. Messrs Watson, Laidlaw, & Co., Glasgow, show a number of cream separators in this section of the implement yard.”

Quite a show! Lots to see for the framer and agriculturist.


The great Highland of 1921 – from a north-eastern perspective

The Highland Show was the great stock and implement show of Scotland. In non-covid times it was much looked forward to. It’s proceedings, including its stands, their contents, stock entries and their winners were widely reported in the press. This included not only the agricultural press, the national press but also the regional and local press. Journalists were sent to report what was important for the local farmers to see and know about. 

In 1921 the Aberdeen daily journal sent a reporter to the show. They provided a lively account of it – it was a huge show. Its main focus was on who and what from Aberdeen and the north east was at the show. It was a kind of home from home. If you are interested in an account of the contribution of north-east makers to the implement department then this is a really good one. 

This is what the Aberdeen daily journal wrote about the Highland Show of 1921 in its issue of 26 July 1921

“This year’s display of farm and garden implements, machinery, and dairy utensils probably forms one of the largest exhibition of the kind seen in Scotland. Everything required by the agriculturist, no matter what branch he may specialize in, can be seen. Fly papers for the dairy, patent penny collar studs, and traction engines and threshing mills are all on view, and the collection is one of the most comprehensive seen at the Highland Show. All the leading manufacturers in Aberdeen and the north are represented by stands, and, given good weather, they look forward to doing good business. The venue of the show this year is within reasonable distance of the large industrial and implement centres in Scotland, and perhaps this explains the large display of machinery. As an engineering proposition, the exhibits are most interesting, but it is their utilitarian and labour-saving value that will appeal most to those who inspect them. The north firms have shown commendable enterprise in adopting the very last class of machinery and implements, and all the very latest improvements.

One of the features of the motion yard was the display of tractors and threshing machines and light oil-driven engines suitable for nearly all kinds of farm work, including the manufacture of electricity for lighting and power purposes.

Mechanical farming
It is evident, without doubt, that the mechanical element in farming is having a greater influence on the industry than ever before. It would seem that in course of time, if the present trend of development is continued, there will be little manual labour required on the farm. In addition, new methods are being adopted in the treatment of seed and manures, all with the one object of increasing the yield of the crops and improving the quality. The same applies to animal feeds. Even the farmer himself is not neglected, for he is notified at several of the stands what style and quality of clothes and boots he should wear.

The new implements and machinery include a 2hp mower called the Viking, a 3hp oil engine by Armstrong, Whitworth, and Co. All the necessity for external lubrication has been eliminated; and a special design of bearings introduced which double the life of the same. There is a sheep drain-cleaning machine invented by Mr James Parker Smith, Auchterarder. It is made to clean sheep drains measuring up to 22 in wide on surface by 14 in deep and drain bottom 9 in wide. There is also a new type of manure distributor, a patent sheaf-binding harvester, a revolt drain excavator, a new type of threshing machine from Holland, a self-propolled engine-driven turnip cutter, a nine-tined universal cultivator with self-lift gear and expanding axle, a new implement for collecting and ricking hay, a new patent turnip thinner, a stationary air-cooled single sleeve-valve engine with two speed drives and the high speed of 1000 revolutions per minute. It consumes paraffing, and has a slow speed of 500 revolutions per minute. There is also among the new implements an expanding horse how and a new patent traction coupling. 

