Highlights of the Perth Show of 1939

Local and county agricultural shows used to – and some still do – play an important role for the exhibition of agricultural implements and machines. These include the shows at Ayr, Glasgow and Perth. They were forums for the exhibition of what was new and desirable for the farm that could be purchased locally.

Some newspapers provided lengthy and detailed accounts of the implements and machines exhibited at these shows. They include the Dundee Courier. It provided such an account of the Perth Show in 1939 shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. It provides an account of what framers in the county (and surrounding areas) were purchasing or looking to have as new implements and machines. It also shows what was new (and could be desirable) as well as who was exhibiting and what they were exhibiting.

The following article appeared in the pages of the Dundee Courier on 4 August 1939:

“Attractions for Perthshire show

Over 2000 entries-the day’s programme

“Perth Show Day” is one of the big days of the Perthshire calendar. It brings together both rural and urban interests in an annual rendezvous, and the secretaries, J. W. Wyllie and Henderson, solicitors, Perth, have again done everything possible to ensure a brilliant success.

Electricity generation

Messrs James Scott & Co., whose electric installations are well known all over Scotland, will be showing in operation two of the latest Petter electric generating sets, specially suitable for use on farms and country houses.

One is of the automatic petrol-driven type, the starting and stopping of which is controlled by switching on or off the lights. The other is of the Diesel oil type and very suitable for heavy farm work.

Experts in each different branch of electrical engineering will be in attendance to assist and advise on any problems concerning electric work, and a very complete range of domestic and farm electric equipment will be on view, including refrigerators and coolers, washing machines, cookers, radio sets, and small electric appliances.

A visit to this stand will be well repaid if only to see the latest developments and uses to which electricity may be put.

For fruit cultivation

One of the most outstanding exhibits in the machinery line is that arranged by Messrs John Harper & Sons, Blairgowrie.

A special attraction here is the Ransomes caterpillar tractor for the cultivation of fruit. It is to complete with power take-off, pulley, cultivator, and plough.

This firm specialises in tractors, and amongst a number on view is a Fordson with power take-off, driving a Massey-Harris 7-foot cut binder fitted with a new torpedo outside divider. This tractor will also drive a threshing machine, 4 foot wide full dressing type, manufactured by Garvie & Sons.

They are also showing a utility Fordson tractor fitted with Dunlop pneumatic tyres front and rear and which is to be in motion driving a Bisset binder, 6-foot cut, of the latest pattern.

In addition there is a row crop tractor which is specially suited for drill work and which is complete with Ransomes cultivator and ridger, and with special power lift.

Also on view is a tractor trailer fitted with special lift and specially made for easy operation.

There is a very wide line of small implements, including a corn crusher and power driven self-propelled turnip cutter, a sack-lifting machine, and iron pig troughs.

“Rural Gas”

The Rural Gas exhibit of W. S. Ferguson & Co., Ltd, Chemical Works, Perth, will make a strong appeal to those residing in areas where gas is not available. Rural Gas-the improved form of bottled gas-offers to rural districts all the conveniences that gas has brought to the towns. The latest appliances for heating, lighting, and cooking will be on view. At this stand, too, an interesting novelty touch will be provided by a wireless set worked off Rural Gas.

Caterpillar tractors

L. O. tractors Ltd, Perth, sole distributors in Scotland for the Caterpillar and john Deere tractors, will have on view some 14 tractors and a varied assortment of implements.

These include a winch to the Caterpillar model D2 tractor, a power take-off to the Caterpillar model R2 tractor, and an integral plough and mower for the recently introduced John Deere model L tractor.

Caterpillar tractors are in use on most of the Government schemes throughout Scotland, and the John Deere tractors have proved themselves in test to be up to the same high standard.

New potato harvester

Messrs Frew & Company, Ltd, main Fordson distributors, Perth, are showing a range of the latest Fordson products at stand 17.

The highlight of the display is the new Hyllerberg potato harvester, introduced at the “Highland”, where it created so much interest.

Also on view is the Fordson row-crop tractor fitted with Ransome’s toolbar, land utility with Goodyear tyre equipment which drive binders. Fordson agricultural tractor with spade-lugs, coupled to Sellar’s plough and a Cockshutt plough.

A Ford V8 22 utility car, suitable for farm and estate work, and a Fordson Thames truck will also be displayed.

Mr Whittet, Frew & Company’s tractor representative, will be in charge, and will be pleased to furnish particulars and arrange demonstrations.

Fencing problem

Messrs Barclay, Ross & Hutchison, agricultural engineers, will extend a welcome to their friends throughout Central Scotland.

This year they present a comprehensive display of agricultural implements of the newest types, including tractors, engines, toolbars, binders, threshing machines, and a portable milking unit.

In addition an exhibit of special interest to estate owners and farmers, who are only too well acquainted with the problem of fencing, will be the Wolseley Parmak Electric fencer.

Binders from Blairgowrie

Binders will be outstanding in the display by Messrs J. Bisset & sons, Greenbank works, Blairgowrie. These include the latest pattern drive binders, tractor hitch binders, and horse binders. In addition there will be shown tractor potato diggers, latest 3L hay mower, and farm cart complete with rubber tyres.

M.M. tractors

Living up to their now well-known motto, “Everything for the farm”, James H, Steele, Harrison Road, Edinburgh, the prominent agricultural implements and machinery firm, have staged an exhibition of first-rate interest. Special stress is being placed on the “M.M.” tractors, no doubt in view of the agricultural expansion plan.

The ”M.M.” tractors offer a varied line for all types of farm work, including one of the latest, namely the Universal “R” tractor, which is fitted with an enclosed cab, allowing the driver to farm the land in all kinds of weather. There is a maximum amount of visibility so that the operator can carefully watch this work. This tractor can be bought with or without the comfort cab. If bought without the cab it can be installed later at low cost.

It is fitted throughout with the pneumatic tyres. “M.M.” attachments are of the newest design to give outstanding performance and easier operation. Visitors to this stand will receive full particulars regarding this efficient robot.

Carts on view

The stand of J. D. Allan & Sons, Culthill Implement Works, Murthly, will make a strong appeal to all progressive farmers.

A selection of the latest types of carts fitted with Dunlop tyres will be on view, including a coup cart for general purposes, and cart for hay or harvest, tipping type with wings and removeable sides.

Of special interest will be the latest type of tractor for general purposes work, carrying up to three tons.

The display also includes the “Kleensweek” hay collector, and hay sweep for use with tractor, and byre and stable barrows fitted with pneumatic tyres.

Latest in implements

John Doe Ltd, Errol, are showing a large selection of farm implements, with all the latest improvements to suit the smallest or largest of farms. The display includes Case and Fordson tractors, tractor ploughs and cultivators, horse and tractor binders, potato diggers, toolbar frames &c.

There will also be a power-driven potato sorter with a new pattern double roller conveyor.

The new electric fencer will no doubt attract considerable attention. Improvements on and attachments for implements and tractors are also to be seen.”


What implement and machine makers were at the Perth Show of 1938?

The Perth Show was an important place for the exhibition of implements and machines, especially by local makers and dealers. They included locally important ones that were exhibiting the newest implements and machines.

So what could the Perthshire agriculturist see at the Perth Show of 1938? Actually, a lot of key makers selling power machinery and innovative implements and machines that were seeking to and succeeding in making the work on the farm easier and more cost effective to undertake (though there were still a number of very labour intensive activities).

