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…..





It is some 1450 years since St Columba landed on the beautiful island of Iona, just off the west coast of Scotland. I was speaking after Church this morning to John Bell who is a well-kent face in the Church Music world, as he has penned many beautiful hymns and music. I was recounting to him that we first met at the end of 1992 on Iona.

I had designed and installed a new sound and loop system at the Abbey, and was going over to check it out again whilst some of my staff were working on a church in the neighbouring island of Mull. I was invited to stay at the Warden’s house, with his family and join them for dinner, and was pleased to do so. Composer John Bell was also a guest and we all passed a pleasant evening with a little of the amber liquid to fight off the cold blast.

Next morning I was at the ferry early to get the 6 o’clock boat to Mull, and since it was winter-time, I had my headlights on. As the ferry came in he courteously flashed his lights at me, so I flashed back in return. When he berthed, the captain came up to me and asked what I thought I was doing!

Apparently my headlights were blinding him, and he had flashed to me to indicate that I should put them off! He was almost unable to berth safely, and I might have had a hefty repair bill from Caledonian MacBraynes, the operators!…..silly me!.

Semi-retired?…not really!

Three months into our semi-retirement and we seem to be as busy as ever we were before we retired! We do have a little more freedom, but this is partly off-set by the fact that people who would have come along to the office, now phone, and I have to go out to see them….which is more time- and petrol- consuming.

We are gradually discarding the information files we have held-onto for years (for no apparent reason!); out-dated leaflets and posters; spare parts, instruction leaflets, and ink-cartridges for long-discarded printers and computers; power supply cables; non-working pens, rubbers galore; programme discs for ancient computer programmes. For some reason we didn’t dump them all at the time of the move, but simply piled them into boxes ‘to be sorted-out later’.

Sanity is starting to return to the household as we get used to working in the confined space available now, compared to the luxury of space we had before. We thought that the business would die naturally quite quickly, but our loyal customers and patients (some of whom we have know since the late 1980s), are quite tenacious, and are still seeking help in their 80’s and 90’s.

The best thing still is that we don’t need to be up and out for after 8 in the morning. The one downside is that we are now attending more funerals than ever before!

….but we can’t do anything about that!

A strange feeling!

So, just after our 43rd Wedding Anniversary,Young Lady of the House, and I are officially moving into semi-retirement. Last Friday,  we closed the shop where we have provided a local service for the last 13 years. There were other places before that, since 1984, but this had been the first one where we to be exposed to the ‘walk-in’ general public.

We’re not retiring, just moving back to our house, and providing a peripatetic service….(if you don’t know what it means…shame on you!). This meant that we had to sort out all the ‘stuff’ we had gathered in our offices over all the years, as well as records which we felt we just ‘had to keep’. This had to be compressed into one room, while still having everything available for instant access, as the phone calls and faxes are still coming-in.

Unfortunately the e-mails are not…..aaaaaarrrrgggghhh!

Our computer specialist has been in this evening and has found our lovely computer to be full of errors….so will have it tomorrow to clean it out and reload.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as we don’t HAVE to be up early in the morning, we don’t have to be available immediately to all and sundry who want me to do things they should be doing themselves, we don’t have the cost of insurance, heating, lighting, advertising, unwanted phone selling etc. We will still be able to provide the vast majority of the service we have provided recently but in a more relaxed way. I will still have to go out to my patients, some at a distance, but I can fit it into a day-trip with the Young Lady of the House, to some of the lovely parts of Scotland.

……..we’re really looking forward to all that…..once we can get the 15 boxes of stuff cleared and put away somewhere, where we can find them again!


Fabulous four-some!


I recently posted a blog about how bad things come in threes.  Well, luckily, the third never came! In fact we should be pleased that things seem to be going so well just now.

  • I’ve been (un-expectedly) elevated to Fellowship within my profession
  • A nephew has just become engaged to a lovely girl
  • We had a super meal with our daughter at the weekend
  • Our son and his fiancee are enjoying themselves down in London training for a new career

There are some other happenings which look exciting, but I don’t want to tempt fate.

The only one bad thing still in the forefront of our minds, is that we have had to close down our shop dealing with disability aids after only three years. It served the community well, but  many people now come in for free advice and just go on the net to hunt about to look for the cheapest bargain. Then if it is not suitable they come and see what we can do about it!

We’re not alone as many large and small businesses in our area have folded, leaving vacant premises and the whole urban landscape is becoming very depressing.

And of course behind every such closure lies much heartache for employers and employees alike. However we will fight on for as long as we can….and, hey, the next Government will be able to put everything to rights.

Meanwhile we will be happy with our good news!

All change….

This weekend our world changed….

Our son, who has faithfully worked along with us in our business, through good times and bad for many years, has taken another very large step along a new career path, where he will be much cleverer than his Old Mum and Pop. This is not peculiar to us as most parents want to see their children well established in life.

We always hoped it might happen, we always knew it would happen,  and when it did happen we rejoiced with them. Daughter, many years ago, established herself in a profession to make most parents feel proud, and it has proved to be so. Son has taken longer, but no less thoughtfully.

It will be strange not having him to turn to for technical advice, but as our tenure in business is slowly coming to an end, we will just have to manage.

His genetic background is full of those who have taken risks in life with many who were self-employed and entrepreneurial in spirit and action, so he will no doubt have the same worries and disappointments as we have had over the last 26 years. But if he has as much fun and excitement as we have have had, then it will be worthwhile.

Flying high but waiting slowly?

airport waiting

Just back from a business trip using Gatwick Airport, and as usual, for an 80 minute trip, many hours have to be spent getting-to the airport, going thro security and waiting at lounges and gates. And despite so much going-on and people to be watched, airports and their journey are immensely-boring.

Can anyone tell me how they break the monotony?

B********y weather

Over the last lot of weeks we have had reasonably open weather, and I have been at the office.

Then the one week when I have planned to go to beautiful St Fillans, in the middle of Perthshire, Edinburgh, and then to Kirkcudbright in the South west of Scotland……it snows!

Now if only I were a ten-year-old with a sleigh!

Retirement?….well just maybe!

A day of contrasts….

………… firstly with a visit to our business accountant to be quizzed about last year’s figures. It’s a bit like being called-up to the headmaster’s office, with the expected questioning and ticking-off! Had to hasten back to the office to sort out a few questions, and possible mistakes and report back asap.

………….in the evening we had over our neighbours whom we have known for almost 30 years. He recently resigned from his managerial post in a large company, and is now having a sabbatical, before deciding on what he wants to do until retirement. He is obviously enjoying doing very little after a hectic business life, and it is nice to see him so relaxed.

I think I envy him, but maybe it is not in my nature to not work. So it’s back to the grindstone tomorrow as usual!