A rather special display: Master and Mistress

Around our rally fields during the summer months we get to see some rather special displays. They might be of rare tractors or implements or machines or of particular exhibits brought together. On Sunday at the Fife Vintage Agricultural machinery rally we had a number of these, including the first Case tractor to arrive into British shores.

For me the most outstanding one was the two ploughing engines, Master and Mistress around the rally ring. Regular readers of this site will maybe have spotted that I have an enthusiasm for ploughing engines. But this was a really special display: you may recollect having seen the engines at the Scottish Ploughing Championships in 2014, the first time that they worked together since the two engines were reunited in the spring 2012. But this was the first time, I believe, that they were together around the rally ring. And didn’t they look spectacular.

Master and Mistress are special engines. They were the first of the BB1 engines that came off the Fowler of Leeds production line as part of a Munitions contract to build around 60 sets of engines (the number varies according to different sources). The engines were sold to Arthur Stratton of Alton Priors, near Pewsey, Wiltshire, whose family had started using steam cultivation back in its early days and by the 1870s had a number of sets pf engines. Stratton, who was well renowned in National Farmer circles died in 1918 in a car accident. Both engines were later sold to Thomas T. Boughton of Amersham, Bucks, who intended to send them to East Africa to take part in the Ground Nut Scheme, In preparation, the two engines were repainted from their black livery to a dark green one. However, they never left British shores. The engines were used by Ransomes to test a large scale disc plough.

When the engines entered preservation, passing into the hands of a number of different owners, Master was repainted in his black livery, and cosmetic additins added over the years. Mistress came into the hands of the Matthews brothers, near Toronto, and was shipped over, where she spent nearly 50 years in a heated shed. But before she left British shores in 1962, it is believed that she and Master attended the Woburn rally. Steam film enthusiasts will know that the two engines appeared in the feature film The Iron Maiden (its a great film to watch on a rainy Saturday afternoon during rally season).

After the Cook family of Leven purchased Master in 2010, the opportunity arose for them to bring Mitress back from Canada. She arrived back in Scotland nearly 50 years after their separation. As Old Glory magazine noted at the time “Master gets his Mistres back after 50 year gap”.

Since that time rally goers will have seen either Master or Mistress around the rally field. It really was a special sight to see the pair of engines together around the rally ring.

Enjoy the photographs of that impressive sight!