Aberdeen to the front
Aberdeen is well represented within the yard. The erection itself has been put up under the supervision of Mr John Reid, the contractor, who hails from Aberdeen. A large staff of joiners from Bon Accord have been in Stirling for weeks putting up the enclosure and erecting the stands. 
Without doubt, the motion yard is the largest ever seen at a “Highland”. Aberdeen and north firms are represented by Messrs Allan Bros., Ashgrove Engineering Works; the Association of Fish Meal, Fish Guano, and Fish Oil Manufacturers, 75 Union Street, Aberdeen; Messrs Auchinachie and Simpson, Keith; Messrs Barclay, Ross, and Hutchison, Aberdeen; the Bon Accord Engineering Company Ltd, Aberdeen; John M. Brown, 420 George Street, Aberdeen; Mr James Crichton, Engineering Works, Strichen; Messrs R. G. Garvie and Sons, 2 Canal Road, Aberdeen; Messrs Marshall and Philp, 179 Union Street, Aberdeen; Messrs A Muller and Company, 184 West North Street, Aberdeen; Messrs James Scott and Son (Aberdeen), Ltd, 483 Union Street; Messrs G. Sellar and Son, Ltd, Agricultural Engineers, Huntly; the Warden Insurance Company (Ltd), 218 Union Street, Aberdeen, etc. 

Principal stands
The following are among the principal stands-Stand no. 53-Messrs Wallace (Glasgow), Limited, on stand no. 53 display a very representative collection of farm implements and machinery. The two outstanding features of their exhibit are the “Glasgow” tractor and the “Glasgow” single sleeve valve farm engine. Of the former much has already been written both from an engineering and a farmer’s point of view, so that it does not call for extensive comment. The recently published list of testimonials bears evidence of the great satisfaction which users are deriving from the “Glasgow” tractor. 

The outstanding difference between the “Glasgow” and other tractors is that the formerly having three-wheel drive transmits its power to the drawbar in such measure that the manufacturers claim its greatest success is exactly where others fail-under heavy conditions and on hilly land. A signed guarantee is given with every tractor, covering a period of twelve months. A rather novel method of showing the drawbar merits of the “Glasgow” tractor is on view in the form of a large clock-like face showing the drawbar pull necessary for a two furrow and likewise for a three-furrow plough, and further round the dial the hand points to drawbar pull of the “Glasgow” showing a big reserve over what is necessary for a three-furrow plough. 

The single sleeve valve engines are on view fir the first time at the Highland Show. They are air-cooled, and are models of neatness. Their principal feature is simplicity, having 70 per cent fewer parts than the usual type of small farm engine. The samples shown are 2 ½-3bhp according to the list, but dynamometer tests have recorded 4.25bhp so that there is a considerable margin of power. Considerable orders, it is understood, were placed at the Royal Show for supplies of these engines, and arrangements are well forward in the factory for large output. Messrs Wallace (Glasgow) Ltd, have at the exhibition their usual varied collection of their well-known specialities. 

Mr J G Fraser, Springhilll, Douglas 
Stands nos 33 and 34-Mr J G Fraser, Springhill, Douglas, has an attractive implement and machinery stand. All the latest in oil engines can be seen here. They have been tested and tried for a variety of purposes, and have performed all that was required of them. The workmanship and finish are of the very best. Oil engines cab be had at prices from £120 to £250 each; saw benches, saws, &c for £50; corn bruisers, £60; combined crushing and grinding mills, £55 each; small combined grinding and sawing machines, £40 each; a d roller mills made by the DSA Engine and Machine Co., £50 each. 

Messrs Barclay, Ross and Hutchison
Stand no 58-Messrs Barclay, Ross and Hutchison, Ltd, agricultural implement makers, Green, Aberdeen, occupy Stand no 58, which has a frontage of 30 feet. They show two portable threshers and one semi-portable driven by Austin tractors. They are high-speed threshing machines, built of the best selected pitchpine. They are suitable for threshing oats, wheat and barley and presenting them fit for the market. There is also on view a Ruston and Hornsby petrol and paraffin oil engine for driving any of the threshers. A feature of this stand is the firm’s wave-disc manure distributor, which has been so long on the market as a favourite that so far there is nothing to beat it. The prices of the threshers and manure distributors have been greatly reduced, and it would ceryainly pay farmers to call here and see for themselves what the firm can offer them. The firm also show their famous Balmoral cultivator, besides a large selection of other implements.

