Bob Weir visits beautiful Ayrshire to meet long-time Fordson enthusiast, Ferguson Dalziel, and his 1958 Fordson Power Major.
‘Fergie’, as he is known to his family and friends, lives in the village of Dunlop, between Kilmarnock and Glasgow. The Ayrshire countryside in this area boasts some of the best agricultural land in the UK, and is well-known for its dairy farming.
The local cattle used to be known as Dunlop, or Cunninghame cattle, and have been exported all over the world. Typical Ayrshire’s are medium in size, and weigh an average of 1,200lbs. Their distinctive, red markings can vary from orange to dark brown, and may also cover the legs. The breed is known for its hardiness and low somatic cell counts, which allows them to readily covert grass into milk. They also have a reputation for longevity, and easy calving.
Most of the local tractor enthusiasts around Dunlop have a close affinity with the land, and the majority come from an agricultural background. “I’ve lived in Ayrshire all my life,” Fergie explained. “I moved up to a farm with my parents from Sorn, near Cumnock, in 1958, and have lived in the area ever since. Ayrshire was a great place to grow up, but things have certainly changed over the years.
Up until the 1980s, farmers could make a comfortable living from a holding of less than a hundred acres and with perhaps as few as 30 cows. But those days are long gone. The farms have become a lot larger, and they are using more modern machinery.” Fergie also recalls that worker’s cottages were sometimes quite basic, back in the 1950s.
“As I remember, we had no electricity, hot water, television, or telephone,” he told me. “The floors were all made from stone, and my mother did all her cooking on a kitchen range. During the winter months, we would sit by the fire, and the front of me would be roasting while my back was freezing cold! It all sounds a bit grim, but they were good days.”
Like many young people of his generation, Fergie had to leave the land, and seek employment elsewhere. “I spent my working life in the haulage business, driving lorries for local firms,” he recalls. “I also drove part-time for a local coach company, for the best part of 50 years. My job took me all over Scotland, until I retired when I was 65.”
Fergie has always had a fascination with old machinery, and still has a liking for old tractors, particularly Fordsons. “It all goes back to my farming days,” said Fergie, who is a member of the Ayrshire Vintage Tractor & Machinery Club. “The first tractor I ever drove was an old Fordson N. I was very young at the time, so that would have been back in the 1950s. This was quite typical for young lads growing up on a farm. There was always an adult on hand to supervise things, so you were quite safe.
“The N was very basic, of course and, as I recall, the machine was one of the WW2 models, although the tractor had been painted with a new coat of green. Although those tractors were, even then, then getting on a bit, they had been very important in their day, and were certainly popular with the local Land Girls.”
Fergie was usually a regular at the local agricultural shows, and eventually decided to buy his own Fordson. “I liked the camaraderie at the shows, and some of my friends and other enthusiasts were quite knowledgeable,” he explained. “The majority had also been brought up on farms, and some of them had been collecting old tractors for years.”
Fergie took his time coming to a decision and, eventually, decided he wanted something with a bit more power than the N. The obvious option was the later Fordson Major. “The tractor I bought had been built in 1958, and was a local machine from just down the road, in Cumnock, and I got it back in 2001. The previous owner told me that it had originally been used for contract threshing, which would have been quite normal back in the late 1950s. This is also why the headlamps are sitting so high at the front, so they wouldn’t interfere with the pulley from the belt.”
Fergie says that the tractor was in reasonable condition, although he has given it a makeover over the years. Like a lot of boys brought up on a farm, he learned to handle tools from a young age. He has also shown the Power Major at various rallies, and used to take part in a lot of road runs.
“I was a bit more active a few years back, but these days I keep the Fordson just to remind me of the old days,” he said. “I always liked using the tractor but, compared to the old ‘N’, it drives like a tank! There is certainly plenty of power on hand, and I would imagine the tractor would have had no difficulty pulling a large plough. The Fordson can certainly keep up with the other tractors on road runs. It also handles well and is easy to steer; I’ve also been told that the brakes are better than on the earlier models.”
Fergie has always been keen on sponsoring various charities and, after giving the matter some careful thought, decided to raise a bit of money for cancer research. “Back in 2009, I took a few soundings, and found there was a bit of interest,” he told me. “A few other enthusiasts helped with the planning, and we decided to hold the run during the week between Christmas and the New Year. It was just a local event around the countryside near Dunlop and, to begin with, about 15 tractors took part, and we managed to raise some money for charity.
“Organising this type of event usually involves a fair amount of planning, so a few of us decided to take turns in putting the run together. Alex Spiers, from the nearby village of Lugton, has been handling things the past few years, but he still likes to call the event the ‘Friends of Fergie’ run, as I was the first one to get the ball rolling, so to speak. The charity we currently favour is Cancer Support UK.”
Cancer Support UK is an organisation that’s dedicated to providing practical and emotional support to people living with cancer, both during and after the treatment period. It supports people with all kinds of cancer, right across the UK. The Cancer Coach programme is an eight-week structured peer support and resilience course – delivered by phone – for people nearing the end of cancer treatment, or who have finished physical treatment. Developed by a range of experts, the programme offers much needed encouragement and emotional support, which is fundamental to recovery. Groups are run by people who can empathise and understand what it’s like – as they have experienced cancer themselves.
The Cancer Kits include a range of practical items for adults and children currently experiencing cancer. They have been designed by people who have had cancer themselves, to provide practical and handy items that people will find genuinely useful during their treatment. The Cancer Kits, Chemo Kits and Kids’ Kits, are supplied free of charge, and can be ordered directly from the charity’s website.
“Thanks to Alex, the run has come on leaps and bounds, and he even organises a wee ceilidh during the evening,” says Fergie. “This has really gone down well with people. There were 32 tractors on a recent run, and we’ve managed to raise quite a bit of money.”
Although he’s not getting any younger, Fergie intends to keep his Major for the foreseeable future. Fordson tractors have given him a lot of happy memories over the years, and 381 UXC has almost become part of the family. “When the time comes, I’ll probably be put on the back of the tractor so that it can take me down to the local cemetery,” he laughs. “The Power Major has certainly given me a lot of fun over the years, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
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