What was at the “Highland” in 1923?

The Dundee Courier provided a short account of some of the stands at the Highland Show of 1923. It is interesting to see what it focused on and included and what it did not. In this case, it referred to a small number of major companies as well as more local ones to the Dundee area. It also focused on labour saving devices, an important theme during the difficult years after the end of the First World War. This is what it thought was important at the Show:

“Round the Stands at the “Highland”

Labour-saving devices

Messrs A. Balloch & Sons, agricultural engineers, Leith (59), has an attractive turnout of agricultural machinery, including some patented exhibits. The firm is showing the new patent combined turnip and manure sower, which is a wonderful labour-saving device. They have also at the stand their famous scarifier and their disc turnip sower, along with a new, improved steam boiler plant for piggeries, dairies, and sheep dipping.

Messrs Wardrop & McGibbon, Glasgow, who are the agents for the Fernden Fencing Company (96), are exhibiting Fernden chestnut fencing and Vaughan’s roofing felts. There are other exhibits, including ok pale fencing, gates, hurdles, garden furniture &c. the specimens on exhibition are of the very best material, and the firm’s agents will very courteously receive all callers.

Insurance business is exceptionally well catered for at the Highland, and at Stand no. 142 the Warden insurance Co. Ltd., 218 Union Street, Aberdeen, have a courteous staff to attend to all classes of insurance transactions.

The fine reputation of Messrs H. W. Mathers & Sons, Perth, as implement makers is fully maintained at Stand No. 83, where the firm are making a feature of their patent self-propelled turnip-cutter.

Mr Charles Brand, Dundee, has at Stand 25, motion yard, a wide range of building equipment suitable for all manner of purposes on the farm. There are portable huts and garages of all sizes, steel buildings, engineers’ and joiners’ tools, corrugated iron, baths, sinks, boilers, wash tubs, timber of every description, doors, windows, wire netting &c. those having in view improvements on buildings or about the farm will find Mr Brand’s exhibits of the greatest interest.

Messrs David Ross & Sons, Appliance Works, Forres, in their display direct special attention to the Weecol house and shelter. Some shelter must be found for fowls in cold, rainy, windy weather, and the Weecol fills a gap that has been experienced by poultry-keepers. The floor is raised two feet from the ground, and the back wall and ends form an ideal shelter, where the birds can scratch or preen themselves. The house is made in various sizes. Another of the exhibits is the Chapelton house, now mounted on stout sledge runners. The Chapelton can be moved frequently, and obtains economy in feed by its easy movement to fresh ground.”


Making great strides in mechanisation: the Aberdeen display of January 1937

Demonstrations of implements and machines have played an important role in helping to diffuse mechanisation. They allow farmers and agriculturists the opportunity to see the latest implements and machines at work. They let them see the latest developments and what is available and how it works. Seeing them at work helps to provide insights into how they could be used and how well they would work on a farm.

In January 1937 the largest display of mechanised cultivation was held in Aberdeen. It was described in the Scottish press as being a very significant demonstration. The Aberdeen press and journal published an extensive and insightful account of it on 28 January 1937. It is worth quoting at length for its insights into the significance of the event and what it says about the progress of mechanisation in 1937. It also lists what tractors and implements were on display.

“Tractors and implements in Aberdeen display

Scotland’s biggest demonstration of mechanised cultivation

Farmers from points as far apart as Caithness in the north and Kirkcudbright in the south travelled to Aberdeen yesterday to see the greatest display of mechanical cultivators that has ever been staged in Scotland.

As a demonstration of the point which has been reached in mechanised cultivation the display was one of the most outstanding that has been seen in Great Britain.

Eighteen tractors, working in several fields, totalling fifty acres, gave demonstrations on all sizes of ploughs, from the two-furrow in unit with a small tractor, to the four-furrow pulled by the powerful “crawler’ type tractor.

Despite the fact that the forenoon was marred by snowstorms that at times were blinding, there was a gratifying attendance of farmers from all parts-ready to see and learn of the advances made by the agricultural engineers.

Great variety

The demonstration was help on Hope Far, which is attached to the Duthie Experimental Stock Farm at the Rowett Institute, and the following committee made excellent arrangements-Mr John Mackie, Coullie, chairman of the Governors of the North of Scotland College of Agriculture; Mr T. Hutchison, of Messrs Barclay, ross and Hutchison; Mr A. Crichton, Duthie Farm; Mr T. Fraser, Duthie farm; Mr A. R. Wannop, director of county work for the College; and Mr John Mackie, The Bent, Laurencekirk.