Strichen Engineering Works 
Stand no. 30-Mr James Crichton, Engineering Works, Strichen, has a 40-feet covered in stand. Farmers visiting this stand will find much to interest them. There are a variety of threshers of the best possible workmanship and material. A 3ft 6 in stationary finishing thresher makes a first-rate job, and the price is only £400. For a similar figure a 3ft portable finishing thresher can be obtained. There is also a 24in high speed thresher at £180, a 24 in medium speed at £160, and another similar one at £125. 

Messrs A. Muller, Aberdeen
Stand no. 83-Messrss A Muller and Co., Aberdeen, have on view at Stand no. 83 a splendid display of high-class engineering tools, including a range of “Mulco” boring, punching, and shearing machines. The “Mulco” boring machine is supplied in six different types, one of which will meet the requirement of any trade. The boring capacity is up to three inches, and the larger machines are fitted with many improvements, including automatic feed and stopping arrangement. The “Mulcho” punching and shearing machines are shown in many types either for hand or for power. A novelty is the “Mulco” reducing sleeve and nut. This ingenious article does away with the necessity for hammers and file0ends to release sleeves, and thus preserves spindles, drills and chucks. Another feature is the self-centring chucks, as well as many other minor articles interesting and necessary to the engineering trade. A speciality is made of seamless milk-cans, which, for hygiene and economy, are meeting a long-fely necessity.”

Lots of big names from the north-east at the Highland of 1921.


What was new for the Ayrshire farmer in 1888?

The Ayrshire Agricultural Association Show had an extensive display of implements and machines at its shows in the nineteenth century. It was a major show in the diaries of key implement and machine makers. While the exhibitors were largely from Ayrshire and neighbouring counties – and Glasgow – there could also be some noted English makers with manufactures specifically for Ayrshire agriculture. 

The Ayrshire Advertiser has an extensive account of the exhibits at the 1888 show. This was a time when Ayrshire – and Scottish – agriculture was in a long depression that was to continue until well through the first decade of the twentieth century. During that time it was important to economise on labour costs. Mechanisation played a key role in this, though farmers were extremely cost conscious. 

The following is an account from the Ayrshire Advertiser on the Ayrshire Agricultural Association show in 1888: 

“The implements
Notwithstanding the long depression of trade, and the too well known want of money among farmers, the exhibition of implements and machines is fully up to that of any previous year. We were afraid at one time that the attraction of the International Exhibition at Glasgow would have taken away many who have hitherto attended at Ayr, but no such falling off is visible. It is true there is nothing specially new, but before hearing the judges’ report we are inclined to think that improvements of considerable value are generally to be found in many of the stalls, and the walk round the sheds containing the machines and implements is quite as attractive this year as in any one previous.

Among the first in number, and, we may add, in importance, we find as usual the great stand of Jack & Sons, Maybole, with the genial Mr Marshall in attendance, and nearly 100 entries. Mowers and reapers in endless variety, carts and barrows, chaff cutters, turnip slicers and pulpers, all of the newest make, and too numerous to particularize. Indeed, Mr Marshall makes a first-rate show of his own. Next to this stand we have Thomas Bradford’s exhibition of churns and washing machines, which is specially attractive this year. Ladies especially would do well to visit this stand, for it may well be called the domestic stand of the show-yard, and many of the articles must be seen-a description only can give a very imperfect idea of the exhibits.

