A Glasgow name: P. & R. Fleming & Co.

If you were a farmer in the vicinity of Glasgow into the 1950s and you were looking for a range of implements and machines, you might have looked to see what P. & R. Fleming had in stock.

12970924_462109963982309_1304505869777949651_oThe company was already established by 1844 when it described itself as “P. & R. Fleming, iron merchants and ironmongers, 29 Argyll Street and 18 Stockwell Street, Glasgow.”  By 1864 the company had expanded its activities, and recorded itself as “ironmongers, iron merchants, smiths, gas fitters, bell hangers, wire fence and gate manufacturers, and agricultural implement warehouse”.  That expansion continued.  In 1894-95 it is recorded as “P. & R. Fleming & Co., ironmongers, iron merchants, smiths, gas fitters, bell hangers, wire fence and gate manufacturers and agricultural implement makers, warehouses, 29 Argyle Street; iron warehouse, 18 and 24 Stockwell Street, Glasgow; 16 Graham Square, Glasgow; branch establishment, 1 Dowanhill Place, Patrick; works, Kelvin Street, Partick”.  In 1937 it had addresses at Graham square, Glasgow, and at stand 106D of the Edinburgh Market.  An address in 1870 was for it at the Clydesdale Iron Works, Possilpark, Glasgow.  Its business was wound up in 1983.

The company started its long practice of attending the Highland Show in 1867.  It was an annual exhiitor for many years after the Second World War.  It receeived a minor silver medal for its collection of implements and machinery in 1875.  It was also a regular advertiser in the Scottish agricultural press.

Among its implements and machines that it manufactured at the Clydesdale Iron Works at the turn of the twentieth century was its potato and charlock sprayer and its patent rick lifter, horse pole fork, rick lifter, grapple forks and spear forks.  It was also well known for supplying ironwork for a variety of construction projects.

As well as making its own range of agricultural implements and machines, it was also an extensive agent.  In 1910 it held agencies for some of the major companies such as R. Hornsby & Sons Ltd, Grantham, Lawrence-kennedy, Glasgow, Gregg & Co., Belfast, Harrison, McGregor & Co., Ltd, Leigh, Ransome, Sims & Jefferies Ltd, Ipswich, and Martin’s Cultivator Co., Stamford.

In 1910 a farmer could purchase a wide range of implements and machines, including oil engines, cow milking machines, grinding mills, thrashing mills, potato sprayers, sheep dipping apparatus, patent thistle and bracken cutters, rick lifters, horse forks, hay collectors, binders, mowers, reapers and mowers, cultivators, ploughs, garden tools, lawn mowers and dairy utensils.

If you needed it, Fleming had it.  If you were in Edinburgh, you would go to James H. Steele, which had the strapline “Everything for the farm”.  But the two companies had one man in common: James H. Steele.  James had been in the employment of P. & R. Fleming until September 1916 as a representative in Edinburgh and the East.  Steele brought Fleming’s business East and allowed the Edinburgh and east of Scotland farmers to have their own farming emporium.

The photograph was taken at the Scottish National Tractor Show, Lanark, September 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Mechanising seed sowing: the hand broadcast sower

12593931_458825430977429_3945877283405437439_oBy the late 1880s, the American implement and machine makers had developed the very ingenious hand broadcast sowers.  One was brought into England by Mr J. H. Newton, West Derby, Liverpool.  It comprised “a light box of thin wood is carried under the left arm with a strap over the shoulder.  To the top part of this is attached a canvas receptacle for the seed, while on front and below is fixed a little tinned iron wheel, or rather four crossed pieces revolving on a spindle.  Round this spindle is passed a thong which forms the string of a bow, and by “see-sawing” this bow the wheel revolves in alternate directions.  An eccentric on the spindle moves a little hopper which heeps a regular stream of seed falling on to the 12671874_458822970977675_1547957589796074909_orevolving “wheel” and this in its turn sends the grain spinning out all round.  It will cover a width of about 30 feet, but some have found it best in practice to go up the centre of one rig and down another, thus taking 14 or 16 feet at a time.  It is thus possible, if kept supplied with seed, to do four acres per hour, while three is easy of attainment.  To ensure an ever braid, the machine should be carried in a level position. It sows all kinds of grain admirably, and is equally well adapted for sowing dry artificial manure. The quantity to be sown per acre is regulated by a little slide.” 

12672131_458822304311075_6162273949853993630_oA version of this hand broadcast sower was made in Scotland.  This was the “Aero”, associated with Kilmarnock.  It was extensively advertised by the ironmonger, David Lauder, firstly of King Street, then of Portland Street, from at least 1912 onwards.  He especially advertised it in the 1920s and 1930s, in the Scottish agricultural newspapers the North British Agriculturist and The Scottish farmer. It continued to be advertised into the 1960s.