The splendid display of tractors and the great variety of implements provided plenty of interest to the visitors. At one end of the scale was the little Ferguson tractor with the plough in one unit, the latter being operated hydraulically from the tractor, and at the other was the powerful “crawler” tractors represented by the Allis-Chalmers, Fowler and International.

The machines, in their various types, also demonstrated the different wheel types, rom the plain and straked rubber tyre by Dunlop to the crawler bands.

Where speed counts

Such a display is of interest to farmers generally, but in the North-east it is of particular appeal. Where the weather is so variable, the cultivation of the ground and sowing by mechanical means gives the advantage of being able to work at great speed while the weather is suitable, and the same applies to harvesting.

There are also the losses which have been incurred among horses, and the amount of ground that has to be put in crop for the purpose of providing food for the horse.

While enterprising farmers have taken advantage of the many mechanical appliances which engineers have placed at their disposal, the tractor and the implements which it can manage so well could enter much more into the farm economics of the area. Not only in the speeding up of the work of cultivation, but in assisting in the improvement of the organisation can the tractor do a great deal.

Yesterday’s display started off with ploughing by several makes of tractors and ploughs. There was also a display of cultivating for root crop on a field that had already been ploughed and then, in the afternoon, when a large area had been ploughed in, machines were put on to show cultivating by grubbers, toolbar frames, rotary cultivators, and disc harrows, while several displays were given of ridging for root crop.

Tractors and ploughs

The following tractors and ploughs gave demonstrations-Allis-Chalmers, with Sellar Cub plough; Case Model C, with Ransome no. 4 Midtrac; Ferguson with Ferguson; Fordson, with Cockshutt no. 10; international W 30, with international 8s; Lanz Bulldog, with Ransome two-furrow Midtrac; Marshall, with Ransome no, 10; Massey-Harris four-wheel drive, with Ransome no. 3 Motrac; and Massey-Harris no. 23 ; Massey-Harris Challenger and Oliver, with Oliver 8a. Tractor-type tractors-Allis-Chalmers Model M, with International (four-furrow); fowler, with cockshut no. 6; international Trac-tractor, with International.

The cultivators demonstrated were:-Stanhay, Small’s toolbar; Ransome’s Toolbar; Oliver; Sellar grubber; Rotary by Rotary Cultivators Ltd; Fishleigh rotary harrow; Ferguson; Wilders’ Pitch Pole harrow.

Makers of implements and tractors whose names are internationally famous combined in making the great display, and the committee made a splendid job of the arrangements despite the handicap of the weather and the fact that the demonstration had been postponed for one day.


The following were the exhibitors:-G. Sellar and sons Ltd, implement makers, Huntly; John Wallace and Sons, Ltd, agricultural implement makers, Glasgow; R. A. Lister and Co. ltd, Dursley, Gloucestershire; Alex Strang (Tractors) Ltd, Duddingston Gds S, Edinburgh; Marshall Sons and Co., Ltd, Britannia Iron Works, Gainsborough (per George E. McCaw, 112 Bath Street, Glasgow, C2); harry Ferguson Ltd, tractor manufacturer, Huddersfield; Stanhay Ltd, Ashford, Kent; Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies, Ltd, Orwell Works, Ipswitch (per Barclay, Ross and Hutchison, Ltd, Aberdeen); Barclay, Ross and Hutchison, Ltd, The Green, Aberdeen; Peter Small, engineers, Forfar; Associated Manufacturers Co. (London), Ltd (per Barclay, Ross and Hutchison); Massey-Harris Ltd, Manchester; Rotary Cultivators, Ltd., Westminster, London; Fishleigh Rotary Cultivator Co., Ltd (per A. M. Russell, 108 West Bow, Grassmarket, Edinburgh); J. R. Forrester, 5 Weir Street, Paisley; Lanz tractor Co., Ltd., London; J. Allan and Sons, agricultural engineers, Murthly; Harper Motor Co., Holburn Street, Aberdeen; A. Jack and Sons Ltd, Implement Works, Maybole; Jas. Simpson and Sons, Ltd, Prince Street, Peterhead; J. Mackie, Bent, Laurencekirk; Reid and Leys, Hadden Street, Aberdeen; Mackie and Tough, Udny.

Prospective customers will have the opportunity to-day of seeing any particular type of tractor pulling any particular type of plough or other implement.”


Transferring business: Alexander McCutcheon, agricultural implement agent, in 1950

Especially from the second half of the nineteenth century there were a number of mergers of implement makers and agricultural engineers in Scotland. These included some of notable makers as well as less-well known ones. During the twentieth century some of these businesses were brought under some of the larger supply businesses such as “SAI” – Scottish Agricultural Industries or Lothian and Border Farmers Ltd.