The Dundee Courier included a detailed account of the Show in its columns of 5 August 1938. Let’s look to see what the agriculturist could peruse at the Show:

“Increased entries for Perthshire show

Notable exhibitors at to-morrow’s event

Fine implement display

If a substantial increase in the number of entries for the Perth show can be taken as any indication, then agriculture and its associate industries in the Big County are improving rapidly.

Round the stands

Those interested in the business side of agriculture look upon the Perth show as one of their principal events of the season. Hence the reason why there is such a marvellous display of stands.

Machines for farm

The advance in development of power machinery, which has made easier the farmer’s task, is amply demonstrated in the varied exhibits shown by Barclay, Ross & Hutchison, the well-known implement manufacturers and agents.

Amongst their exhibits will be shown threshing and barn machinery, engines, tractors, binders, mowers, grain drills, cultivators and row crop attachments, tractor and horse ploughs.

A notable exhibit will be one of the latest flax pulling machines, a machine well worth inspection from all interested in the resuscitation of flax growing in Scotland.

Carts fitted with tyres

Stand no. 3 occupied by Messrs J. D. Allan & sons, Culthill Implement Works, Murthly, will make a strong appeal to all progressive farmers.

A selection of the latest types of carts fitted with Dunlop tyres will be on view, including a coup cart for general purposes, cart for hay or harvest, tipping type with wings and removeable sides, and one for use in connection with turnip cutting for sheep on grassland.

The display also includes two thistle cutters, potato digger with pole and swingletrees, and “Kleensweep” hay collector with steel teeth.

Many other handy implements here are worthy of inspection.

Gas in the country

Although you live in the country, you can now enjoy the advantages of using gas appliances for lighting, heating and cooking with rural gas, the improved form of bottled gas.

Demonstrations will be given, and a full range of the latest appliances will be shown at the stand of W. S. Ferguson & Co., Ltd, Perthshire Chemical Works, Perth.

If you have visited the Empire Exhibition at Glasgow you may have noted the fact that rural gas is in use for cooking and water heating in the “modern” cottage at the Clachan.

Electrical equipment

Messrs James Scott & Co., 6 and 8 Princes Street, Perth, who specialise in the electrical equipment of farms and whose installations are to be found throughout Scotland, are featuring on their stand the Lister automatic electric plant, which may be seen in operation and which is an ideal means of providing light and power for farm or house.

Also on view is a milk cooling equipment which will be of interest to those engaged in dairy farming.

The housewife should make a point of seeing on Messrs Scott’s stand the very comprehensive range of electrical appliances, which include stream-lined Elec cookers, electrical ironing machines, refrigerators, washing machines and radio sets, besides a whole lot of the very latest types of small accessories.

Messrs Scott’s representative in attendance will be ready to assist in solving any problems concerning the many uses of electricity on the farm.

Caterpillar tractors

Caterpillar and John Deere tractors will be shown by L. O. Tractors, Ltd, of Perth, who are sole distributors in Scotland for these machines.

Amongst their exhibits will be a model 22 caterpillar tractor, equipped with a toolbar for row crop work, which will be of especial interest to potato growers.

There will also be on show the new small caterpillar Diesel-engines tractor, which has all those features developed over a period of years in the larger sizes of machines.

It may be mentioned that the word Caterpillar is a recognised trade name of the Caterpillar Tractor Co., pioneers in the development of successful and economical track machines.

John Deere tractors are achieving great success everywhere on account of their outstanding simplicity and economy, and farmers interested in tractors will find that a careful study of the features of these machines will be well repaid.

Fordson tractors

The name Fordson is closely associated with farming, and an interesting display of the latest Fordson tractors will be on view at the stand jointly held by Messrs Frew & Co., Ltd, Perth; Messrs John Harper & Sons, Blairgowrie; and Messrs A. McKercher, Aberfeldy.

Included in this display will be a land utility and agricultural tractor and row crop tractor. A comprehensive range of Fordson trucks and Ford cars will also be shown and will have a general appeal. Representatives of the above-mentioned firms will be in attendance to assist and advise interested parties.

Windmill pump

An interesting exhibit will be that of Messrs G. Rae-Arnot & Co., 52 Crossgate, Cupar. It will consist of the “Constoflow’ windmill pump, invented by Mr G. Rae-Arnot, Auchtermuchty, and made by the exhibitors.

It is held that by using this pump on an existing windmill system having a long or corroded delivery pipe more water will be delivered, and when replacing an old windmill head the use of the pump may, in some cases, give sufficient water with a head of smaller size.

A cordial invitation is extended to visit the stand of Messrs G. Rae-Arnot & Co., who will be pleased to give full particulars.

Latest in implements

John Doe, Ltd, Errol, are showing a large selection of farm implements, with all the latest improvements to suit the smallest or largest of farms. Ransome’s motor garden cultivator, complete with implements, will be on their stand. This is suitable for all market garden work. There will also be a power-driven potato sorter with a new pattern double roller conveyor.

Improvements on and attachments for implements and tractors are also to be seen.”


Bisset binders in the 1890s

A leader in the making of binders: J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie

One of the well known implement and machine makers in Perthshire was J. Bisset & Sons, Marlee, then Greenback, Blairgowrie.

The company traded from at least 1867 until the mid 1960s. On 16 June 1966 the Directors passed a resolution to voluntarily wind up the company; it was dissolved on 20 November 1970. The company was noted for its potato diggers as well as its reaping machines and binders.

By the early 1890s the business had a number of its own mowers, reapers and reaping machines for sale. An advert in the Evening gazette (Aberdeen), of 27 July 1891 set out the main ones which it was to exhibit at the Highland Show as:

“Highland Show at Stirling

Stand no. 4

The “Bisset” binder, with new patent indispensable improvements of spring tension of endless aprons, regulated instantly from outside. The very thing everyone has been seeking after!

The “Bisset” patent mower, a new high-class machine

The “Speedwell” self-delivery reaper

The “Scotia” mower and reaper combined

J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie”.

Bisset entered a number of these machines into trials and exhibitions. One of them was held in July 1892 at Blairgowrie, and as such was a local trial. The exhibition was arranged for Bisset to show one of its new patent chain-conveyor binders at work. An extensive account of it was published in the Dundee courier of 22 July 1892”

“Exhibition of patent reaping and binding machine at Blairgowrie

On Wednesday Messrs J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie, exhibited one of their patent chain-conveyor binders in operation at the farm of Ardblair, near Blairgowrie, and occupied by Mr John Malloch. Th field chosen for cutting consisted of a heavy crop of green rye, and the satisfactory manner in which the “Bisset binder” operated called forth appreciative remarks of the spectators. Among those present on the occasion were-Mr Robert Carmichael, Drumfin; Mr Cree, Airntullo, Stanley; Mr John Robertson, jun, Taymount; Mr Anderson, Balbrogie; Mr Adam, Braidieston; Mr Henderson, Milton, Collace; Mr Patullo, Gask, Coupar Angus; Mr Grant, Ingliston, near Forfar; Mr Lamont, Inverquiech; Mr Ferguson, Wester Logie; the Messrs Grant, Tullyneddie; Mr Mclaren Pittendreich; Mr Thomas S. Bisset, Mr David Bisset, Mr John Doe, implement agent, Errol, &c. The “Bisset binder” is a new departure in design of reaping and binding machines, in so far as a spiked endless chain, held in position by slide guides, is used in it for moving the crop from where it falls towards the binding table, instead of the more intricate clumsy canvas and noisy cranks utilised in other machines. The chains, not requiring to be tight like canvas, are easily driven, and reduces the draught of the horses by a few hundredweight, while their action is instantaneous and certain. The grain never accumulates or goes off in bunches, as the output is uniform, no matter whether the weather is wet or dry. Possessing the open back and metallic conveyors, the “Bisset binder: is specially adapted for dealing with the rankest straw, and the height of its platform behind and the projecting spikes of the conveyors entirely prevent strong lodged crops from shooting back over the platform.

