The Wee Grey Fergie

Not a title which means much to many people of this generation, but to those of us baby-boomers, and those with a connection to the land, it engenders an era gone past.

But to go back to the beginning…….

Tom Monroe on tractor  undated.jpg

My father was born in 1918 (so a baby-boomer of the First World War) into a family which might have been called gentlemen farmers. They obviously had a lot of farm machinery, and accounts which I have, show that they did lots of contract work for the local farming community who could not, or did not want to, purchase equipment which they would only use for a short time.

I have no records of when they bought their first tractor, but the above updated photo shows my father driving what I believe to be a Wee Grey Fergie. Now, I may be wrong because his model had many variants. The formal model name was TE 20, (from Tractor, England, 20 horsepower) not a very inspiring name.

In 1916, Harry Ferguson started development on ‘The Ferguson System’ to make a plough and linkage become part of the tractor as a whole. He got a patent granted in 1926, and then worked further on the linkage in the early ’30s. Production of the pre-TE20 models began in Huddersfield in the David Brown Factory in 1936, and in 1939, Henry Ford in Detroit, in the States, took on production of some 300,000 Ford Ferguson units to 1947.

There were some problems between Ferguson and Ford about the production location, and by 1945 the Wee Grey Fergie TE20 was built by the Standard Motor Company, Coventry (who built the Standard car). In all, from May 1936 to July 1956, approx one million units were sold worldwide.

So why am I such a nerd about this tractor? Well, I never knew my paternal grandparents and their farming business, but I did know my maternal grandparents, also farmers, with a relatively-small-holding near Lisburn, Northern Ireland. An undated photo of my grandparents, shows the compicated kind of mechanical reaper which was used with horses.

Sarah and John Stewart at Ballymullan on reaper date unknown.jpg

This 1966 photo shows their Fergie with direct linkage from the tractor engine to the reaper blades…

Bobby Stewart ploughing Jul 1966.JPG

…..and this one of the same year shows a different mechanism attached to ‘turn-over’ hay to dry it off. Nice to see the evident equality with my aunt driving the tractor…..

Bobby and Agnes Stewart on 'wee grey Fergie' Ballymullan.jpg

…..and still manual labour was necessary until the farmer could afford another module  for their Fergie to do the job…

Agnes, Bobby Stewart, and mother Marg Crawford, Ballymullan.jpg

So I was regularly at the farm with my brother and eventually at about the age of 11 or 12, was allowed to briefly drive the Fergie. I can clearly remember the cold winter’s day in a field of kale, which was being cut by my uncle, and thrown into a trailer, and I was empowered to move the tractor and trailer forward. I don’t think my Grandmother or Mother were informed! It was not an easy vehicle to drive but eventually I believe I made some small contribution to local agriculture!

Hence my strange ‘attachment’ to this farming machine……

Move forward to a week ago when I received a birthday present which delighted me immensely. A little scale-model of the TE20, along with a lovely drawing of a rural scene by Trevor Mitchell showing a Fergie, ploughing, a postie on a bike,  a church clock-tower, and a flock of birds…..

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!

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Starry, starry, night….

One of the joys of this time of year, and living where we live, is the clear, crisp air and the cloudless evening sky which is the fore-runner of frost. We can take the chance of looking over the Campsie Fells and seeing the glory of the heavens… the stars, constellations and the moon…. and ask the fundamental questions of existence (or maybe not!).

When studing optics, I was intrigued with the fact that two instruments, the telescope and microscope, (which use the same basic components) had extended man’s observational possibilities in opposite directions.

The only problem is that as the technologies have improved, and extended the observable data, we constantly see something just out of focus…now if only the lenses were more powerful, or the images were a little sharper, then we might make out more details….

It’s an impossible dream….the laws of physics forbid it, so the chance to see the ultimate particles of matter, or the edges of the universe is not to be ours.

Meanwhile I think there is plenty to see and wonder at, even without the help of curved bits of glass…..

A Dynamic World!

Strange how things sometimes come together in an  interesting and satisfying conjunction!

There has been a lot of talk over the last few years, about the environment and global warming…..if you haven’t noticed, where have you been? Shots of Mr Cameron advising us to take to our bicycles, abounded on the small (and not-so-small) screen…..good political capital!

I remember as a child, that those of us with a bicycle, always aspired to have a lamp powered by a dynamo…do you remember?….it fitted on the rear forks, rested on the back wheel, and spun round with a very-satisfying ‘whirr’. Enough electricity was generated to power the front and back lights….which was great, until you stopped, and, since there was no power storage, the light faded.

 So……where is this leading? Well, we have always had a small radio in the bathroom, and the last one eventually packed-in, so we needed another one. Batteries were always a pain, as no matter how many you buy to keep for such eventualities, you can never find them when you need them!

Ah….now you are catching-on!……yes,…..we were in Tesco shopping  one night, and I spotted a perfectly-suitable little radio. Imagine my un-bounded JOY when I discovered that, although there is a space for batteries, it had a little crank to generate, and store power….so reducing the need for batteries, and preserving the environment!

The only downside is that the racket which the crank makes when being turned, is unbelievable! It is much noisier than the dynamo of 50 years ago! I suppose that if one’s hearing has deteriorated over the years, then it might just not sound so bad!

However, for £7.50….what can one expect!

Where does it all go?

A question has arisen in my mind. The aforementioned wedding has (hopefully) a barbecue as part of the proceedings. But the weather forecast does not look too good. So that set me thinking. In spring and summer, supermarkets and garden centres are full of barbecues, patio heaters etc, and clothes shops are promoting skimpy beachwear (for the ladies at least!). The equivalent happens at Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Hallowe’en.

So, when the promised heat -wave does not arrive, or people are turned-off buying Christmas tree lights, chocolate and/or fireworks, what happens to all the unused stock? Are there large secret warehouses marked on the outside with their contents, which will not need to be looked at for twelve months? Do they suddenly become empty, or are there a succession of lorries in January, bringing in the un-sold Christmas tat, whilst at the other end of the building, other lorries are taking out all the Easter stuff still stored from the previous year? You can work out the rest of the sequence for yourself. In fact, come to think of it, the stock could be on moving pallets, trundling along at exactly the right speed to allow them to traverse the floor of the warehouse, just in time to be taken out at the next appropriate season.

C’mon, you great suppliers and warehouse builders, how about a round of applause for a brilliant idea……British inventors can still come up with the goods!