Sowing the Banff way

One of the makers of sowing machines in north-east Scotland was George W. Murray & Co., Banff Foundry, Banff.

12971028_462045287322110_8382619169091399672_oIn 1868 the company exhibited a one horse corn drill and a two horse corn drill at the Highland Show.  In 1870 its sowing machines included a small sized corn drill, a medium sized corn drill, a combined land roller and grass seed sower as well as a turnip sowing machine.  A few years later in 1877 they included a turnip and mangold sower, hand seed drill, and a broadcast sowing machine. 

The company also made a range of other implements and machines, for which it was well-renowned and won a number of medals from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  In 1870 they included double furrow ploughs, double furrow ploughs with combined subsoilers, drill ploughs, horse rakes, a turnip cutter on wheels, zig zag harrows, corn bruisers and an oil cake breaker.  The company was also one of the few Scottish implement and machine makers to exhibit its manufacturers internationally, doing so at the Vienna International Exhibition of 1873.

12973509_462045323988773_7755854215769111457_oWhen G. W. Murray gave up his business in 1897, the Banff Foundry was taken over by Watson Brothers, which called themselves “Watson Brothers (successors to G. W. Murray & Co), Banff Foundry”.  Like George W. Murray, it also continued to make a range of agricultural implements and machines including reapers, turnip drills, field rollers and harrows.  William Watson, one of the brothers, died in 1924, after which the Foundry changed ownership to become Banff Foundry & Engineering Co. Ltd.  It continued in business until 1951 when a new company was proposed Banff Foundry & Engineering Co. (1951), Ltd which continued until 1954.

A letterhead from 1951 sheds some light on the earlier history of the company.  It states “Banff Foundry & Engineering Co., Ltd, agricultural implement makers and engineers, incorporating G. W. Murray & Watson Bros. est. 1820.”

There are still a few implements and machines from the Banff Foundry that can be seen around the vintage rallies today.  When you look at them, you are reminded of a long-established and well-renowned Scottish business with an international reputation.

The seed barrows made by the Banff Foundry, were seen at the New Deer Show, July 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Reekie – king of tattie machinery

Reekie is a name that has been intimately associated with tatties for since the mid 1940s: tattle sorters, graders, brushing machines, bed tillers, and stone and clod separators to name a few machines.

13131382_471881549671817_134532572790892775_oReekie Engineering Co. Ltd, was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in 1946.  By 30 August 1946 it was advertising its manufactures in the Farming News where it was to be a regular advertiser in following decades. Its works were at Lochlands Works, Arbroath.  By the early 1960s the company had premises at Arbroath, Forfar and Laurencekirk.  In 1868 it had premises at Station Road, Inverurie. 

In 1955 the company was recorded in trade directories as an agricultural engineer, machinery and equipment dealer and as an agricultural engineer, implement, machinery and equipment manufacturer.

It was a regular attender at the Highland Show from 1948 onwards, also entering a number of its new range of machines for the “New Implement” award.  These included its Reekie 4-row seeder in 1950, its potato sorter in 1960, its turnip harvester in 1960, its automatic weighing machine in 1961, its potato grader in 1961, its triple sized brusher grader in 1962, its rotor turnip harvester in 1963, its high capacity potato separator in 1963, its potato brushing machine in 1966, its continuous automatic weight in 1966, its multi-purpose potato grader in 1967 and its triple sizer multipurpose potato grader in 1968.  And of course its clod and stone separator, now built in Lincolnshire. It was an award winner.

13119810_471890486337590_8636710970931748226_oIts stone and clod separator was a revolution for the Scottish tattle grower.  It was key to solving the ever increasing problem of securing sufficient squad labour, and to more efficiently and effectively using harvesters.  The solution to the successful mechanisation of the potato harvest was in soil preparation and bed making rather than in harvesting.  It really did revolutionise work on the back of the harvester.

The photographs of the Reekie stone and clod separator were taken at Pilmuir Farm, Balerno, Midlothian in the 1990s.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


A Lanark name: County Garage (Lanark) Ltd

If you were in Lanarkshire you would have known the name of County Garage (Lanark) Ltd at Hyndford Road, Lanark.

13072734_468348110025161_6575134456516238356_oThe company started business in 1928 and continued until 1975.  By 1934 it was a Fordson dealer, retraining that agency into the 1970s. In 1955 it was also an agent for David Brown tractors.

In the mid 1960s if you were looking for implements, you could have purchased from County Garage a selection from Ransomes, Lister, Bamford, Howard, Jones, Allis Chalmers, Lundell and Wallace.

There are still a few Fordson tractors around the vintage rally circuit that bear the County Garage name. keep an eye out for them!

The photos were taken at the Highland Folk Museum rally, May 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes



13086770_468396720020300_3070484415388940609_oDrill scarifying was an important part of turnip culture in the days before weedkillers were available.  Drill scarifiers were largely used for paring away the sides of drills to destroy weeks and bring the drills into the intending form, leaving less work for the hand-hoe.