In order to show the spectators the efficiency if the method of conveying by chains, Mr Thomas S. Bisset, on Wednesday caused the two backmost of the four chains of the machine to be removed, when it was found that the remaining ones – eight inches apart – sufficed to carry along the crop and bring it properly into the binding machinery. This proved conclusively that with chains placed close together the shortest as well as the longest straw can be handled. One other apparent advantage which the machine possesses over others of its kind is that the cop at any point of the operation is not so high or permitted to fall so low, the extra height of the platform behind presenting the heaviest end of the crop falling nearer to the ground than twenty inches, while the greatest height lifted is not more than twenty-nine inches. As regards the driving gear, it may be described as very simple. The grain conveyors, the binding parts, and the reel are driven by a short chain from a pulley on the crank shaft at the front of the machine, doing away with any necessity for any machinery behind the driving wheel. The frame is light but substantial-three steel bars and one tube making up the whole, whilst the binding table has a long and easy action for bringing the twine to the middle of the sheaf, which is regulated partly by weight, and not altogether by the pressure of the packers, as in other machines. Reaping machines, generally, are very difficult to transport, but that of the “Bisset” is greatly facilitated by the fact that one man can in a few minutes, without using tools, raise the machine on two large wheels, making it balance, and ready to pass along narrow and rough lanes, or through a seven feet gateway. The case with which it performs its work, the fact that by its use the draught of the horses is reduced to the lowest minimum, and the simplicity and durability of its construction ought to commend the machine to agriculturists generally.”

Bisset also entered their new binder for the trials of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in the summer of 1893. It worked well and took the highest place. It was fast, efficient, and performed well. All of these points were noted in its adverts for its binders. One of these was recorded in the Dundee courier of 5 September 1893:

“The new Bisset binder at the Highland and A. Society’s trial near Edinburgh, August 16th, took the highest position.

(Eleven competitors, including the 1st and 2d at the Royal England)

Cut the portion in the shortest time, 92 minutes. Lightest draught of the machines tested in the heavy crop. Shortest stubble, only 2 ¼ inches. Had the most difficult part of the field. The machine on our right took 76 minutes and the one on our left 90 minutes longer to finish. The splendid performance of our machine commanded the “special attention” of the spectators, The Scotsman’s report. Orders fulfilled on short notice.

J. Bisset & Sons, Blairgowrie”

Adverts continued to refer to this exhibition in the immediately following years, for example in the Northern Scot of 14 December 1895 and 15 October 1898:

“The new “Bisset” binder, ay the H. and A. S. Trial at Edinburgh in 1893 (the leading machines of England and America present), cut its portion in the shortest time, was the lightest draught of all in the heavier crop, and made the shortest stubble (only 2 ¼ inches). Jurors’ report says: “The binder seemed easy on the horses, doing its work speedily and well. It left an unusually low, even stubble, and divided the sheaves cleanly.”

The “Speedwell” reaper is easy going, makes neat work, and is durable.

Agents’ and customers’ orders placed early with our Representative in the north, Mr Robert Forbes, Woodhead, Kinloss, will have best attention.

J. Bisset & Sons.

Telegrams-“Forbes, Kinloss”

17th June 1895.”


Implements and machines for modern farming in Perthshire in 1922

Agricultural shows provided an important forum for the exhibition of the latest and newest agricultural implements and machines. Some of the regional shows in Scotland were especially important for demonstrating them. They included the Perth Show. The Dundee Courier included a lengthy account of some of the most important exhibits at that show in 1922. The account is worth quoting at length for its insights into what was new and important at that time:

Dundee courier, 4 August 1922

Aids to modern farming

Fine implement display at Perth Show

The Perthshire Agricultural Society holds its annual show on the South Inch, Perth, to-morrow. This county fixture attracts a great deal of interest outside the field of the Society’s local operations, and many visitors attending to-morrow will have come long distances.

An agricultural show is something more nowadays than a turnout of animals. The first industry has developed so rapidly within the past half-century that the manufacturers of all kinds of machinery and implements required by those engaged in husbandry seize the opportunity to display their wares where agriculturists forgather. The competition between firms have become so keen that the implement yard at the Perth and other shows is a great exhibition in itself. There is to be an exceptionally large display of all kinds of things used in agriculture on the Inch to-morrow.

Round the stands

Messrs Lindsay & Fenwick, at Stand 7, are sowing bee appliances and dairy utensils, but the objects of most interest amongst their varied exhibits are probably the famous Coleman Quick-Lite lamps and lanterns. The Quick-Lite, which Messrs Lindsay & Fenwick exhibited so successfully at the Dumfries “Highland” gives a brilliant, steady, white light. It is a convenient, safe, clean, and economical method of lighting, and can be obtained at reasonable prices, viz, from £3 19s to £4 10s 6d. Messrs Lindsay & Fenwick, whose premises are at 143 South Street, Perth, are also showing at their interesting stand lime wash sprayers, stack covers &c.

Mr William Fulton, iron and steel merchant, 15-17 Kinnoul Street, Perth, has an attractive exhibition of blacksmiths’ and engineers’ tools of all descriptions at Stand 18. Mr Fulton is showing agricultural implements, binder, mower and plough parts, fencing materials, chains, and general ironmongery. All the material exhibited is of superior quality, and manufactured by firms well known for the high standard of their workmanship. This stand forms a feature of the extensive implement yard of the show, and cannot fail to attract many visitors from the community of enterprising farmers of Perthshire and other counties will be present.

At Stand 6 will be found the firm of Valentine’s Motors, Ltd., King Edward Street, Perth. Here, in addition to a comprehensive display of motor accessories, there are to be seen Austin tractors Glasgow tractors, three-furrow Oliver plough, disc harrow, and Newland self-lift cultivator. In modern up-to-date farming the tractor is becoming almost indispensable, and the Austin and Glasgow are amongst the most popular machines of this kind in the market. Land cultivation is made comparatively easy with either tractor, together with the ploughing and other appliances which Valentine’s Motor’s Ltd, are able to supply.

Essential tools

Mr Harry Johnston’s (8 King Street, Dundee) display at Stand 6 is bound to appeal to visitors in general. As Mr Johnston points out, one cannot do without those tools which are essential for work on the farm, the bench, the car, or at home. He has a magnificent selection for one to choose from, and the implements offered for inspection are the kind that will last and give satisfaction to whoever may employ them. The prices are popular besides. Framers and allotment holders in need of tools may be specially recommended to give Mr Johnston a call.

George Sellar & Son, Ltd, agricultural implement makers and iron founders, Huntly, whose extensive works are at Alloa, occupy Stand 4. The firm, whose address at Perth is Glasgow Road, are exhibiting all up-to-date agricultural implements, and a cordial invitation is extended to all visitors to the implement section of the show. The Messrs Sellar, who are noted for the high-class ware they provide, have made a judicious selection of implements of many descriptions for exhibition.

