Historic Pageant at the Ferguson Heritage AGM 1999
Held by the Friends of Ferguson Heritage Ltd.
Place: Westside Farm (Stocksfield) (Stocksfield, Northumberland, England)
Number of performances: 1
5 June 1999, 12.30pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Organiser [Pageant Master]: Moffitt, John
John Moffitt, CBE (1929–2008) was the owner of the farm and owner of the UK’s largest collection of vintage tractors kept on his farm at the Hunday Museum.1
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Moffitt, John
Names of composers
Numbers of performers3
Plus a number of vintage tractors.
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: No
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Free to members of Ferguson Heritage
Annual General Meeting at 11.30am and at 3pm a ‘Parade of the Unusual Exhibits’. Visitors were free to wander around the lake and grounds and to use the facilities for picnics.
Dan Albone, 1860-1906
Played by Alex Albone (descendant of Dan Albone).
Dan Albone was born in 1860, the youngest of eight children. He left school at the age of 12 to become an apprentice in a small engineering firm repairing mill machinery. From an early age, however, he was fascinated by the bicycles of that era, the Boneshakers and Penny Farthings, and when he was just 13 he invented an improved bicycle.
In 1880 he founded the Ivel works which manufactured lightweight bicycles and by 1889 was producing and selling a motorised version. The following year he produced his first motor car but decided against large scale production.
His next challenge was in the field of agriculture where he recognised that farming had to become more mechanised and that large steam engines were damaging to the soil. Albone’s concept was of a large three wheeled farm motor weighing under 30cwt and with 12.5 horsepower that would pull a two or three furrow plough. Using an Astor engine he soon had a prototype ready for testing.
The agricultural motor—the word tractor had not yet been coined—attracted a lot of attention among farmers and was followed soon after by a cheaper full production version. The model on display at Hunday is the Ivel No. 131 which was exhibited at major agricultural shows in the UK and won many prizes for its design.
The machine, invented by Dan Albone, sold in 25 different countries and was the first truly versatile small tractor available to farmers almost two decades before Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson brought mechanisation to every farm in the land.
Henry Ford, 1863-1947
Played by Gerry White.
Henry Ford was born on a farm in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1863, and from an early age he was interested in all things mechanical. At 16 he left home to take an apprenticeship in Detroit and worked for several engineering companies to gain experience.
His obsession was to build a reliable combustion engine, and by 1893 he began to experiment by putting the engine into a chassis in his small garden shed. The car was so simple and reliable that he managed to persuade ten shareholders to invest a total of $100000 in issued stocks to set up the Ford Motor Company. 1908 saw the production of the first Model T Ford car that continued to be manufactured until 1927.
With his agricultural background, Ford now turned his attention to the development of a cheap tractor. For convenience and cost effectiveness, the prototype used many parts from the Model T and weighed only 1500lbs. The tractor went into full production in 1917. Costing only £256, the Model F’s lightness, manoeuvrability and reliability changed world agriculture. A similar tractor, the Model N, followed in due course.
In 1938 Harry Ferguson and Ford met up and agreed, with the now legendary handshake, the design and manufacture of a Ford Ferguson tractor. This incorporated the Ferguson system of three-point linkage and hydraulic life and became known as the 9N.
This successful tractor was eventually succeeded by the 8N with four-speed gearbox and improved performance. It was this tractor which led to the famous lawsuit between Ford’s grandson, Henry Ford II, and Harry Ferguson.
Harry Ferguson, 1884–1960
Played by Bill Martin.
Harry Ferguson was born on a farm in Northern Ireland in 1884, but his mechanical bent was always apparent and at 16 he joined his brother in a small garage in Belfast where he sold and serviced cars and motorcycles.
He quickly became an expert racing driver, the first man to design and fly his own monoplane in Ireland and one of the most successful motor mechanics and salesmen in the country.
When the First World War broke out and with it the need to ensure continuous food production, Harry was invited to become an agricultural inspector with the brief of improving the efficiency of tractors. The challenge was enormous, but Ferguson quickly realised that the plough and the tractor had to become one unit, and his first task was to design a custom made plough for one of the lightest tractors available at the time, the Fordson.
Ferguson’s design efforts concentrated on the plough for many years before he turned to tractors. His first prototype weighed only 16 cwt. and incorporated two features which set it way above anything else in the field: the three point linkage system and a hydraulic lift for implements.