There are still example of the Aero broadcast sower around the Scottish rallies.  The photographs show it being demonstrated at the Ayr Vintage Rally, 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Saddle up! 

Green crops required a lot of looking after before the days of weedkillers.  The soil was moved around to stop the weeds from growing.

12970919_462107967315842_3450115813783682793_oHarrowing started around a fortnight after sowing, if the surface of the soil was dry.  The “common” harrow was sometimes used to harrow down drill.  An implement that was even better was the saddle drill harrow.  This harrow, made in an arch form which partially embraced the curvature of the drills, was worked in pairs.  The pair of harrows were drawn by a horse, walking between the drills. 

The photographs were taken at the Scottish National Tractor Show, Lanark, September 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Rolling through the years 

One of the names that are associated with rollers is Cruickshank & Company Ltd, Denny.

12916066_462090193984286_7604095347717251030_oCruickshank’s started in 1863.  It became a company limited by guarantee in 1901.  By the early twentieth century it was a general iron founder, making cast iron castings, malleable castings and steel castings.  By 1933 it had established an agricultural department which was to change the general direction of the company.  By 1937 it advertised in The Scottish farmer as being “iron merchants and implement makers”.  By 1960 the agricultural department was known as the “Agricultural supplies department”.  It continued to trade until the mid 1980s.

12973017_462089193984386_3052772707785215352_oContemporary directories describe the company in the 1930s as iron founders, steel castings manufacturers and general iron founders. In 1955 it was described as “agricultural engineers, implement, machinery and equipment manufacturers”.

As an agricultural implement and machine maker, it started to exhibit at the Highland Show in 1933, continuing to do so each year, also entering its and machines for the new implement award of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  It was also a regular advertiser in both the North British Agriculturist and The Scottish farmer.

In 1952 its rollers included tractor drawn ones, roll pack, in three sections.  They included both flat and Cambridge ones, with a rolling width of between 16 and 27 feet.  In 1963 it’s manufactures also included ring rollers.

You can still see a few sets of Cruickshank’s rollers around the vintage rallies and at the agricultural museums (including the Highland Folk Museum).

The photographs of Cruickshank rollers were taken at the Fife Vintage Agricultural Machinery Club rally, June 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Rolling, rolling, rolling 

12970983_462080803985225_2316242473824877329_oRolling land was an important part of the process of sowing the spring crops.  In 1889 Henry Stephens stated that “the common land roller is an implement of simple construction, the acting part of it being a cylinder of wood, of stone, or of metal. Simple, however, as this implement appears, there is hardly an article of the farm in which the farmer is more liable to fall into error in its selection.”  Stephens noted that the roller should be of the proper weight and diameter. 

Of the different materials for making rollers, Stephens judged that “wood, which is frequently employed for the making of land-rollers, may be considered as least adapted of all materials for the purpose. Its deficiency of weight and liability to decay under it objectionable. Stone, though not deficient in weight, possesses the one marked disadvantage of liability to fracture.  This of itself is sufficient to place stone rollers in a doubtful position as to fitness. Iron and steel are undoubtedly the most appropriate of all materials for this purpose.”

12672175_462080690651903_4775039500204737534_oA number of the implement and machine makers in Scotland manufactured rollers.  In 1900, for example, they were made by Kemp & Nicholson, Stirling, A. Newlands & Son, Implement Works, Linlithgow, John Scoular & Co., Stirling, and Thomas Hunter & Sons, Maybole.

John Scoular exhibited 4 field rollers at the Highland Show of 1900 at Stirling.  They ranged from 6 to 7 feet by 18 or 21 inches, and sold at between £6 10s and £9 9s each.  In that year, the rollers of Thomas Hunter & Sons, were of malleable iron, and in two sizes, 6 feet by 30 inches and 6 feet by 33 inches, and cost either £10 15s or £11 15s.

There were other types of rollers.  They included consolidating land rollers and pulverising land rollers.

For more information on rollers, see Henry Stephens, 1889: https://archive.org/stream/cu31924000275812#page/n261/mode/2up

The photographs of the Ben Reid of Aberdeen rollers were taken at the Fife Vintage Agricultural Machinery Club rally, June 2015.


Wooden harrows 

Wooden implements, especially ploughs and harrows, continued to be used into the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

981155_462067943986511_4130815948665569662_oThere are numerous photographs of them being used in the Western Isles and Northern Isles, areas where traditional farming practices and techniques continued the longest.  But they also survived in mainland Scotland until after the Second World War.