Passing over several stands of more or less importance, but all deserving of some attention, we come to another Maybole exhibitior, Thomas Hunter, whose display is certainly as attractive this year as formerly, new ploughs, rollers, grubbers, scarifiers, turnip cleaners and cutters, make up 70 exhibits, many of them deserving careful attention Ayr Show seems to be also improving in its turn out of carriages, gigs and dogcarts. Mr Robertson and Mr Bryden, Ayr; Messrs Smith and Duncan, Kilmarnock; Mr Holmes, Irvine; Wm Goudie, Whithoen; Sloan & Lonard, Penman & Son. Dumfries, have all stands, and exhibits very neat machines of various kinds. They certainly are elegant, seemingly strong, and considering the high finish are much cheaper than formerly. Mr J. P. Cathcart’s stand as usual deserves a special notice of Wood’s improved Binder, and various other agriculture implements which Mr Cathcart has always kept well to the front. 
Cumnock is represented with stands occupied by John Andrew, chemist, and George McCartney & Co., and John Drummond & Son, millwrights. Kilmarnock by W. G. Highet, with a good lot of dairy utensils, and D. Proctor & Co., engineers. Among local exhibitors we notice Mr Thomas Brown, cooper, with an excellent lot of butts and chissets. Mr James Mackie, millwright, has churns and cheese presses of improved quality, and other articles, which makes up an attractive stand. Daniel Wyllie & Co. as usual exhibits samples of their manures. Mr T. L. B. Robertson shows some famed bee keeping appliances. Mr Walsh, brassfounder, has some very fine specimens of his workmanship. 

Whitletts, near Ayr, is well represented by Mr Robert Cook and Mr Robert Wallace. The former has carts, and the latter a splendid selection of agricultural implements. Other well-known firms deserving of special mention are Mr John Young, Jun, New Cumnock, with reapers and mowers, potato diggers, and land rollers. And Mr Andrew Pollock, Mauchline, has a first-rate thrashing machine and other useful implements. It is matter of much regret to us to miss the appearance of Messrs J. & J. Young, so long one of the best of our exhibitors, but we hope soon to see their works started again. We leave the judges’ report a fuller notice of what, taking together, is an excellent implement show.”

There are still a number of names that can be seen around the rally fields in recent years.


What was new at the Highland a century ago?

In 1921 the Highland Show was held at Stirling. It has a significant display of implements and machines. The Scotsman called this an “imposing display”. It was perhaps even more important than in earlier years because of the importance of mechanization brought out as a result of the First World War and the shortage of agricultural labour. But agriculture was also facing tough times. Economies of man power and mechanization were seen to be important for the success and future success of Scottish agriculture. 

The Scotsman usually provided a succinct account of the Highland Show. This year was no different. It set out its account with a reflection on where the Scottish farmer was with mechanization and noted some of the key stands and developments. The years saw some important developments that were to change agriculture significantly: the Paterson rick lifter to make the process of making rucks more labour-efficient on the hay field, and the increasing use of tractors, through for example the Ivel, and the International . Ruck lifters and some of the older tractors can still be seen at rallies in the last few years. 

This is what the Scotsman wrote of the Highland Show on 26 July 1921: 

“The important position which the implement department has now for many years attained in all the principal showyards of the country is the outcome of the ingenuity, engine, and resourcefulness of the inventive and enterprising agricultural engineer, who has come to the aid of the farmer in every branch of husbandry. In securing the crops of the field the combined reaper and binder has to a large extent supplanted the ordinary mower and reaper; the work of gathering the hay crop in good condition has been greatly expedited by the introduction of mechanical haymakers; tillage operations and the preparation of the land for seed are carried on with the aid of cultivating machinery in every branch of that work; and labour-saving appliances have in an infinite variety of forms been brought to bear in every department of agriculture. The modern farmer has thus at his hand all the necessary equipment for carrying on high-class farming on the most appropriate principles. And the end is not yet, for the agricultural implement industry is now one of great magnitude, and every year sees some fresh development in its projects with a view to still further alleviating the position of the farmer. It is fitting therefore that while the encouragement of stock-breeding should receive the greatest prominence at the hands of the Highaldn and Agricultural Society, due regard should also be paid to the value of the work that is being done by the agricultural engineer in the economy of the farm. That he is still striving after new improvements and fresh methods in order to reach an even higher stage of perfection is shown by the large and comprehensive display of implements of every description that is to be seen in the Highland and Agricultural Society’s showyard at Stirling this week. Although there may not be much of a strikingly novel character to be found in the numerous lots of stands, there is an assortment of articles adapted not only to the ordinary work of the farm, but to the special purpose for which machinery has of late years been designed. Tractors are conspicuous.