One such business that came to be acquired in such a way was that of Alexander McCutcheon. Alexander was an agricultural seed and implement agent based in Lanark Road, Currie, Midlothian, from the early 1930s. By 28 November 1939 he had expanded in business. He took possession of Muirhall Farm to be used as a service depot for agricultural implements and machinery. He was an agent for agent for Massey-Harris Ltd. By 1950 his address was recorded at Muirhall Works, Larbert, Lanark Road, Currie, and Auction Mart, Falkirk.

In June 1950 local newspapers in Falkirk and West Lothian reported the take over. This is how they reported it:

Transfer of business (Falkirk herald, 8 July 1950)

The business of Alexander McCutcheon, Agricultural Implement Agent, Muirhall, Larbert, has been sold to Messrs the Lothian and Border Farmers Ltd.

Mr McCutcheon takes the opportunity of thanking his customers for past patronage and hopes they will continue to support his successors.

Business intimation (West Lothian courier, 21 July 1950, Falkirk herald, 15 July 1950)

Lothian & Border Farmers, Ltd, of Leith, Airdrie and Newton St Boswells, intimate that they have acquired the business of Agricultural Implement Agent and Service Engineer carried on by Mr Alexander McCutcheon at Muirhall Works, Larbert, Lanark Road, Currie, and Auction Mart, Falkirk.

It is their intention to carry on and develop all parts of the business, and they solicit the support of all former customers and all others in the area.

Representatives will be in attendance at the following markets – Stirling, Falkirk, Linlithgow, Gorgie and Lanark.


What had the Scottish agricultural implement and machine maker to look forward to in 1938?

According to R. T. Sellar of George Sellar and Sons, Ltd, the Scottish agricultural implement maker had a lot to look forward to. He spoke at a company social event in early January 1938. This was a time of significant technological change in Scottish agriculture, caused by the increasing inroads made by the tractor over the horse.

What else did Mr Sellar think about the prospective trade in 1938?

The Aberdeen press and journal of 17 January 1938 recorded a lengthy account of his views. It is quoted at length:

“Huntly firm “at home”

Hopeful of good 1938 trade

“Tractor come to stay”

Welcoming a representative at the annual “at home” of the employees of Messrs George Sellar and Sons, Ltd, implement makers, held in Huntly Hotel. Mr R. T. Sellar said he saw no reason why the good trade being experienced should not continue.

He said the tractor had come to stay and was replacing the horse on many of the larger farms.

Mr Sellar observed that he had read that according to the Board of Trade Journal 1937 had seen the biggest trade turnover since 1930. Their own firm had quite a prosperous year, and had still lots of orders on their own books to complete. Regarding 1938, he saw no reason why the good trade should not continue.

Anglo-American trade

He saw there was a possibility of a British trade delegation going to Washington in the near future to have a short-range discussion on the proposed Anglo-American trade agreement. If that agreement could be successfully concluded he felt it would be a great advantage to traders both here and in America.

Of course that could not be done in a day, but they could just hope that some material benefit would be derived for both countries at an early date after the discussion.

In recent years, he continued, method in farming had been changing considerably. The tractor had come to stay and was replacing horses on many of the larger farms. The type of ploughing of the present day had also changed.

With the tractor one could plough much deeper and wider than the old style of ploughing with horses. Anything to save labour and time was the present-day slogan with the farmer.

Demand for tractors

That demand for tractors had helped the firm considerably in the sales of their tractor ploughs and also tractors. He thought one of the reasons for the present demand for tractors was the shortage of farm labour. He had been told by many farmers that they had great difficulty in getting men just now and that the wages were prohibitive.

He was glad to see a number of farmers with them. They were always glad to meet their customers at any time both socially and in business.

Mr Sellar went on to pay a tribute to their sales department, the travellers, and the secretary of the firm, Miss Taylor, and to congratulate Miss Marjory Mearns, secretary of the “at home” on her arrangements.

Mrs Sellar presented the prizes for whist:

Women-Mrs J. W. Mackay, 2. Mrs Gordon Rhind; travelling prize, Miss N. Pirie; consolation, Mrs P. w. Philip; special for sitting longest at table, Miss C. Symon. Men-1. Mr C. J. Bowie, 2. Mr A. Bisset; travelling prize, Mr J. W. Mackay; consolation, Mr Victor Matthews; special for sitting longest at table. Mrs Wright (playing as gentleman).

On the call of Mr Michie, Provost J. B. yule proposed the votes of thanks. Mr James Duff’s Band supplied the music for the dance.”


