The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Risks to children brought to fore
The ‘Glasgow’ was the only farm tractor ever designed and built in Scotland. Peter Small finds out more
The Farm Safety Foundation is reminding farmers of the risks of having children on farms more than normal at this time of year, following the closure of schools and nurseries.
The rural safety charity has published two new guides – one for agricultural students and one for parents – to remind them to keep children safe on farms.
“The fact is, with the closure of schools, there will be more children spending time on farms for longer periods than ever before and we thought it would be a good idea to put together a simple, easy to read booklet to remind everyone of the risks they will face on the farm every day,” said the charity’s Stephanie Berkeley.
“We don’t know how long this situation will last and our wonderful NHS workers are already feeling the strain of dealing with the spread of Covid-19. We need to take responsibility for our own safety and the safety of our loved ones and not risk any of us having a farm accident that will add to a workforce already under pressure. They are working hard to keep us safe so the least we can do is farm safe for them.”
NFU Scotland vicepresident Charlie Adam backed the plea and asked producers to check over their farm or croft and make any adjustments for the safety of children.
He said: “We all want our children to be involved in farm life but it is more important to make sure we create a safe environment.
“Farms are not playgrounds and we need to keep children off farm whenever it is not completely safe to have them there. Keeping our children safe and sound has to be a priority for all of us.”
For many people, tractor production in Scotland meant the British Leyland plant at Bathgate and to a lesser extent the Massey Harris tractors produced at Kilmarnock.
Although there was the tiny Rollo Croftmaster, the specialist On-Top machine, the forestry tractors from James Jones of Larbert and Reekie’s cut down Fergie, there was only one wholly farm tractor ever designed and built in Scotland.
This tractor was the “Glasgow” which broke the mould of tractor design but like so many tractors offered in the inter war period it disappeared almost without trace after only a short production run.
Designed by the talented William Guthrie, it was first mooted back in 1917 when British farming was in dire need of upping production because of a German U-boat blockade and the shortage on manpower on the land.
“Farms are not playgrounds and we need to keep children off farm”
“Threeleadingwestof Scotland companies decided to pool resources to make Guthrie’s design”
And there’s no doubt the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (HASS) tractor trials that year had a bearing on the desire to manufacture a tractor.
Three leading west of Scotland companies decided to pool their resources to produce Guthrie’s design.
They were Scottish farm equipment giant John Wallace of Glasgow, the DL Motors Manufacturing Co of Motherwell and the Carmuir Iron Foundry.
A factory site was found at an exgovernment munitions factory at Cardonald on the outskirts of Glasgow.
A novel incentive was proposed for the workforce to benefit by a profit-sharing scheme with 2,500 workers due to turn out 5,000 tractors a year from the tractor’s unveiling in 1919.
However, only around 200 were produced, before the venture collapsed in 1924 after the financial collapse of principal distributor British Motor Trading Corporation.
Guthrie’s design was pretty good – using a proven 27hp American Waukesha engine the tractor was built with three driving wheels.
This was part of the tri-management organisation’s desire for a tractor that could cope with wet boggy soils in Scotland.
The machine had a low centre of gravity and a 75” wheelbase, which was longer than most of its contemporaries.
The wheels were arranged with two in front and a single rear wheel fitted in the centre meaning all wheels drove on fresh ground.
There was no differential in the wheels but a ratchet system was used to allow for the unequal wheel speeds when turning and only one wheel was engaged when reversing.
Using a Ferodo lined cone clutch, it had two forward and one reverse gears.
There was even a lifting mechanism to raise a plough out of work, which was foot operated from the driver’s position behind the rear wheel and transmission unit.
With a curved fuel tank sitting above the four-cylinder engine the tractor had very graceful lines and in some cases resembled the Fordson tractor from the wheels up.
It was the much cheaper Fordson which put great strain on sales – although the operating costs of the Glasgow tractors were competitive it had a high capital purchase cost of £450 compared to £175 for the Fordson.
The firm organised the production better in around 1922 which brought the price down to £350.
During its production life the tractor took part in two large tractor trials.
The first was in 1919 at the South Carlton trials in Lincolnshire where it won several plaudits, but sadly not a lot of commercial interest.
The other major trial it took part in was the 1922 HASS trials of tractors and implements at Fordel at Dalkeith in Midlothian.
After a good performance it was highly praised for its gripping ability, lack of compaction, ease of servicing and easy reached controls. Its main criticism was its need for a wider headland to turn on.
“It was said one man and a Glasgow could replace three men and six horses”
Although well thought of, sales in the UK remained low, however, sales did come from abroad with Empire countries keen on the superb grip offered by the tractor.
This too was a reason for decent sales in Spain for working in wet rice fields.