Drill scarifiers were made by a number of implement and machine makers in Scotland.  They included Alex Ballach & Sons, Alex Jack & Sons Ltd, A. & J. Main & Co. Ltd, Thomas Hunter & Sons. J. & R. Wallace, H. W. Mathers & Sons, John Wallace & Sons Ltd, Bon Accord Engineering Co Ltd, and Charles Weir. 

13063294_468396696686969_4092871520939588330_oIn 1912 Alex Ballach manufactured a disc drill scarifier with patent compensating spring levers and patent toeing attachment for £10 10s.  It also made a disc drill scarifier with patent compensating spring levers for £8 10s and a disc drill scarifier with patent compensating spring levers and side land arrangement for £8 15s.  It also launched at the Highland Show of 1927 its “Universal” expanding disc drill scarifier.

The photographs of the Jack of Maybole scarifier were taken at the Ayr vintage machinery rally, 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Sowing with Gillies & Henderson

One of the well-known agricultural machinery dealers in eastern Scotland was Gillies & Henderson of Edinburgh.

13055061_468359223357383_6616357959059210091_oGillies & Henderson opened its business at Munro Place, Canonmills, Edinburgh, in 1920. Shortly afterwards it moved to premises at 59 Bread Street.  It was associated with Bread Street for many years. By 1940 it also had premises at 254 Leith Walk.  Major changes came in 1961 when it became a company limited by guarantee and moved to the newly established Sighthill Industrial Estate, where other agricultural implement and machine makers were also conducting their businesses. 

The company also had a premises at St Catherine Street, Cupar, in 1934.  By 1951 it had moved to 31 Crossgate, and then to Kirk Wynd by 1955.  By 1958 the company had opened up premises at Rosehall, Haddington.

By the late 1860s the company had changed its operating structure and had separate registered companies reflecting its depots in Edinburgh, Forfar and Perth.  They were dissolved in 1993.

The company undertook a range of activities.  In Post Office directories from the 1930s it described itself as agricultural ironmongers, agricultural engineers, machinery, implement and equipment dealers, tractor and implement dealers.  It was also a wire netting manufacturer and a wire cloth, wire netting and fence manufacturer.

The company had agencies for a wide range of implement and machine makers.  In 1926 they included Massey Harris, and from 1952 David Brown.  In 1962 they were Banfords-Claeys, Wright Rain Irrogation, Ayrshire Elevators and John Salmon beet harvesters. In 1968, agencies included Johnson, New Holland and Clayson.

As an agricultural implement and machine maker, it entered a swathe aerator for the new implement award at the Highland Show in 1957.  It also entered implements made by the Ayrshire Elevator Co., Kilmarnock and Badger Northland Inc, Kaykauna, Wisconsin.

There are still a number of implements and machines with the Gillies & Henderson badge on them around the rally fields.  Look out for the black and silver badge.

The photographs of the Gillies & Henderson grain drill at the Fife Vintage and Agricultural Machinery Club rally, June 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


A northern name: James McKidd 

One name known in the north of Scotland from the 1850s onwards was James McKidd, Thurso, Caithness.  By 1870 he was associated with the Thurso Foundry.

12957700_464149033778402_5196375534441678198_oBy 1858 James was recorded as a millwright.  He continued that trade until at least 1909.  By the 1870s he was also an iron founder and a mechanical engineer, trades he continued in following years.  By 1883 he also described himself as an agricultural implement maker, and specialised in making cornmills and thrashing machines. 

James also made drill scarifiers. In 1880 he exhibited at the Highland Show in Kelso (a long way to travel) his new patent drill scarifier which he had invented.

James was also ambitious.  He took further implements to the Highland Show at Inverness in 1892.  He also advertised in the North British Agriculturist and the Scottish Farmer in 1909 and 1910.

12998414_464149263778379_2509326257513094399_oExamples of his drill scarifier are still to be seen around the rallies and museums.  There is one at the Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore.  Another has been a regular exhibit to the Strathnairn Farmers’ Vintage Rally.

The photographs show James McKidd’s patent drill scarifier at the Strathnairn rally, 2014.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


Sowing the neeps 

13040980_468391210020851_3796420647623898925_oBack in 1912 if you were looking for a turnip, mangold or carrot sower you could have purchased one from a number of the agricultural implement and machinery makers in Scotland.  By that time some of these companies were well-known makers: Alex Ballach & Sons, A. Newlands & Son, Alex Jack & Sons Ltd, Thomas Hunter & Sons, John Doe Ltd, J. D. Allan & Sons, and Kemp & Nicholson.

If you wanted one from Alex Ballach & Sons, you could have purchased an improved turnip sower with disc coulters for £6 15s, or one with ordinary coulters at £6 10s.  A Newlands turnip sower was £6 and a Kemp & Nicholson two row turnip and mangold sower £6 10s. 

13063191_468391130020859_3009986264762141049_oBallach was an award-winning maker, having won a silver medal for its combined turnip and manure sower in 1923 from the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.  It also exhibited a new improved combined turnip and manure sower at the Highland Show in 1928.

The photographs of the Wallace of Glasgow turnip sower were taken at the Ayr vintage rally, 2015.

© 2016 Heather Holmes


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