Peter Love reports on the brilliant celebrations that marked County’s 90th anniversary; a fitting tribute to the famous Hampshire-based tractor conversion specialist
Over a memorable weekend late in September, tractors and enthusiasts gathered to mark two important anniversaries – 100 years of Roadless and County’s 90th anniversary – in a joint celebration held on the Lloyd family’s farm at Lilbourne, Northants. With some 170 examples working and on display, visitors were treated to the rarest of spectacles, including no fewer than nine County 1474s, both long- and short-nose models, celebrating the company’s 90th Anniversary.
Another highlight was the chance to see a pair of County 1884s hard at work; a model that represented the ultimate in the County four-wheel-drive tractor range. Watching these two powering up the hills and working the hard-baked, stoney ground on Sunday truly was something to savour, with the looming clouds adding to the drama. It didn’t start raining until lunchtime, so everyone had plenty of time to have a go in the morning session, before loading up.
However, Sunday’s rather dreary weather was in complete contrast to the sweltering sunshine that bathed the event in temperatures up to 25°C on Saturday. This put everyone in a relaxed mood, with some not even unloading their machines as they spent so much time chatting! Nevertheless, there was still plenty to be seen out in the fields, working with implements from the likes of Ransomes, Dowdswell, Kverneland, Bomford and Lempkin.
Saturday evening saw the village hall filled to overflowing with an audience all anxious to hear talks given by Mervin Ford and Mike Gormley (former export salesmen who travelled the world for County), and Chris Burrell who worked on the County assembly line at the factory in Fleet, Hampshire. The banter between the speakers was much enjoyed by all; even those late arrivals who had to stand outside listening!
Another striking aspect of this event as a whole was the fact that it attracted such a diverse group of visitors. I know people were attending from The Netherlands, Norway, Germany and even Canada, which demonstrates the worldwide appeal of the County machines. The international flavour continued with the tractors present, too, as there were entries that, in the past, had worked in North America, the West Indies, Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa, the Republic of Ireland and even the Falkland Islands.
Spotting the gems
The nature of this anniversary event ensured that there were plenty of interesting machines present although, rather sadly, the record for the greatest number of Countys gathered in one place failed to be broken. The current record of 99 that’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records, was set on July 29th, 2018, in County Tipperary. Nevertheless, there was still plenty on show to be admired.
Among the notables, I spotted was the Brychan Anwyl County 1164-40, that arrived back in Wales from the Falkland Islands in May 2018 and now looks so good. The lovely, original-looking, pre-production, short-nose County 1474 was another treat to see, as was Ben Hassall’s SEM-made County HSH140 with its Perkins 6354.3 engine. This is one of two made, and Ben brought it home from South Africa where it had worked in the sugar cane industry. He says it handles beautifully on its coil-spring front axle.
Over from Wales were Eirian and Hywell Evans, with their County 774 and 944 tractors. The latter had been restored (including the fitting of some lovely 45-degree Firestone Traction Field tyres) about 10 years ago, but this event was the first time it had actually been used in the field since that work was completed. This was perhaps my favourite tractor at the event, and I was particularly impressed that the completely rebuilt engine generated no black smoke while working hard.
Then there was Ian McCombie’s County 764, fitted with the later-style Duncan cab that looked just right. I’d have liked to have taken this one home, too! Another with a Duncan cab was Bill Marley’s County 4600-Four; a rare tractor in this configuration that has been rebuilt very well indeed.
So, to sum up, this was certainly an occasion that I won’t forget for a very long while. There was an overwhelming spirit of positivity wherever you went at this event and, during my last visit to the paddock for one final look at the wonderful collection of County tractors, it was so obvious from what was being said that everyone had enjoyed a great weekend that had provided the most fitting of tributes to the interesting, notable and desirable County marque.
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