An inventory of the Caledonian Implement Works, St Ninians, Stirling

As readers will be aware, the advertisments of displenishing sales provides a great deal of information on farms and the implements and machines that were used on them. It can tell a lot about the activities on a farm, the scale of mechanisation, and the preference of the farmer towards certain makers. These advertisments were also published for businesses. There are a small number that relate to implement makers. These include the Caledonian Implement Works, St Ninians, Stirling. In 1950 the works was giving up the repairing business and in doing so it was having a displenishing sale on 24 January. That sale was to be conducted by Shirlaw, Allan & Co., auctioneers, Hamilton, who were well known for selling the assets of industrial businesses.

The Caledonian Implement Works had been associated with Alexander Scott, an agricultural engineer, since at least 1941. He incorporated the business in 1949 as Alexander Scott (Agricultural Engineers) Ltd. He exhibited at the Highland Shows of 1948 to 1950 when he entered two implements for the new implement awards. In 1949 these were the Universal Root Crop Harvester, invented by James Duncan, Easter Wairds, by Denny, and made by Mr Scott. The second was a turnip topper and tailer and mangold root lifter, also invented by James Duncan and made by Mr Scott.

What was in the workshop at the Caledonian Implement Works? In summary, a wide range of tools and machines. Here is how the displenishing sale notice which appeared in The Scotsman of 7 January 1950 recorded them:

“Sale of engineering and wood working plant and machinery agricultural implements, implement spares, &c including 2 ½ x 30 ins Ward Turret lathe; 5 ins centre wars capstan lathe; two 8 ½ ins and 6 ½ ins centre SS and SC lathes; 54 ins sewing, surfacing, and boring lathe; Archdale radial drilling machine, 2 ½ feet radius; 3 pillar vertical drilling machine; power hack sawing machine; 9 KW Murex electric ark welder; Morris overhead travelling crane for electric drive, 18ft span; Morris overhead hand travelling crane 18ft span; 12 ins surface planning and jointing machine; bank sawing machine 30 ins wheels; 2 circular saw benches, tables 5ft x 2ft 6 ins and 4ft x 2ft; Wilmac motorised circular saw bench, table 2ft 3 ins x 1ft 8 ins; 23 new circular saws, 24 ins dia., for 1 ¼ in spindle; 6 cwt platform weighing machine; 3 sets new chain lifting blocks, 20 and 10 cwts; portable electric drill, volts 250; 2 portable electric grinders, volts 220 AC/DC; smithy tools, Britannia petrol pump; 11 ½ tons 0.5 and 0.3 carbon steel flats and squares; 6 ½ tons MS plates, sheets, and sections; 6 tons bolts, nuts, rivets and nails; 180 yards WP T and G lining; 31 sheets Gyproc wall boarding, 8 ft x 3 ft; 264 cu feet 11 ins x 11 ins PP logs; new Caledonian heavy duty hay and straw baler on pneumatics; New Caledonian 30ft stacking elevator; 6 new power drive potato diggers; 2 sets new saddle back harrows; 6ft Bisset reaper and binder; 4 new 1 1/2HP Petter petrol engines; 22 pairs new 32 x 6 Sankey trailer wheels; 2850 ft Reynold elevator chain; 49 new flexible wire ropes 3/8 in dia. X 86 ft long; new baler spares; Stamford no. 2 sterilising boiler; martin’s sterilising chest 4ft x 3ft x 4ft; Alfa-Laval vacuum pump; 2 milking machine units; Fordson tractor on rotapeds; tractor trailer; box cart on pneumatics; 2 tractor and horse land rollers; hay collector; Newlands tool bar; grain bruiser and grinder; 8 HP Morris van; 7 HP Austin saloon; 2 typewriters; Gestetner duplicator &c.

Caledonian Implement Works, St Ninians, Stirling

On Tuesday, 24th January 1950, at eleven o’clock prompt.

Shirlaw, Allan & Co., auctioneers, Hamilton, have received instructions from Alexander Scott, Agricultural Engineers, Ltd, who are giving up the repairing branch of their business, to sell by auction, as above.”


What was it like for Scottish agricultural implement makers in 1914?

The year 1914 was one of contrasts: peacetime followed by the start of the Great War, or the First World War, that was to continue until 1918. At the end of 1914 implement makers in south west Scotland reflected on their year and their prospects. They were all affected in various ways and to different extents.

The Dumfries and Galloway standard published an extensive account of the reflections from a number of businesses on 23 December 1914. It is worth quoting at length for the honest and frank reflections by the makers, including the leading ones, in the district.