The Aberdeen journal published displenishing sales notices. Some of these notices included wooden harrows.  In 1948, for example, they 12961179_462068193986486_4432276902371077725_oare recorded at farms such as South Nittanshead, Bonnykelly, New Pitsligo, and Newest, Strichen, and in the following year at Moss-side, Ellon, Linhead, Alvah, Starnafin, Crimsoned, and Drum, Lumsden.

On some farms, such as Starnafin, they were found alongside iron harrows as well as chain harrows.  The notices, however, don’t tell whether they still continued to be used, or whether they were confined to the dyke back.

A few sets of wooden harrows have survived into preservation.  It is interesting to compare them with iron harrows.

The photographs were taken at the Strathnairn Vintage Rally & Display, 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


A revolutionary harrow

A really effective new soil pulveriser was introduced into Scotland in the early 1840s.  This was the Norwegian harrow.  Its function was to reduce large clods into very small ones by means of a number of lines of rays or tines, leaving the land “perfectly light and lose, whilst the clod-crushing roller gives to it firmness and consistence.”.

12916163_462078337318805_3135017296239858723_oThis implement, on an “entirely novel construction”, was introduced by George Edward Frere, FRS, of Edinburgh, from Norway.  He had it constructed, with some changes, by Richard Stratton, Bristol.  He entered it for the Royal Agricultural Society Meeting at Shrewsbury in 1845 where the judges awarded to him a premium of 10L for his harrow. 

By 1858 Norwegian harrows were being made by a number of Scottish implement and machine makers.  In that year they included James Kirkwood, Tranent, who sold one at £8 10s, and Peter McGregor & Son, Keith, at £8 15s.  Kirkwood became a renowned maker of these harrows, winning a number of premiums for them from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

12967360_462076403985665_2254969837931856956_oBy 1864 the number of makers of these harrows had increased. They also included: John Barrowman & Co., Saline, Fife, David Young, Hassington, Coldstream, Robert Peddie & Co., 132 George Street, Edinburgh, William Kirkwood, Duddingston Mills, Edinburgh, and Kemp, Murray & Nicholson, Stirling.  The one made by that latter maker was described as a “Norwegian harrow, or clod crusher”.

These harrows were still being made into the 1880s. Makers continued to include William Elder, Tweedsmouth Implement Works, Berwick on Tweed, and Kemp & Nicholson, Stirling.  After that date there are few references to these harrows.

Improvements were made to the design.  One made by James Kirkwood in 1854 was improved in general construction, while another by Peter McGregor & Sons in 1859 was improved, with four wheels and leverage.

For further information see Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mqEEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA312&lpg=PA312&dq=norwegian+harrow&source=bl&ots=m5VBc31Hgc&sig=7Rem2k_r6Vgz6-9KEpWzLNgSCRw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj8xu_bnffLAhWCVxQKHSxhAyc4ChDoAQgwMAQ#v=onepage&q=norwegian%20harrow&f=false

The Norwegian harrow was photographed at the Fife Vintage Machinery rally, June 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Sowing broadcast

By 1908 there were various forms of broadcast sowers available to the farmer.

In that year Henry Stephens suggested that the one made by Ben. Reid & Co., Aberdeen, “exhibits the machine in the most perfect form.”  He adds: “this machine not only does the work well, but it is so constructed that its long sowing-chest is divided into sections, the two end ones of which can be folded upon the central division, 12967512_462065807320058_2505508205721194142_owhereby it may pass through any field-gate without the sowing-chest having to be removed.  The sowing-gear of the broadcast machine is connected with the main axle of the carriage.  The arrangements for regulating the quantity of seed per acre are very simple and effective, and altogether the machine is very easily worked and controlled.  About 18 feet is the usual width sown at once by the machine.” 

Stephens describes how machine sowing of grass was undertaken. He writes that the grass-seed broadcast sowing machine “has superseded the necessity of hand-sowing on most farms.  This is a most perfect machine for sowing grass seeds, distributing them with the utmost precision, and to any amount, and so near the ground that the wind affects but little even the lightest grass seed.  Its management is easy when the ground is ploughed in ordinary ridges.  The horse starts from one head-ridge, and walks in the open furrow 12961172_462065923986713_373075782316831602_oto the other, while the machine is sowing half the ridge on each side, the driver walking in the furrow behind the machine, using double reins.  On reaching the other head-ridge, the gearing is put out of action till the horse, on being hied, enters the next open furrow on the head-ridge; and on the gearing being again put on, the half of a former ridge is sown, completing it with the half of a new one by the time the horse reaches the head-ridge he started from.  Thus 2 half-ridges after 2 half-ridges are sown until the field is all covered.
The seed is supplied from the head-ridge, upon which the sacks containing it were set down when brought from the steading.
The head-ridges are sown by themselves.  But the half of the ridge next the fence on each side of the field cannot be reached by the machine, and must be sown by hand.
When ridges are coupled together, the horse walks along the middle between the crown and open furrow, the furrow-brow being the guide for one end of the machine, and 2 ridges are thus sown at every bout.  Where ridges are ploughed in breaks of 4 ridges in width, the furrow-brow is the guide in going and the crown in returning, while sowing 2 of the ridges; and the crown in going and the furrow-brow in returning, while sowing the other 2 ridges.”