Messrs Ferguson & Walker, saddlers and harness makers, 19 Princes Street, Perth, who have a branch at Stand 11. Messrs Ferguson & Walker do a big business in the Big County, and their reputation has been established by the excellence of the goods they supply and the efficiency of their work. They are offering for inspection trunks and portmanteaux and leather goods, all of very fine quality. The stand is a particularly interesting one for the general body of visitors who are certain to find their way to the implement exhibition.

At Stand 15 there is to be seen the popular Garrett finishing thrashing machine. This machine is to be found in all parts of the country. It is of the latest type, and can be fitted in any farm establishment. It is a wonderful piece of mechanism, and runs with perfect rhythm. The Garrett has established its name in agricultural Scotland by the excellent work it can perform. The firm enjoys Royal patronage.

Mr Alex Lindsay, ironmonger, 34 King Edward Street, Perth, has a most interesting display of farm and household ironmonger at Stand 16. There is a varied collection of articles admirably displayed and all of superior manufacture. The exhibits include cream separators, sculls, binder twine &c. There is a special display of petrol lamps and lanterns, Government surplus, halters, collars, and ropes, also the Willey tool which, it is claimed, does 28 different jobs and is indispensable to farmers.

Messrs H. W. Mathers & Son, agricultural engineers, Perth, have an exceedingly attractive stand, at which is assembled a fine collection of implements which every farmer visiting the show should make a point of inspecting. The collection includes a Garrett finishing thrashing machine; horizontal engine-driven turnip cutter (portable type); Massey-Harris binder; Nicholson horse rake; Amanco pumping set, and other specialities. The articles on exhibition are of the most up-to-date description, and the best that can be produced.

At Stand 5 Mr Peter Rae, joiner, Battleby, Redgorton, is exhibiting coup and harvest carts, cattle float, farm harrows, ladders &c. Mr Rae is very well known for the high-class nature of his manufactures, and farmers in all parts of Perthshire have been supplied with much of their equipment from his establishment. The very best of material is used in the manufacture of his goods, all of which bear the stamp of perfect workmanship. Mr Rae is a very highly-skilled and experienced joiner.

John Doe, Ltd, Perth, Errol, and Cupar, occupy Stand 9. This popular, old-established Carse firm are displaying a large variety of implements which are of outstanding merit. The Messrs Doe have a wide business connection throughout Central Scotland, and they have established their high reputation by always supplying farm accessories and necessities of the very best standard. The firm will appreciate a call from progressive farmers who are desirous of keeping their places equipped to perfection.”


Thoughts on the binder in 1891

There were lots of different opinions on the binder in Scotland in the early 1890s. These were included in accounts of trials and demonstrations, as well as correspondence to the agricultural and other newspapers. Farmers sometimes wanted to share their experiences of working with the binders in the agricultural press. They included a farmer in the county of Midlothian who called himself “A Mid-Lothian Farmer”. He wrote to the farming newpaper the “Farming World”. It was reprinted in the Linlithgowshire gazette of 26 September 1891. It is a practical and reflective account. It is worth quoting at length:

“The binder still imperfect

“A Mid-Lothian Farmer” writes to the Farming World as follows:-“In your copy of yesterday, notice is given of a trial of binders in the north, where five machines competed. The committee’s report of the trial, it says, will be presented in a few days. That report will be looked forward to both by the different makers and farmers generally with considerable interest. I see the average weight of draught of each machine was very much alike, McCormick’s being if anything the heaviest. I look upon the binder as one of the many indispensable implements of the farm at the present time, if we wish to make farming pay. I have had a Massey for the last five years, and while it has done, and is the season still doing, good work, my great objection to it is its heavy draught even with three horses in it, and I can easily understand that the same objection will hold good regarding all the other machines. Another objection I have to it is, that it will not cut when the bottom grass is in the least degree damp. Of course it may be said with a certain amount of truth that grain ought not to be cut when it is damp, still the most of farmers agree that if the grain is dry the cutting can be proceeded with, even although the bottom grass is damp, and we find ordinary reapers cut quite well when it is in this state-not so the binders. I have often thought (although I am sorry I am not an engineer) that some means might be devised to lessen the weight of draught. One great objection to almost all of the present binders is, that they have only one wheel on which the great bulk of the weight of the machine rests. This arrangement reminds me very much of a reaper brought out by the firm of kemp, Murray & Nicholson, of Stirling, more than thirty years ago, and which has been long since numbered amongst the things that were. With only one wheel and the land soft, which it has recently been, I am justified in saying the binder is as heavy to draw empty as Harrison & McGregor’s back delivery when full.

The question arises, Can a binder be made any other way than with one wheel? I am of opinion that it can. In place of the driving wheel being in the centre as at present, there could be two wheels substituted for it in front of the end of the knife bar. The knife, binder, web &c, could be driven from behind by the two front wheels. A third wheel could be placed in the rear of the frame to carry it, along with the two front wheels. In this way elevating webs would be dispensed with. The web behind the knife bar could be raised considerably at the back end to allow room for the binder to receive the cut corn, and the bound sheaf would be delivered at the side as at present. Also, seeing there would be three wheels to carry the frame, the knife bar and that part of the frame carrying the revolving web could have a joint same as other two-wheeled reapers. The advantages arising from these arrangements are the following:-having three wheels in place of one on which the greatest bulk of the weight is carried, they would not sick so much into the soil as a single wheel would. Consequently the draught would be so much lighter. Then being able to dispense with the elevating webs and the machinery necessary for driving them, would form a very considerable saving of power, while the joint at the end of the knife bar would give a more equitable stubble, as in the case in our two-wheeled reaping and mowing machines. I give you, sir, these few opinions and suggestions regarding our reaping and binding machines what they are, and what no doubt in course of time they will be. They are too heavy for ordinary use by nearly one-half. They much be made to cut although the grain us damp, equally as well as common reapers. Then, and not till them, can it be said truly that they have reached anything like perfection. Should the remarks I have made regarding the improvements I think desirable, meet the eye of any of our agricultural engineers, or any one who takes an interest in the perfecting of the binder, it would be gratifying to hear through the medium of your weekly what suggestions they may make, whether they may be for or against those of the writer, provided they are in the best interest of a perfected binder.”


The trial of binders at Inverurie in 1890

Trials were an important way to demonstrate new agricultural implements and machines in a district. They were usually arranged by local or regional agricultural societies, though the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland also played an important role in organising them. They enabled the societies to bring together a number of machines from a range of makers to compete against one another and demonstrate how they compared to one another. They let farmers and other agriculturists see the merits – and otherwise – of a variety of them before purchasing one for themselves. Trials could also be social affairs, attended by the leading farmers of a district and concluded with a dinner.

Trials were especially important for letting farmers and agriculturists see innovative implements and machines at work. Trials included ones for binders and other harvesting machinery, as well as double furrowed ploughs, and tractors.

In the 1890s a number of local trials were held throughout Scotland to demonstrate binders.

The following account of a local trial at Inverurie, from the Aberdeen press and journal of 8 September 1890, gives a full account of how they are arranged, attendees, how they worked, and social activities. It highlights the novelty of the binders.