“Motor trade

Nithsdale Motor Works

Mr Andrew Millar, Nithsdale Motor works, Dumfries, writes: When the year commenced prospects for a good season were bright, and throughout the spring and summer we were kept so busy with repairs that a good deal of overtime had to be worked, in order to overtake the work in a reasonable time. The demand for new cars, especially Humbers, was exceptionally good; but so great was the difficulty experienced in getting delivery of cars from the works within a reasonable period after the orders had been placed that several orders and to be refused. This delay was caused by the large demand exceeding the rate of supply. When the war broke out the motor trade practically collapsed, and for a time everything was at a standstill, and a number of workmen joined the colours. There was also a scare about the scarcity of a petrol supply, which was, however, short lived. Trade is now again back to its normal condition, and work for the winter is fairly good, the usual number of owners taking advantage of the winter season for having their cars overhauled and done up. The demand for new cars is at present not very brisk; abut when the war closes the demand should be great to replace the number of cars, private and commercial, which were given up and commandeered for army purposes, most of which will be rendered useless. The coachbuilding department is decreasing each year, as a large number of farmers are now going in for motor cars. In many cases this is due to their horses having been bought for the war, and it also enables them to attend markets at greater distances.

The Corn Exchange

Mr James Wyllie of Dumfries Corn Exchange writes: the year 1914 has seen a steady demand for all kinds of feeding stuffs. Prices during the spring and summer months were at a very reasonable level. Many farmers contracted for their supply of cakes and meals early in the year, so that the rise in price since the outbreak of the war does not affect them, the war risk falling largely on the merchant. Prices are still moderate and the demand good, showing that users are quite alive to the fact that liberal feeding is the most profitable method. Since harvest started the oat trade has been a brisk one, and most farmers have been using oats sparingly at home, turning them into cash as threshed. A long spell of dry weather enabled a large amount of threshing to be done, and the grain was marketed in good condition, and at prices which few men in the farming line have obtained before. Old ryegrass hay got well cleared out during the autumn, and the new crop is but a small one, and there is very little demand for it so far. Potatoes have been the crop of the season, but in some districts there is a good deal of disease. Prices remain at a remunerative level both for seed and table varieties. Dairy produced still takes the lead as a paying concern; and with feeding stuffs secured at a moderate price, both cheese and milk have done extra well. Cheeses are presently selling at record prices. The demand for all kinds of agricultural implements continues good, especially for Sellar’s digger ploughs, which sell more readily than ever.

Palmerston Implement Works

Mr Gavin Callander writes: After a quiet opening, the spring turned out quite up to the average. During summer I was exceptionally busy. The demand for mowers and reapers was very heavy, and owing, I suppose, to the scarcity of farm labour, I had difficulty in coping with the demand for self-binders, a great many of which I sold, while the number I had for repairs was largely in excess of former years. The autumn has been quite a busy one, so much that I have had to buy many implements I usually make, but could not overtake this season.

Messrs Cochran & Co., Annan

Messrs Cochran & Co., Annan, Limited, report that they had a very busy year up to the outbreak of war, their output and sales for the first seven months of the year being greater than in any other period of equal length. The outbreak of war cut down their business almost at once by about half, owing mainly to the interruption to the report and donkey boiler business. A number of boilers have been sold for various purposes in connection with war service, and lately there has been an improvement in the demand for boilers for commercial use. About one quarter of Messrs Cochran’s employees have left for active service.

Messrs J. & R. Wallace, Castle Douglas

Messrs J. & R. Wallace, engineers and agricultural implement makers, castle Douglas, report that with the exception of the past five months business has been well maintained during the year. The demand for their specialities, namely, manure distributors and milking machines, so far as this country is concerned, has been very gratifying, as was also their trade in the implements for which they are agents. Before the war was declared they had just received a large continental order, and had good prospects of a large business with several of our colonies. Eleven of their men have joined the forces, and the firm is working their usual number of hours per week.”


Doe: a Perthshire name

If you were a farmer in Perthshire and surrounding districts before the early 1960s you may have been familiar with the name of John Doe & Co. Ltd, Perth and Errol.

John Doe was already an agricultural implement maker and dealer at Errol, Perthshire, by 1868. By the 1870s the company extended its business into Dundee, with a depot at 22 South Union Street, and Inchture. By the early 1882 a premises was opened in Perth, at 20 Caledonian Road, which was to remain in the company’s hands into the early 1960s.