A revolution in grass-sowing!

The photographs of the Garvie broadcast drill were taken at the Fife Vintage Rally, June 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Sowing by hand 

If you look at the sophistication of today’s grain drills it is hard to believe that seed sowing by hand was still carried out within living memory.

Henry Stephens provides a description of sowing by hand in his Book of the Farm in 1889.  He describes two methods of sowing by hand:

“One-hand sowing-In former times the sower by hand in Scotland was habited in a peculiar manner.  He sowed by one hand only, and had a sowing-sheet wound round him. …  The most convenient sheet is of linen.  It is made to have an opening large enough to admit the head and right arm of the sower through it, and a portion of the sheet to rest upon his left shoulder.  On distending the mouth of the doubled part with both hands, and receiving the seed into it, the loose part of the sheet is wound tight over the left hand, by which it is firmly held, while the load of corn is supported by the part of the sheet which crosses the breast and passes under the right arm behind the back to the left shoulder.  A basket of wicker-work, was very common in England for sowing with one hand.  It was suspended by a girth fastened to two loops on the rim of the basket, and passing round the back of the neck; the left hand holding the basket steady by the wooden stud on the other side of the rim.

12901466_458803997646239_2766030708907759544_oTwo-hand sowing-But the system of sowing with both hands is now more general than one-hand sowing.  It should indeed be the universal method wherever hand-sowing is pursued.  It is the most expeditious; and many people consider that the sowing can be sone more evenly with two hands than with one.

For two-hand sowing a simple form of sowing-sheet is a linen semi-spheroidal bag, attached to a hoop of wood or of iron rod, formed to fit the sower’s body, buckled round it, and suspended in front in the hammer just described. Both hands are thus at liberty to cast the seed, one handful after the other.”

Stephens describes the “art of sowing”:
“The following detailed description of the art of sowing by one hand is also so far applicable to sowing by both hands.  Taking as much seed as he can grasp in his right hand, the sower stretches his arm out and a little back with the clenched fingers looking forward, and the left foot making an advance of a moderate step.  When the arm has attained its most backward position, the seed is begun to be cast, with a quick and forcible thrust of the hand forward.  At the first instant of the forward motion the fore-finger and thumb are a little relaxed, by which some of the seeds drop upon the furrow-brow and in the open furrow; and while still further relaxing the fingers gradually, the back of the hand is turned upwards until the arm becomes stretched before the sower, by which time the fingers are all thrown open, with the back of the spread hand uppermost. The motion of the arm being always in full swing, the arm being always in full swing, the grain, as it leaves the hand, received such an impetus as to be projected forward in the form of a figure corresponding to the sweep made by the hand.  The forward motion of the hand is accompanied by a corresponding forward advance of the right foot, which is planted on the ground the moment the hand casts forward the bulk of the seed.”

Quite an art!

You can read more about sowing by hand in Henry Stephens, The Book of the Farm, 1889 in https://archive.org/stream/cu31924000275812#page/n239/mode/2up
The photograph of using a sowing sheet was taken at the Strathnairn Vintage Rally, September 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Getting ready for spring work 

Back in 1908 Henry Stephens commented on the “spring preliminaries”, an important part of the spring work.

This is what he said about them:

“But besides field operations, other matters require attention ere spring work come.  The implements required for field work, great and small, have to be repaired,-the plough-irons new laid; the harrow-tines new laid; the harrow-tines new laid, sharpened, and firmly fastened; the harness tight and strong; the sacks patched and darned, that no seed-corn be spilt upon the road; the seed-corn threshed, measured up, and sacked, and what may be last wanted put into the granary; the horses new shod, that no casting or breaking of a single shoe may throw a pair of horses out of work for even a single hour;-in short, to have everything ready to start for the work whenever the first notice of spring shall be heralded in the sky.”

Quite a lot of preliminaries to undertake – and no doubt a few trips to the blacksmith as well!

You can read more about spring work from Henry Stephens’ Book of the Farm, 1908, at https://archive.org/stream/cu31924000228332#page/n91/mode/2up

Photograph: Getting ready for spring work at Pilmuir, Balerno, Midlothian, 1990s.

© 2016 Heather Holmes