“Trial of binders at Inverurie

The Northern Agricultural Society, with its usual energy and anxiety for the furthering of the aim of its existence-the promotion of agricultural interests-this season organised an exhibition of binders, which took place on Saturday on the farm of Lofthillock, Inverurie, fields on which were kindly placed at the disposal of the Executive by Mrs Philip. It was originally intended to hold the exhibition on the farm of Balhaggardy, but the serious illness of Mr Maitland, sen., rendered that proposal impossible. The weather was beautifully fine, and a large number of leading agriculturists assembled to witness the display. Amongst those who attended were:-Messrs Mackie, Petty, Fyvie; Forrest, Castle of Auchry, Monquhitter; George Wilken, Waterside of Forbes; Cruickshank, Comisty; Cocker, Hill of Petty; Bruce, Collithie; Bean, Balquhain; Burr, Tulloford; Morrison, Hatton Slap; John Milne, Mains of Laithers; Gall, Smiddyburn; G. A. Duncan, manager, Messrs G. W. Murray & Co., Banff; Mackintosh, Aberdeen; Turnbull, Smithston; Law, Lochead; France, of Messrs Cardno & Darling, Aberdeen; Adie, late of Lenabo, Longside; Davidson, Mill of Clola; Thompson, Haddo, Methlic; Walker, Tillygreig; Stewart, Knapperna; Hugh Wilson, Milton of Noth; Kiloh, Ardmurdo; Tait, Crichie; Mitchell, Lairshill; Harper, wire merchant, Aberdeen; Glashan, Fawells; Durno, Jackston; Durno, Mains of Glack; Moir, Shadowside; William Black, Kinermit; and bruce, Myreton, &c. The various machines exhibited were as follows:-Buckeye Banner, by Mr Alexander, Glasgow; The McCormick, by Mr William Reid, Aberdeen; Wood’s Standard, wood’s Single Apron, The Brantford, and Brantford with front wheel, by Messrs Ben. Reid & Co., Aberdeen; Bisset’s binder, with front wheel, by Messrs Cardno & Darling; and Hornsby & Son’s Royal Society Builder. Mr George Bruce, secretary of the Society, had all the arrangements for the exhibition carried out with his usual carefulness and foresight, and in his efforts to secure the success of the exhibition he was ably assisted by the following members of the Executive Committee:- Messrs Ranald Macdonald, convener; Strachan, Saphock; Grey, Balgove; Adam, land surveyor, who were assisted by Messrs H. Macgreger (of Messrs Harrison Macgregor), and Littlejohn, Whitemyres. At the outset the binders were tried on a field with a steep incline for the purpose of testing to the full their capabilities, and also with the view of allowing an opportunity to those in charge of the respective binders to explain the merits of their entries. After ample time had been given for this the machines were removed to a field of larger dimensions, where about half an acre was allotted to each. The work was accomplished in a creditable manner by each, the cutting being clean, the stubble being comparatively short, and the time occupied being anything but prolonged. It would, however, be somewhat individious to give details of the operations, more especially in view of the fact that the Executive had not at their command a dynamometer to test the draught of the various machinery. Suffice it to say that the satisfactory work in each case was favourably viewed by the spectators. Here it may be mentioned parenthetically that this is the first exhibition of the kind ever held in connection with the Royal Northern, and that it is the only one of the kind held this year in the kingdom. That the display marks a step in the right direction will not be doubted when it is remembered that agricultural implements are generally relegated to an inferior position in the showyards of live stock, and that consequently inventors and engineers of not get the place to which they are justly entitled in the agricultural world. In addition to the binders, several manure distributors were exhibited. These were the Strawsonizer, and a couple of machines invented by Mr Davidson, Mill of Clola. These implements commanded considerable and favourable attention. On leaving the field the executive and their friends adjourned to the Kintore Arms Hotel, where Mrs Amnnand purveyed an excellent repast. At the social board Mr Ranald Macdonald presided, and Mr George Bruce acted as croupier. On covers being removed, the loyal and patriotic toasts were pledged.

The Chairman then said it was very difficult, indeed, to exaggerate how much the farmer was indebted to the inventors and makers of agricultural implements Without the aid of these, farmers would be very much handicapped. He went on to say they had implement makers in Aberdeen who were not only known in this country, but who were known all over the world. A good many of them present knew Mr George Reid, who was one of the originators of the firm of Messrs Ben Reid & Coy., and he was glad to say that those who succeeded to that firm had kept up its reputation. (Applause)

He coupled the toast with the name of Mr Anderson, who replied.

The Chairman them explained that it was not the intention of the committee to publish a report. Mr Bruce had written to the Royal English Society for the use of its dynamometer, but it had not been sent, and consequently no fair criterion of the work could be obtained.

Mr Garvie gave “The Royal Northern Society”, and paid a high compliment to Mr Bruce for the great interest he showed in the affairs of the association.

Mr Bruce replied, and in doing so said the farmers in the district made his work easy by the interest which they took in the society’s affairs. He also referred to the kindness shown by Mrs Philip in granting the use of her fields, and to the trouble to which the grieve on the farm had put himself to make the exhibition a success. He begged to propose their health.

The sentiment having been pledged, other toasts followed, including the health of the chairman.”


What was entered for the “New Implements” award at the Highland of 1937?

As noted in an earlier post the “New Implement” was an important aspect of the Highland Show. In 1937 there was a particularly strong entry for the award. Some of the entries were from well-known and long established businesses, such as Cruikshank & Co. (Ltd), Denny Iron Works, Denny, J. L. & J.Ballach, Gorgie Implement Works, Edinburgh, and Alexander Jack & Sons (Ltd), Maybole. Others were introduced by inventors who had a good idea that would help to support the mechanisation of Scottish agriculture.

The Scotsman published an extensive account of the entries in its pages of 22 June 1937. Here is what it said about the Scottish entries:

“The Highland Show at Alloa

New Implements

The competitive section

This year there are no fewer than 18 entries for the Society’s silver medal for new implements, as compared with 10 at Melrose last year and 13 at Alloa in 1929.

One or two of the entries are improvements on existing implements, and several are of labour-saving devices, which bring them into the category of new implements. 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 and at his own expense, take his new implement out of the showyard during 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 Mr J. P. Ross-Taylor. Mungoswalls, Duns, chairman of directors of the Society, who is also steward of the implement sections; Mr James Paton, Kirkness, Glencraig, Fife; and Mr John E.B. Cowper, Gogar House, Corstorphine, Edinburgh.

Mobile grass drier

One of the novelties in the show, a mobile grass drier invented by Messrs R. H. Rowell, Thomas Sanderson, and D. H. Sanderson, has been entered for competition by Mobile Driers (Ltd), Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Radiant heat is used in order to bring the moisture content of the grass to such a temperature that expansion takes place, thus liberating the moisture from the cellular tissue, which comes away in the form of vapor. It is then carried away by a convection current introduced from the bottom. As the convection current rises it meets the driest grass first, and, as it ascends, that which is less dry passing through the layer of grass on the various conveyor belts, and finally passing out fully saturated at the open top of the machine.

The principal advantage of this method of using radiant heat as a drying medium is exemplified by the fact that although the temperature of the saturated or partly saturated air drops very considerably (due to the latent heat of evaporation), the radiant panels still retain their full heat, being unaffected by the temperature of the surrounding air. The grass on each conveyor is subjected to radiant heat emission both from above and below the intensity of the radiant heat on the various conveyors being regulated; the wet grass is subjected to the greatest intensity, and this is diminished on the lower conveyors as the grass approaches a state of dryness. By this means a higher thermal efficiency is obtained than is possible where only a convection current is used.