The company was renowned as an agent, holding agencies for many of the leading makers across Scotland and England. The first agency recorded, in 1869, was for A. C. Bamlett, Ripon, Thirsk, one that continued for decades, and for which the business was renowned. If you were a visitor to any Perthshire farm with a Bamlett machine, you knew that it had come from John Doe. By 1881, Doe was also agent for Ransomes, Sims & Head, as well as more local makers Mollison of Ruthven, J. D. Allan & Sons, Dunkeld. By 1896, agencies included those of Massey Harris Co. Ltd, London, R. Hornsby & Sons Ltd, Barford & Perkins, Peterborough, Oliver Plow Company, South bend, Indiana, J. & F. Howard, Bedford, Thomas Corbett, Perseverance Iron Works, Shrewsbury, John Baker, Wisbeach, and Richmond & Chandler, Manchester.

The reputation of its agencies was well recognized by farmers and agricultural societies. The Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland awarded a number of medals to John Doe for its collection of implements and machines at the Highland Show. They included medium silver medals in 1871, 1875 and 1876.

John Doe was also a noted implement and machine maker. In the mid 1930s its own manufactures included rollers, drill ploughs, grubbers and turnip cutters.

The company moved with the times, becoming a company limited by guarantee in 1901, which it retained until it was voluntarily wound up in 1962. For many years it was in the Doe family, with George B. Doe a managing director in 1911 and John Mollison Doe a joint managing director in 1932.

George B Doe died in October 1917. An obituary in the Dundee courier reported:

“Death of well-known agricultural implement maker

By the death of Mr George B. Doe, implement maker, Errol, yesterday, a well-known figure has been removed not only from the parish of Errol but from many parts of both Scotland and England.

Mr Doe succeeded his father, the late Mr John Doe, many years ago. The latter during the course of his lifetime formed one of the largest and best known businesses in agricultural machinery in Scotland. The business was latterly carried on as a private limited liability company, and the deceased Mr George B. Doe became the leading and managing director.

Mr Doe, who was 65 years of age, is survived by a widow, two daughters, and five sons. Two of the latter are in the army, and it will be remembered that Lieutenant Alfred B. Doe, another son, recently lost his life in Flanders.”

The company played an important role in ensuring that Perthshire farmers, and those in the surrounding counties, could obtain the latest implements and machines from leading makers. It helped Perthshire, and especially the Lowland districts, to become a leading agricultural district from the 1870s.

The photograph was taken at the Strathnairn Vintage Rally, 2014.


By Royal Appointment: agricultural implement makers

Each year in the early twentieth century the Aberdeen Press and Journal published an annual list of Royal Warrant Holders. These were granted as a mark of recognition to people or companies who regularly supplied goods or services to HM the King and the royal households. These included radio and gramophone specialists, grocers, wine merchants, cabinet makers and upholsterers, and furnishing ironmongers and coppersmiths. They also included agricultural implement makers. The maker that was recognised as the supplier to the King was Barclay, Ross & Hutchison, Ltd, of 67-71 Green and Cragshaw. This business was recorded as a supplier from at least 1904 to 1935. Later, as in 1959 it was also recorded as being “by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, Agricultural Engineers”.

Back in 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 & Tough and Barclay, Ross & Hutchison Ltd in 1920.

Early important changes were brought about in 1915 with the retrial of Robert Tough. The business continued to be run by the remaining partners, Robert Ross and Thomas Hutchison. Mr Barclay, the other partner, had been commission agent in Aberdeen from at least 1874 and then a manure, agricultural implement and commission merchant by 1890. By 1898 he was described as “Morrison Barclay, of Barclay, Ross and Tough.

On the retrial of Robert Ross, the business was taken over by Scottish Agricultural Industries Ltd on 1 July 1929. 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”.

While B.R.H. was associated with Aberdeen, it also conducted its business outside Aberdeen. In 1930 it had a depot at Perth, followed by another at Milnathort, Montrose, in 1938 and one at Forfar in 1947. In 1955 its depots were at Milnathort, Perth, Forfar, Montrose, Turriff and Aberdeen.

The company undertook a wide range of activities. In 1955 it was an agricultural implement, machinery and equipment dealer, agricultural engineer, machinery and equipment and equipment manufacturer, dairy engineer, dairy farm equipment supplies, electrical engineer and contractor, gate and pen manufacturer, structural and roofing engineer and contractor, tractor and implement agent, dealer and distributor. For a good number of years it was also a millwright.

The company made and sold a wide range of agricultural implements and machines. It was also an agent for a number of leading makers. In 1968 they included New Holland and Clayson, Bamfords, Howard and Alfa-Laval. It was an active advertiser in the Scottish agricultural press, especially from 1919.