“New implements”
The implement yard occupies 7200 feet, 1000 feet more than at Aberdeen last year, and all this space has been fully taken up by the machinery and implement manufacturers, the entries in this section being the largest in the history of the Society. Only 22 implements were shown at the first Highland Show in 1833, and they were still under 100 in 1864, but they reached four figures in 1873. In 1881 they numbered 2000, and that has been about the acreage extent of the department ever since. This week’s number is 2201, being 136 more than at Aberdeen last year. Great activity was shown on all stands to-day, and the various exhibits were being brought forward in good time. The implements stands were, despite the rain, being pushed on so as to be in readiness for the opening to-morrow.
Fourteen exhibitors have entered sixteen “new implements” for competition for the Society’s silver medal. The Society does not bind itself to try in the field every new implement, but an exhibitor who expresses a wish to do so can, with the sanction of the steward of implements, at his own expense take his new implement out of the showyard during the show week, and put it to work, and if within a reasonable distance, the judges will, if they deem it necessary, inspect it at work and decide if it is worthy of a silver medal. The judges of new implements are Messrs A B Leitch, Inchstellie, Alves, Forres; John Speir, Newton, Glasgow; and G. Bertram Shiels, Dolphingstone, Tranent; and they begin their work to-morrow. 
Newly designed mowing machine 

Messrs Armstrongs & Main (Limited), Edinbrugh, have entered a newly designed grass mowing machine, the “Viking”, containing details of construction not previously embodied in the manufacture of similar labour-saving machines. The new principle in this machine is that of spiral gearing which has been subjected to severe tests during the past four years. The new gearing, which has hitherto been used in the construction of motor cars, is now introduced into harvesting machines for the first time, and in consequence greater power, reduction in draught, sweetness in running and greater durability are produced.

Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., exhibit a 3hp oil engine which has been specially designed for agricultural and general purposes. The engine is of a compact nature, taking up little space. All the working parts are enclosed, with the exception of the fly-wheel, pulley, and the ends of the crank shaft. The necessary for external lubrication has been eliminated.

Sheep drain cleaning machine
For many years hill farmers have been looking out for a serviceable sheep drain cleaning machine. The Craigrossie Engineering Co., Auchterarder, have come forward with a machine invented by Mr Jas Parker Smith, Eastmill, Auchterarder, which is made to clean sheep drains measuring up to 22 inches wide on the surface by 14 inches deep, with a drain bottom of 9 inches wide.

The soil is cut by disc coulters on either side, and the bottom is cut by a steel shave, and the whole soil cut comes to a stationary steel conveyor 7 feet long, which is set with a gradual rise to a height of about 3 feet at the rear, when the soil falls on to an inclined steel plate set at right angles to the conveyor, and which deposits the soil 3 feet from the side of the drain. The machine is built on three wheels. One front swivel wheel runs in the drain, and is raised and lowered by a lever, as desired; and two rear wheels, 28 inches in diameter, with a live axle which drives a top chain conveyor. The whole machine machine is carried on two parallel bars, 20 inches wide, and to which the front and rear wheels are attached.

Turnip thinner
Mr James H. Steele, 61 Harrison Road, Edinburgh, has entered a new patent turnip thinner made by Corbett, Williams & Son (Ltd), Flintshire. This is an implement for thinning roots at 10 in, 12 in, or 14 in pitch, on drills varying from 22 in to 28 in apart. The working depth is regulated by hand levers on each side of the machine, which raise or lower the thinning apparatus, which consists of a revolving helical knife in conjunction with two flat superimposed segments. These segments are moved along the shafts longitudinally, and adjusted radially to suit the width of that portion of the drill which it is proposed to remove. The pitch or lead of the revolving helicoid, being quicker than the travel of the machine, has a tendency when it enters the earth to throw it in a backward direction, whereas the flat segment, traveling at the same rate as the machine, when revolving, has a tendency to throw the earth forward, with the result that the apparatus starts its cutting action at each end of the space to be removed, and finishes its cut midway between. 