Mobility of unit

The grass is taken up on an elevator and dropped on to the travelling conveyor belts to a thickness of approximately 4 ins, and the cascaded five times from one belt to the next below it before being automastically ejected in twelve minutes, this being the average time taken to dry grass which requires to have extracted moisture composing 80 per cent, of its total weight. The transmission, mounted upon a chassis, takes the drive direct from the source of power, which is usually a tractor or traction engine. Each unit is mounted on a pneumatic-tyred wheeled chasis and can be moved from farm to farm, or, if necessary, from field to field.

Bracken cutting scythe

A bracken and thistle cutting scythe has been entered by Cruikshank & Co. (Ltd), Denny Iron Works, Denny. This invention had been designed for use in accessible places, where it is impossible or dangerous to operate horse-driven or motor-driven cutters because of rough, wet, or steep land, or of trees and rabbit warrens. The scythe consists of two blades, each having a concave cutting edge resembling sickles placed back to back, which are fixed by means of a socket to a central Y handle, and weighs 5 ½ lbs. It is claimed that by means of the scythe large numbers of unskilled workers could be equipped at a moderate outlay for cutting large areas of bracken-infested land cheaply and expeditiously.

Spuds for mower wheels

Messrs J. L. & J.Ballach, Gorgie Implement Works, Edinburgh, exhibit “Sure-Grip” spuds for hay mower wheels. They have been designed for renewing worn hay mower wheels which have lost their gripping power. The centre rib on the spuds minimises slip on sidelands, and also ensures smooth transport on roads. The cost of supplying and fitting the spuds is about half the cost of new wheels. The spuds are easily fitted.

Hay-stacking elevator

Mr Robert Fraser, Threapmuir, Fossoway, Rumbling Bridge, has entered a haystacking elevator of his own invention. The chief feature of this elevator is that it can be easily controlled by one person. It can also be worked as long as desired without any risk of choking. The engine is enclosed, and is thus kept free from seeds &c. The elevator can be fitted with Dunlop wheels at small extra cost.

Glasgow firm’s devices

Three entries have been made by Messrs W. Henderson & Sons, Kelvindale Road, Glasgow. One is the “Collins” anti-slip wheel device, for fitment to pneumatic-tyred tractors and other vehicles. The fitment imparts a caterpillar or feathering action, whereby the loss of power is reduced to a minimum. The second is a harrow, the purpose of which is to provide a means of cultivation for various operations at present requiring a specialised machine or tool for each different operation. The third is an improvement in implements for fitment to “Collins” junior bracken cutter.

Ayrshire machines

A new three-row combined drill plough, artificial manure distributor, and dibbler or spacer is exhibited by Alexander Jack & Sons (Ltd), Maybole. This new machine represents an advance in the methods of cultivating potatoes and turnips, and is designed to increase the speed of planting without employing additional horse-power or manual labour. The same firm exhibits an improved three-row drill cultivator, with shafts for one horse. It is claimed that it can do the same work as three men and three horses with single-row cultivators or hoes.

Soil aerator

Mr John Hutton, Lemonth, Crail, Fife, shows a soil aerator, invented by exhibitor and made by D. Colville Carr, engineers, Crail. The main feature incorporated in the aerator is to be found in the movable tines. By a slight twist of the handles-which also serve for pulling the instrument-two tines come into operation in the space between each plant. As a plant is approached a twist of the handles in the reverse direction throws the two moveable tines out, and thus allows the plant to pass between.

All-crop harvester

Alexander Strang (Tractors) (Ltd), 4 Duddingston Gardens South, Edinburgh, exhibit the “Allis-Chalmers” all-crop harvester-a machine for cutting and threshing crops in one operation. It is claimed to be a machine new in threshing principles, in shape, and in design, and entirely new in results, a machine designed to suit all territories and all crops.

Animal feeding trough

An animal feeding trough, invented by Mr A. B. Allan, Auchinleck, Newton Stewart, and made by Mr John Rutherford & Sons, engineers, Earlston, Berwickshire, is exhibited by Messrs Gillies & Henderson, Bread Street, Edinburgh. This trough has an ingenious locking device. While the animals are feeding the trough is held in a locked position, but when the feeding stuffs have been consumed the trough is automatically turned upside down. This locking device ensures that the trough will be kept perfectly dry, and this prevents feeding stuffs from becoming damp.

Refrigeration plant

Messrs G. D. L. Swann & Son, Abercorn Street, Glasgow, have entered a pulsometer refrigeration plant, invented by a Reading firm. The plant is a methyl chloride refrigerating plant for cooling milk at approximately 45 gallons per hour under normal weather (summer) conditions from 90 degs F. to 40 deg F. It is in the design of the milk cooler itself that an advance is claimed. The design, viewed mechanically, is considered to be the best for withstanding internal pressure-i.e. a cylinder. No corrugated cooler could withstand so great a pressure.

Milking machine

Messrs Swann & Son also exhibit the Hinman-Simplex milking unit. The special improvements claimed, for recognition include the extreme simplicity of the design, which makes it possible to dismantle and re-assemble the whole unit, including the pulsator (patented) by hand only, no tools whatever being required.”


Local trials of binders in the late 1880s and early 1890s

There were a number of local trials of binders held by local agricultural organisations in the late 1880s and early 1890s. While some of the accounts of them were very short, others were much more extensive and provide great detail about the trial, including the machines entered and how they worked. They give a flavour of the event, its importance and the work carried out. The accounts were important for helping to disseminate information on binders, how they worked, and what they could achieve in the field.

The following is a selection of reports of trials of binders from this period.

Trial of harvest binders at Crathes (Aberdeen press and journal, 18 September 1888)

“Although no public trials of binders under the auspices under the auspices of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society have taken place, there have been semi-public trials in different parts of the country. The binders appear to be replacing the old reapers, and in a few years they will probably be the only implement of the kind in use. Yesterday one of Hornsby’s new binders started work at Mr Adam Todd’s farm, Milton of Drum, at Crathes Station, when a very large number of persons visited the harvest field. Amongst those present were noticed Mr Irvine of Drum, convener of the county; Colonel Innes, yr, of Learney; Mr Collie of Knappach, Mr Davidson, factor, Crathes; Mr Nicol, Upper Auguston; Mr Still, Nether Anguston; Mr Hunter, Crathes; Mr Ross, Crathes, &c. This binder has several improvements this year, and though the crop was heavy and there was a great sole of grass it gave the greatest satisfaction to everyone present. The machine cut as low as any grass mower, and so perfect is the cutting and gathering power that no grass chokes it. This year the sheaf is smaller, a great improvement on the old “ill to win” sheaves. So pleased were many of the farmers with the new binder that several orders were given for delivery next season to Mr George Bruce, Aberdeen, the local agent.”

Trial of binders (North British agriculturist, 28 August 1889)

“A trial of binders, under the auspices of the Fettercairn Farmers’ Club, took place on a field belonging to Mr Cameron, brewer. The field, which almost adjoins the market stance, was visited during the afternoon by a large number of spectators. There were two machines, “Massey’s” and “McCormick’s”. There was no judicial decision given, but both machines performed their work in an admirable manner.”