Elgin Central Engineers – in 1975

Some time ago we featured the important expansion of Elgin Central Engineers in 1967. We have been looking around the newspapers in the Aberdeen area to see if we could find more about this business. We found an extensive article in the Aberdeen press and journal of 27 June 1975 which provides an update on the history of the business and developments since 1967. We quote at length:

“Elgin company press on

Elgin Central Engineers Ltd (rechristened “Elbar-Elgin Central”) are a company whose name is synonymous with service to the farming community throughout the North of Scotland. Established more than 70 years ago theirs is a success story to which new chapters are being added.

From a small cycle shop in Elgin’s Moss Street at the turn of the century the company have expanded time and time again and are now housed in a 34,000 sq ft modern factory complex on 14 acres at Moycroft, Elgin.

The company have long served the farming community, and the policy of personal contact and service at local level is to be maintained.

Elgin Central are the Ford main tractor dealers for the counties of Inverness, Moray, Nairn, Banff and east Aberdeenshire. They also hold franchises for many agricultural implement manufacturers, all of well established reputation for quality and reliability in north-east farming conditions.

Among these are New Holland, Ransomes, Krone, Farmhand, Wilder, Howard and Lely Import – to name but a few – which are sold through the company’s depots at Elgin and Turriff, the latter depot having been opened five years ago to provide a more direct personal service to the man customers in the Buchan area.

Long recognised as one of the most go-ahead companies in the Moray area Elgin Central have continued to progress since their move to Moycroft eight years ago. Their big modern showroom is virtually a shop window of the farming world behind which are located the largest agricultural stores in Scotland, carrying a full and comprehensive range of spare parts and accessories for all tractors and implements.

A large area of the factory is specially geared for repair work – for which the company have a proud record for speedy and efficient service.

Long established as the largest agricultural engineering business in Scotland. Elgin central have taken the swing to more mechanisation in modern farming in their stride and are now geared to meet the requirements of all farmers with the best agricultural machinery available on the market.

The firm endeavour to give the farmer any machine he may ask for – and if they have not got it in stock they will get it!

Their fleet of vans is constantly on the road, bringing help and advice to the farming community – and they are the only firm in Scotland to operate a contract hire service for tractors in a really big way. More than 100 tractors, for example, are meantime hired out to farmers on two-year contracts.

But while service to the farming community in the northern half of Scotland has been – and will remain – the company’s prime objective, Elgin Central have also diversified into other industrial and engineering fields in recent years.

Structural steelwork and general fabrication, including pressure vessels and silos – to exacting precision – now form an increasing part of their business. Extensive work is now being carried out for the distilling and oil industries in the North.

The company undertook a considerable amount of steel fabrication for McDermotts at Ardesier; built the Baker Oil tool extension at Aberdeen and the G. K. N. steel supply depot at Mosstodloch, near Fochabers, together with many other structural contracts through out the country from London to Shetland.

Elgin Central also hold the authorised distributorship for Burmah Castrol Oil and lubricants from Dundee northwards – and have depots for this throughout the area, including Shetland.

In addition, the company have the Ford industrial equipment franchise, supplying diggers and loaders, including large track 360 swivel units; and within their industrial implements company they have the franchise for the Manitou range of rough terrain forklifts, T. C. M. industrial forklifts and Liner cement mixers and dumpers.

And at Elgin – opposite their Moycroft headquarters – they also operate the Ford car dealership for the area, coupled, with a thriving garage car, and commercial vehicles sales division.

Now, under the Elbar banner, it is intended that there shall be further progress.”


An award-winning potato planter: the Richmond

The Richmond potato planter was developed by Mr Richmond of Dron, Fife before 1906. It came to be manufactured by John Wallace & Sons, Paton Street, Dennistoun, Glasgow, one of the major implement and machine makers in Scotland. It was first trialled in November 1906. The St Andrews Citizen reported on 17 November that:

“The inventor’s brain is never idle, and one of his latest products is another labour-saving implement to benefit the farmer. The potato-digger has revolutionized the old method of lifting the potato crop; and now we have a potato-planter that is evidently designed to effect a similar revolution in putting the seed into the ground. Such an implement is not altogether new; but practical men, who had an opportunity of seeing “Richmond’s potato planter” at work on Mr F. W. Christie’s farm of Dairsie Mains on Saturday, frankly acknowledged its superiority over anything yet devised. The inventor is well-known to Fife people as a daring rider at the Point-to Point races at Bruntshiels, and comes of an inventive race, his father, Mr Richmond of Dron, being the inventor of the Richmond drier. The high lying part of a field to the east of Dairsie Church, was prepared by Mr Christie for the exhibition trials, and among those taking a warm interest in the test were Mr Richmond himself, Mr Christie; Mr R. W. R. Mackenzie of Earlshall; Mr Orchison of Denbrae; Mr Millar and Mr Wm Millar, Nydie; Mr Bogie, Balass; Mr Fleming, Prestonhall, Mr McKerracher, Mayfield; Mr Dryburgh, Orkie, &c. The planter, which is constructed to cover two rows at a time, consists of two hoppers into which the seed is placed. Passing up through these hoppers are revolving chains with cups attached. As the chains go round, the cups take away the seed and deposit them on the bottom of the drill wonderfully steady, at an average interval of 10 to 12 inches. A feature of the implement which gained general approval is the manner in which it rectifies doubles. Owing to the elevation of the track along which the chain travels, and the shape of the cups themselves, any excess over the required seed are constantly thrown back into the hopper; and only a small percentage of doubles ever find their way through. The planter was first tested with whole Up-to-Dates, then with whole Langworthys (which owing to their shape occasioned the severest test), and finally with cut potatoes; and the machine came through each test with gratifying success. It is claimed for it that with a lad and a horse it can plant from 7 to 8 acres a day – the work of 7 to 8 people; and by means of a tilting lever, it can be readily adjusted to plant uphill or downhill. Representatives of Messrs John Wallace & Sons (Ltd), Glasgow, who are instructed with the sale of the implement were also on the ground giving information about its working.”

In 1908 the Richmond potato planter was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, following trials in the showyard of the Highland Show. It was also to be successful in that Society’s trial of potato planters held at Liberton Mains, Edinburgh, in March 1915. Some six machines were entered, and all took part in the Trial.

The following is the report of that trial, as published by that Society:

“Messrs John Wallace & Sons, Paton Street, Dennistoun, Glasgow, were represented by two machines: (number 3) A Two-Row “Richmond” Potato Planter—price, £15, 15s., and (number 4) a Single-Row “Richmond” Potato Planter—price, £15; the latter being also fitted with an Artificial Manure Distributor, consisting of a small hopper having a slowly revolving drum, and a forwardly inclined finger for distributing the manure.

The principle of action in the two machines is the same. The seeds are picked up from the hopper by a series of buckets or carriers, attached at spaced distances to an endless travelling chain, and elevated to a certain point where they are tilted into tubes by which they are delivered at regular distances apart into the drill or drills; these distances may be varied from 8 to 18 inches as desired. The buckets are formed of an open two-jaw shape, widest at the top part, and tapering downwards towards the centre; this formation of bucket stated to automatically select its own potato, and discard the remaining potatoes into the hopper. The endless chain passe: over a loose wheel or pulley situated at the curved pan: the hopper. The object of this pulley is to change the direction of travel of the buckets, which receive a “tip,” thereby

removing any potatoes other than the one actually in each bucket; the discarded potatoes falling back into the hopper. The top outer lip of each bucket is fitted with a loose mug, and should a potato get jammed in the bucket, this ring is pressed out, and when entering the hopper strikes a “ kicker, which causes the potato to be loosened, and ensures it being planted.

The shafts are movable, so that the horse can walk either on the top or in the bottom of the drill as desired. The work of No. 3 machine was, on the whole, very satisfactory. Even with the long-shaped and cut seed the work done was beyond the expectations of the Official Observers. The arrangement by which the shafts are movable, so as to enable the horses to walk either on the top or in the bottom of the drill, was considered to be a decided advantage.

The work of No. 4 machine appeared to be as near perfection as is possible by mechanical means. The working principle is identical with that of Machine N0. 3, but under the conditions under which the trial took place the Single machine showed to advantage. This implement also sowed the artificial manure, and in this and other respects may be regarded as a suitable machine for the small farmer.”

The Committee of Official Observers were, unanimously of opinion that the work done by the machines Nos. 3 and 4 was the best, the work done by No. 4 being particularly good. This superiority of the single-row machine may have been due to the fact that the drills were drawn somewhat narrower than the width to which the double machines had been set. The Committee are of opinion that it is desirable to have the machines adjustable to varying widths of drill, as 1t 18 frequently found desirable to vary the width, even on the same farm, to suit different varieties of seed.”

The Richmond potato planter continued to be widely used over the following decades. It continued to be found at displenishing sales into the 1940s and 1950s. In 1946 (13 November) The Scotsman noted them at Cauldcoats, Portobello (Mrs Gilchrist). In 1948 (23 October) it also noted one for sale at Lanark Auction Mart. The Aberdeen press and journal recorded one on 28 February 1948 at the Central Mart, Aberdeen. In 1950 (16 November) the Dundee courier reported one at Lumbennie, Newburgh (Mr Geo. Low). On 19 March 1951 it recorded one at Forfar Auction Mart.