The prototype underwent various refinements while Ferguson looked for a suitable manufacturer, finding one first in David Brown, then Henry Ford in the US, before finally reaching agreement with the Standard Motor Company in 1946. The tractor they manufactured in Coventry over the next ten years was the TE20, or Little Grey Fergie, and over 500000 were built before the TE20 was replaced with the FE35.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Albone, Daniel [Dan] (1860–1906) cycle and motor tractor manufacturer
- Ford, Henry (1863–1947) American industrialist and car manufacturer
- Ferguson, Henry George [Harry] (1884–1960) designer of agricultural machinery
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Tractor and Machinery
Book of words
- Ferguson Heritage AGM. No date or place of publication.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
- Moffitt, John and John Farnsworth. Fergusons: The Hunday Experience. Drifield, 2001.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Museum of English Rural Life, Reading: A copy of the pamphlet. Ref P3638 Box1/37.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
Friends of Ferguson Heritage,4 founded in 1996, is a society dedicated to old Ferguson Tractors, their upkeep and continued use. However, the 1999 historic pageant was the brainchild of John Moffitt, CBE, farmer and nationally-renowned cattle-breeder. Moffitt was also owner of the Hunday Collection, which was one of the UK’s largest collections of antique tractors. Opened to the public in 1979, it contained over 200 tractors and 200 engines.5 As Moffitt said in the introduction to the pamphlet: ‘The idea for this came to me last year when trying to think up something new and novel for the programme. Why not, I thought, “relive” the lives of the three engineers responsible for tractor development.’6 As Alec Kermotschuk, writing in Tractor and Machinery, wrote: ‘Three actors were present to narrate the life stories, dressed in period costume and speaking in their own words, to give life to their respective inventions and developments from the collection.’7
Moffitt prefaced his account with a brief historical sketch of British agriculture since the Industrial Revolution, when the expansion in the UK’s population and fear of overreliance on cheap foreign imports encouraged mechanics at the end of the nineteenth century to work on applying the internal combustion engine to agriculture:
The need to improve the productive output of our land with lower labour requirement is essential for the UK to compete in a world market. These three gentlemen between them did more than the rest of the world’s engineers to develop the Agricultural Tractor and thus dramatically increase the output of food. Two of these three leave a legacy of manufacturing that are major contributors to world farming today.8
The pageant featured three pioneers of the tractor, Dan Albone (played by his descendant Alex Albone), Henry Ford, and Harry Ferguson, who described their life-story and the innovations they worked on, demonstrated with the relevant vintage tractors drawn from Moffitt’s extensive collection of farm machinery which included ‘cultivators, harrows and discs, manure loaders and spreaders, ploughs, potato planting and lifting equipment, mowers and hay equipment, trailers and transport boxes’. Kermotschuk noted that ‘the most interesting machine is John’s Ivel Agricultural Motor [designed by Albone], registration A0385, a petrol driven machine and very rare’; it was, in fact, the only one in existence.9
Significantly, the story of tractors told a variant on the story of the invention of the steam engine, featuring individuals of working-class origin—lacking formal schooling but who succeeded through determination, canniness and a willingness to experiment—who perfected a light-weight, heavily reliable vehicle which revolutionised agriculture the world over and fed populations across the world. The pageant was also surprisingly sectarian and brand-loyal: The Canadian Deere family is not mentioned.
The pageant was a hit with the tractor community, referred to by the editor of Tractor and Machinery as ‘possibly one of the best events staged so far in 1999’.10 For Kermotschuk, ‘the highlight of the day was seeing the many splendid tractors on display out in the sunshine for the public to enjoy, and at the same time thinking what Harry Ferguson would have thought of it all!’11
On Moffitt’s death in 2008, his vast Hunday collection was auctioned off, amassing £500000.12 Fortunately, the centrepiece of the collection, the Ivel Tractor, was saved from dispersal and went on display at Vallum Farm, Corbridge, in 2012.13
- ‘Farm Pioneer John Moffitt Dies Aged 78’, News & Star, 8 May 2008, accessed 30 November 2015, http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/farm-pioneer-john-moffitt-dies-aged-78-1.102498.
- Picture of the performers, accessed 30 December 2015, http://rogergsmith.typepad.co.uk/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2008/05/06/pageant_actors_jm.jpg.
- All quotations are from Ferguson Heritage AGM, np (no date).
- See Friends of Ferguson Heritage website, accessed 30 November 2015, http://www.fofh.co.uk.
- ‘John Moffitt CBE’, Old Pond Publishing Days, accessed 30 November, http://rogergsmith.typepad.co.uk/publishing_days/2008/05/john-moffitt-cb.html; ‘Farm Pioneer John Moffitt Dies Aged 78’, News & Star, 8 May 2008, accessed 30 November 2015, http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/farm-pioneer-john-moffitt-dies-aged-78-1.102498.
- Ferguson Heritage AGM (nd), np.
- Alec Kermotschuk, ‘Historic Pageant’, Tractor and Machinery, October 1999, 8–9.
- Ferguson Heritage AGM (nd), np.
- Kermotschuk, ‘Historic Pageant’, 9.
- Ibid, 8.
- Ibid, 9.
- ‘John Moffitt's Collection of Historic Tractors Sold for £500,000’, Darlington and Stockton Times, 20 November 2015, accessed 30 November 20115, http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/farming/14093103.John_Moffitt_s_collection_of_historic_tractors_sold_for___500_000/.
- ‘Ivel Tractor to Go on Display at Northumberland Farm Fun Day’, The Journal, 7 August 2012, accessed 30 November 2015, http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/ivel-tractor-go-display-northumberland-4404720.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Historic Pageant at the Ferguson Heritage AGM 1999’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1213/