Trial of binders in Banffshire (North British Agriculturist, 9 September 1891)

“On Saturday, on two fields on the farm of Braco, Keith, there was an exhibition of binders. Five machines took part in the trial, viz Blairgowrie, shown by Messrs Bisset & Son; the Woods, shown by Messrs B. Reid & Co., Aberdeen; the Massey, shown by Messrs G. W. Murray & Co., Banff; the McCormick, shown by Messrs Smith & Sons, Aberdeen; and the Brantford, shown by Messrs B. Reid & Co. All the machines, with the exception of the Blairgowrie binder, were of American design. Each machine had to cut and bind an equal plot of standing barley in one field, and in another field, on a slope, the machines followed in rotation, the barley crop being considerably lodged. Despite the softness of the ground, and the different ways in which the crop was lodged by bad weather, excellent work was done. The trial was under the auspices of the Central Banffshire Farmers’ Club, and was attended by a large number of interested agriculturists. The committee of the club will present a report on the trial in the course of a few days.”

Trial of binders (North British Agriculturist, 7 September 1892)

“Under the auspices of the Stirling Agricultural Society, a trial of binders was held yesterday on Raploch and Kildean farms, near Stirling, tenanted by Mr P. Dewar, and Mr McKerracher respectively. The weather was extremely favourable. Eight machines were entered from John Wallace & Sons, Graham Square, Glasgow (Massey-Harris “Brantford” open and binder); J. & H. Keyworth & Co., Liverpool, per Messrs James Gray & Co., seedsman, Stirling (“Adriance” rear discharge binder); Kemp & Nicholson, Stirling (Massey-Harris “Toronto” light binder); Richard Hornby & Sons, Grantham, England; P. & R. Fleming & Co., 29 Argyle Street and 16 Graham Square, Glasgow (“Bindlochline” binder and “McCormick’s” open end binder); Graham & Morton, ironmongers, Stirling (“The Buckeye Banner” binder); J. Bisset & Sons, agricultural engineers, Blairgowrie. The trials took place on four different fields, three being in barley and one in oats. The barley in the first field operated upon was a fairish crop, while the other two were decidedly over the average, with an undergrowth of grass and foggage. The oats were a heavy crop. The soil was a heavy clay, and soft in consequence of the wet weather. The exhibition was a distinct success, and was very useful in the way of enabling the farmers to present to form an estimate as to the machine best suited for their purpose.”


The introduction of binders in Scotland and other reflections on the implement trade

Accounts of dinners and other events of the Scottish agricultural implement makers sometimes provide nuggets of information about the history of the makers, the development and introduction of particular implements and machines. One such account was published in The Scotsman of 29 November 1922. It related to a dinner for Mr William Poole of Armstrong & Main (Ltd), Edinburgh. He had been working in the trade since 1871. He played a key role, working for one of the important makers and agents. He had a number of important recollections, including that of the binder into Scotland. This was to play a key role in the mechanisation of the grain harvest. Here is what the newspaper account wrote of that introduction and Mr Poole’s reflections on the implement making sector:

“Scottish implement trade

Introduction of self-binders

Mr William Poole, of Messrs Armstrong & Main (Ltd), Edinburgh, who has been for fifty years associated with Messrs A. & J. Main (Ltd) and Messrs Armstrong & Main, and is a director of the Highland and Agricultural Society and a member of Edinburgh Town Council, was last night entertained at dinner by the Agricultural Implement Trade in Ferguson & Forrester’s, Edinburgh. Mr James H. Steele, Edinburgh, presided, and at the chairman’s table were Councillor Poole, Sir Isaac Connell, S.S.C.; Bailie A. Thornton Hunter, Maybole (Messrs A. Jack & Sons); Mr W. B. Wallace (Messrs Wallace), Glasgow; and Major J. kemp Smith (Messrs kemp & Nicholson), Stirling.

East Lothian demonstrations

Bailie Thornton Hunter, Maybole, in presenting Mr Poole with an illuminated address and other gifts, said much water had run under the bridges since Mr Poole commenced his business life under the late Mr James R. Main in 1871. He often wondered if the agricultural engineer got the credit he was entitled to for inventing and improving machinery to assist the farmer in his endeavour to make the proverbial two blades of grass to grow instead of one. It was admitted that one of the greatest inventions of last century was the self-binder, and Mr Poole’s connections with its introduction in this country was a unique and interesting one. In August 1878, at a field trial of the Walter A. Wood and the McCormick wire binders, he superintended and secured for his firm a gold medal for the McCormick manure. In the early eighties he had the honour of starting eth first twine binder ever put to work in Scotland. This demonstration took place on the farm of Mr Waugh of Eweford, Dunbar. Shortly after this the Toronto binder was introduced into Scotland by the late Mr Wm Ford of Fenton Barns. In the season following the introduction of the Toronto machine, he secured one of four Brantford all-steel frame binders, made by Harris & Son, Brantford. This machine was found to be an improvement on anything that had up to that time been used in this country. It, however, lacked capacity for dealing with the heavy crops grown in this country and it left a long stubble. Quick to see the defects and to know how improvements could be made, Mr Poole met a representative of the makers in the harvest field at Abbey Mains, Haddington, and from the suggestions made by Mr Poole this make of machine was so much improved that it at once jumped into popularity. So great was the success of this binder that the Massey Company found it would be to their interest to amalgamate with Harris & Son, which they did, and their joint production was the world-famous Massey-Harris binder. Mr Poole had contributed in so small measure to the art of agricultural implement making, particularly to the self-binder branch of the art, and a debt of gratitude was due to him by the whole agricultural community for his energy, ability, and enterprise. (Applause)

Importance of agricultural engineer

Mr Poole, in reply, said the manufacture of agricultural machinery in this country gad been looked upon by many as the Cinderella of the engineering profession, but, in his opinion, this was a misconception. In the great countries of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentine, and South Africa the agricultural engineer occupied a position of pre-eminence, and, in co-operation with the farmer, had helped forward the development of these new countries with a rapidity that otherwise would have been impossible. During the late war the British Government discovered the importance of the agricultural engineer, and the amount of work entrusted to him. Through the manufacture of munitions of war and specialities connected with the same, was simply stupendous; and it must not be forgotten that it was in an agricultural engineering shop at Lincoln that the first war tank was designed and built. Mr Poole referred to the patriotic and valued services of the late Dule of Sutherland in land reclamation, spoke of the valuable assistance which the Scottish agricultural engineer has always received from the Scottish landed proprietors, their factors, and agents, and said that the passing of the landlords at the present time was nothing short of a national calamity. He had been connected with the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland since 1873, and with a few exceptions he had been present at the many trials and competitions that had been held under the auspices of the Society, and he had no hesitation in saying that the trials of tractors and tractor implements recently held at Dalkeith were, in his opinion, the most valuable and successful, so far as good and satisfactory work was concerned, that the Society had ever had. (Applause)

A fair field for Scottish agriculturists

Replying to the toast of “Scottish agriculture”, proposed by Mr W. B. Wallace, Glasgow, Sir Isaac Connell said Scottish agriculturists were up against a stiff proposition, but they were not going to lie down to it. They were not going to trust to Government promises or to political proposals. It was their own right hand and their brains on which they had to rely. It was right that the Government should help them with plant breeding, and to combat animal diseases. It was right that they should get the most up-to-date implements. If they got these, and were a fair field, he thought they would win through. (Applause)

Mr P. O. Turnbull, Smeaton, Dalkeith, in proposing the toast of “The Agricultural Implement Trade”, said farmers could not exist without implements, whether they were manufactured in Scotland or not, by they wanted implements which were suited to Scottish conditions.