Farm engine
Messrs Wallace (Glasgow) Ltd, Dennistoun, Glasgow, exhibit a 2 ½-3 bhp stationary single sleeve valve engine. It is air cooled and a model of neatness. The principal feature is simplicity, having 70 per cent fewer parts than the usual type of small farm engine. It has two-speed drives, a high speed of 1000 revolutions per minute, and a slow speed of 500 revolutions per minute. The fuel is paraffin. Although the engine is listed 2 ½-3 bhp dynanometer tests have recorded 4.25 bhp, so that there is a considerable margin of power.
Hay ricker
Messrs Robertson & McLaren, Craigmill, Stirling, have entered the “Victory” hay ricker, invented by Mr Geo, Paterson, farmer, Wester Frew, Kippen. It is an implement for collecting and ricking hay, and though its present price may be prohibitive for the ordinary farmers, it has many points in its favour, chief of which is labour saving. Driven by two horses, the implement goes between the swathe, and the hay is carried by an elevator from the ground to a steel cage, inside of which is a man who tramps the hay. When the cage is full the man comes out, and the cage is inverted, allowing the rick to fall to the ground. The implement is said to have been in use by farmers in the Stirling district, who have found it a serviceable aid to haymaking. 

Expanding horse how
Mr A M Russell, Edinburgh, exhibits an expanding horse hoe, invented by Mr Ernest William Brown, and made by George Brown & Son, Leighton Buzzard. This hoe is made with an improved expansion, so that all tines are made parallel, no matter what position they are expanded to. Another improvement is the construction of the steel tines, which demands of 19 different feet being fitted interchangeably by one bolt. 

The motion yard 
Year by year, as science becomes more and more the handmaid of agriculture, the Motion Yard at the Highland Show grows in interest. Again there is an imposing display of all sorts of appliances to aid the farmer. To the town visitor unacquainted with farming such an array of machinery must come as something of a revelation, telling him that the tilling of the soil is not the primitive, simple operation he had deemed to be. Gas and oil have been called into supply motive power for the modern complex machinery. Nor is the wind’s aid discarded, but the present windmills are vastly superior to the old-fashioned sort with the far-spreading arms. The vast array of motors in many forms are a special feature of the exhibition. Turning to the left after passing through the main entrance at Victoria Place, the visitor to the Show comes at once upon the Motion Yard, which is easily found, betraying its locality, as it does, by the noise and clangour of wheels and pistons. The agriculturists on the outlook fore mechanical aids in his industry and the casual visitor will alike find much in this section to interest and instruct.

Scottish Motor Traction Co’s exhibit
Farm tractors and engines are included in the attractive display by the Scottish Motor Traction Co. (Ltd), Edinburgh. The agricultural tractors shown are the well-known “Titan” and “International Junior”, one of the former variety being of 20hp, and two of the latter of 28.9hp. The worth of these machines has been adequately demonstrated in recent years, and their adaptability and value are manifest to the farming community. These tractors are manufactured by the international Harvester Company of Great Britain (Ltd), whose paraffin engines and other agricultural implements are also on view at this stand. Two interesting exhibits are the “International” 3-furrow self-lifting tractor plough, with rolling disc coulters and adjustable mould boards, and an “International” ensilage cutter, with a capacity of 12 to 15 tons per hour. In view of the growing interest in ensilage in Scotland, this machine will be noted with interested. The stationary oil engines shown are complete with skids and tools. The Company hold numerous agencies for private motor cars of first-class design and manufacture, and also supply commercial motor vehicles of the latest and most approved design.