Mr W. J. Hutchinson, Thurso Engineering Co., replied,

Other toasts included “Our Scottish Capital and its Civil Rulers”, proposed by Mr R. K. Anderson, and replied to by Councillor Philips Smith, and “The Highland and Agricultural Society”, proposed by Mr James Morgan (Messrs George Sellar & Son), and acknowledged by Mr A. B. Leitch, Inchstelly, Alves.’

William Ford of Fenton Barns was involved with the introduction of the binder in Scotland between at least 1887 and 1893. He advertised in the Scottish agricultural press in these years, exhibited at the Royal Highland Show and in 1895 participated in the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland’s exhibition of binders at work. He appears to have been earlier a farmer at Hardengreen, Dalkeith.


Reflections of the hay field and the hay harvest in 1899

Newspapers sometimes print articles that reflect on contemporary activities and widder issues. These can be helpful in understanding what it was like to participate in framing activities decades ago.

On 29 July 1899 the Linlithgowshire gazette printed an article on haymaking in present days and in past years. It is an interesting account for the reflections on the haymaking season and the significant changes that took place in the hay field over the course of the second half of the nineteenth century. The late 1880s and 1890s was also a time of significant change in the hay field with the development of rick lifters and horse forks which came to have a profound impact on the amount of manual labour needed to make hay. The article is quoted at length:

Haymaking past and present

The weather has become peculiarly fine and warm, the haymakers are busy in every field, and the scent of the beans and the new-mown grass give a pleasing sweetness to the morning breeze. When we see the rising sun tinting the hills with gold, and kissing the brow of great majestic white clouds enthroned on the horizon, and listen to the carolling of the lark and the lambs bleating on the brae, we conclude that the long-looked-for summer has come at last. The mildness of autumn has got a knack during recent years of prolonging its stay to the early spring, and the bleak winds of winter continue to sigh through the naked hedgerows, and whistle through the gaunt boughs, long after the swallow and cuckoo have made their appearance, so that one can scarcely believe that the summer is with us. As we wander by hill and dale with the sun nearing the west, and shedding its soft effulgent light o’er vast cornfields fast coming to the ear, and watch the long grass bending in billows before the breeze, and the shadows flitting over the grassy lawn, chasing one another until lost on the russet brow of some silent hill away in the distance, round which the grey shadows already creep and anon grow deeper, until night close o’er it, and it is lost from our view, we begin to realise that the nights are again lengthening and the days creeping in. The years roll, and everything comes in season, and, oh, how quickly! When boys at school how long the time was in passing, how wearisome the Sundays, and how long the fair time was in coming, and how we used to boast of what we would do when men, and still find us beginning, and but children in knowledge. With advancing years time passed too quickly, and hay time and harvest come before we realise that they should be here.

But the hay harvest is now in full swing, and the click of the reaper is heard once more throughout the land. Broad fields are soon mown down with these labour-saving machines with an ease and lightness unknown thirty years ago. The hay is then drawn into windrows with the horse rake, for the tedding process is now seldom performed, for the mowing machines leave the grass in a broad thin swathe upon the field that obviates the necessity of turning it. Men and women come with forks and coil it roughly up in case of rain. Next day, if the weather is suitable, a horse sledge is drawn between the rows, and two men fork the hay from each side, while another builds, until a fair-sized field rick is formed, which is gently slipped off, and the process renewed until all the crop is secured. It is allowed to dry there for a fortnight, or such time as the farmer finds convenient, when it is drawn on the rick-lifters and carried to the barnyard, where it is, by the aid of the horse-fork, elevated on to an oblong stack, and thus finally stored until required for use. The whole process is thus easily and expeditiously completed by the aid of machinery and horse power, and the labour bill materially reduced.

But some thirty or forty years ago haymaking was a serious business, for a good number of extra hands had to be employed for the occasion. A band of scythesmen cut down the hay, which was turned over next day, as the swathes were heavy and thick. When at the proper stage of dryness men with forks gathered it into windrows, while others followed and coiled it up; and hay was coiled in these days, it was not throw into heaps like now. Women and boys then raked about and trimmed up the coils by pulling the hay from the bottom and placing it on the top, like a man thatching a stack, which sharpened them up considerably, and assisted materially in throwing off the wet, and made them proof against any moderate rainfall. After the field was all hand raked, which was no light task in itself, the hay generally remained untouched for about a week, or until sufficiently dry, when it was turn-coiled, and again trimmed as formerly. It was then load on to the carts after drying a day or two longer, and finally staked in the barnyard. This system, when carefully performed, was certainly hard to beat, but it required a large number of hands to complete every detail properly. Quite apart from the question of wages, farmers would be somewhat dubious of returning to this old style, for it required a certain amount of taste, tidiness, and inborn thrift not noticeable in the field labourer nowadays. When by the aid of machinery the same ends can be obtained with a lightness and ease hitherto unknown, none are sorry that the old system has disappeared never to return, although one certainly regrets that the mirth and social glee characteristic of the time have also gone with it.

I believe few people even at the present time contemplate the occupations of the hay field without feeling a very pure and elevated delight. But the gathering together of so many hands in these days fostered a warm sympathy and cheerful mirthfulness rarely seen now. The mowers moving gracefully in concert, the grass trembling for a moment, then swept into swathes by the scythe, its grateful fragrance, the maidens tedding the hay, the soft summer air peculiar to the season, all excite a sensible pleasure in almost every mind. A concerted movement implies a common will, and creates an agreeable sensation; and a scheme of utility completed also gives a restful pleasure and satisfaction. It was quite a common thing for a band of scythesmen to gather at a farm after their day’s labours were finished, and cut down a fair-sized field before darkness set in. Of course this was generally arranged beforehand, and the “guidwife” prepared for the occasion. It was grand to see a squad of stalwart men, the one a little behind the other, swinging their scythes from side to side, keeping “chap” and all moving forward in unison. Every cutter tried to do his level best, for the old and experienced sat at the rig end smoking, cracking, and criticising, while the young played around or stood listening to their remarks. On the task being completed the company assembled in the farm kitchen where curds and cream, tea, scones, cakes, butter not made by machinery, home-made cheese, and a bottle or two of Liddel’s best disappeared as if by magic. After the inner man was soothed, satisfied, or elevated, as the case might be, a retiral was made to the granary, which had been recently swept. Lasses gathered in from the neighbouring farms, and a concertina, fiddle, or perhaps a penny whistle being got hold of, country dances, strathspeys, and reels were set in full swing with much “hooching”. The mirth, laughter, and rhythm of the dancers on the wooden floor could be hears a long way off, for the heavy beat of some twenty pairs of “tacketty” boots descending in unison made the rafters dirl, and the old barn rock and sway to its very foundation. Thus the merry hours passed, swift-winged, with joy unfeigned; then each by slaps and stiles took off their several way, for the labours of the morrow commanded attention.

Through the great decrease of the country population, by emigration, and its large influx to great cities, by the introduction of machinery, and the advance of science and education, a pleasing feature of country life has passed away. Although a new order of things has arisen on the ruins of the old, which enables the farmer to cope with the world-wide competition prevailing at present, still it is sad to think that the clannish feeling, warm sympathy, happy labour, love, and social glee of the past has fled never to return. The emigrant lying on a foreign shore, with his raven locks now mixed with “siller threeds” must look back on these happy scenes as sunny memories of his youth, which link him with sacred ties to his native home.-Andrew McFarlane, Chalmerston, in the “Scottish Farmer”.