“Glasgow” tractor
Messrs Wallace (Glasgow) Ltd, display a representative collection of farm implements and machinery. The two outstanding features of their exhibit are the “Glasgow” tractor and the “Glasgow” single sleeve valve farm engine. Alike from an engineering and a farmer’s point of view the former has already thoroughly commended itself. The “Glasgow” tractor, having a three-wheel drive, transmits its power to the drawback in such measure that the manufacturers claim its greatest success is exactly where others fail-viz, under heavy conditions and on hilly land. A novel method of showing the drawbar merits of the “Glasgow” tractor is on view in the form of a large clock-like face showing the drawbar pull necessary for a two-furrow and likewise for a three-furrow plough, and further , round the dial the hand points to the drawbar pull of the “Glasgow”, showing a big reserve over what is necessary for a three-furrow plough. The single sleeve valve farm engines, which are on view for the first time at the Highland Show, are referred to under the heading of new implements. Arrangements are well forward in the factory for a large output. Messrs Wallace’s collection of their well-known specialities also includes two electric lighting sets, mowers and reapers, a potato digger, and a planter and manure sower.
Edinburgh firm’s display

With “Everything for the Farm”, as a motto, Mr James H. Steele, Edinburgh, has an excellent display of useful implements. A British Wallis tractor, fitted with special wheel studs for road haulage and other improvements, occupies a prominent place, and among new machines that also catch the eye ate the Corbett-Williams new patent root thinner, Gratton’s patent dry powder sprayer for potatoes, and Charlock & Coultas’s new manure sower for either wet or dry manures; McKenzie’s power root cutter and Edlington’s power potato sorter, Ruston & Hornsby’s new paraffin engine, binders, mowers, corn drills, trussers, Albion harvesting and barn machinery, Richmond & Chandler chaff cutters, cake mills, Petter engines, Don distributors, &c; Ransome’s tractor and horse ploughs, rakes, and potato diggers, new pattern horse fork for open or shed work, and other useful farm tools. Among the smaller goods, the “Perfect” sheaf band cutter is a useful article, the points of which every farmer who has a threshing mill will be interested to observe. 

Milling machines
The Scottish Agricultural Engine and Machine Company have an interesting display of the latest types of machines suitable for farmers and millers. Simple in design, they are also effective in use. There are ten milling machines on view, five crushers, and a double stroke oil engine is also among the specialities exhibited. It is claimed for some of the milling machines that they grind all kinds of grain for table use, as well as for cattle feeding; shell oats, grind oatmeal, and refine pot barley from rough barley. 

Some Scottish stands 
A glance at some of the other stands in this interesting section of the yard finds Scottish firms well represented. Threshing machines are included in the exhibits forward from David Page & Son, Milnathort, and Wm Baird & Co., Lasswade; and Henderson Bros, Stirling, and Auchterarder have a display of Fordson tractors and various types of Ford cars and trucks. The Ladyacre EngIneering Co., Lanark, are showing their threshing mill amongst other useful exhibits, and R. & T. Wyllie, Heugh, North Berwick, include a traction engine made by John Fowler & Co. (Ltd), Leeds. Stationary oil engines are exhibited by Alexander Shanks & Son (Ltd), Arbroath, and A. Laurie & Sons, Camelon, Falkirk, are showing end and side tipping waggons and trailers. Accessories for road making and quarrying are included in an interesting display by Fleming & Co., Robertson Street, Glasgow. A variety of engineering specialities are shown by J. R. Forrester, Paisley, including Molesley petrol engines, cream separators, and sheep shearing machines; and the Bon Accord Engineering Co (Ltd), Aberdeen, have forward a selction of the mills and implements in which they specialize. Lime washing and spraying machines are shown by Marshall & Philp, Aberdeen, and the “Samson” windmill is included in the display by John S. Millar & Son, Annan. James Crichton, Strichen, and Ford & Paterson, Broughty Ferry, have threshing machines in their stands, while the well-known “Handy” ricklifter showing all the latest improvements, is forward from William Dickie & Sons, East Kilbride. Oil engines from 3 1/2bhp to 23 bhp are shown by Allan Bros, Aberdeen. P. & R. Fleming & Co., Glasgow, have again a comprehensive display of agricultural machinery and implements, including the Case tractor in motion. P. & W. Maclellan (Ltd), Glasgow, are showing “Super Clutha” and “Clutha” steel windmills.”

The photographs were taken at the Borders vintage rally, May 2015.