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A kid crying with cold, turning the nuts the wrong way

By SPP Reporter

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Jamie Stone: 'The sound of a Grey Ferguson is deeply evocative to me'.
Jamie Stone: 'The sound of a Grey Ferguson is deeply evocative to me'.

We hadn’t got further than watching two beautiful horses pulling a single-blade plough when our attention was drawn to the far top of the field where the shared symbol of our Irish and Highland childhoods was hard at work.

“Ah – now here’s a Fordson. And there’s another one. You see, you can always tell by the oval fuel tank over the engine.”

I was at my knowledgeable best.

“Actually we had an old Fordson at Blarliath, but it wasn’t working in my time. And after the Fergie we had the shiny new red and grey Massey Ferguson 35 – I remember the great day it came” – I was eloquent with pink diesel-powered nostalgia.

“Well I learnt to drive on our Massey Ferguson 35 – and I passed my test long before you.”


Watching the Easter Ross Ploughing Association annual ploughing match was an excellent way to spend a bright November morning: Mr and Mrs Stone were as happy as can be last Saturday.

“Now you see, before the red and grey 35s you are speaking of, there was the 1957 grey and gold FE35 4 cylinder. Very smart, isn’t she.”

We couldn’t help but agree with its proud owner.

“And what’s that strange blue one?? Wasn’t blue the Ford colour…” I was puzzled.

“Jamie. That’s a Fordson Dexta; you’ll surely have known that.” Oh, of course…

Some time ago I wrote of the secret fraternity of model train enthusiasts – this week my scope broadens to include vintage tractor lovers.

“I mind when I was with Mackay’s Garage in Dingwall” said Dave Mackay to me (oddly enough at the 2010 Ross County v Dundee United Scottish Cup Final). “In the late 50s I sometimes used to come to Tain to help your father out with his Fergie. It was a cold muddy guttery kind of a place – and I remember one really icy day when a wee boy was trying to help me put the nuts back on the wheel, but he was crying with the cold and kept dropping the nuts because he was turning them the wrong way…”

The story of my life really. I don’t remember that particular occasion – but I do remember the cold. Chilblains on fingers and toes (that itched like goodness knows what when you were in bed). A lot of my childhood was spent keeping warm.

The sound of a Grey Ferguson or a Massey Ferguson 35 is deeply evocative to me. If I shut my eyes I can see my father in his wellies and ex-USAF flying jacket bringing silage down the lane to the two byres (the old and the new) or setting off up the brae to plough the fields near where the Co-op is today.

In the absence of a car, the tractor was the sole means of transport. I rode on the back of it (what would health and safety say today?) and I remember the thrill as we picked up speed and the mud came flying off the rear wheels and the cold wind started to make your eyes water.

“How’s your mother keeping? I can see her yet, up the town on the old Fergie for the messages.”

What became of the 35? I suppose that it must have gone when the great change came and my parents moved from milking cows to making crowdie. It would have been sold to help pay for the first cheese vat. What was the title of George Harrison’s 1970 triple album? “All Things Must Pass”.

“We’ll join you at the steading for a plate of soup” – back to last Saturday – “And a vodka and lemonade, and gin and bitter lemon, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Hot potatoes and beef stew (served in a giant Yorkshire pudding) is just the thing after a morning watching the ploughing match.

“You for a dram, Jamie?” I demurred. “Away you go; you can walk home from here. Get that down you.”

“Ah well, you see a Massey Ferguson 35 in average nick could be a couple of grand – and in absolute mint condition, well maybe five or more…”

“Toad sat straight down in the middle of the dusty road, his legs stretched out before him, and stared fixedly in the direction of the disappearing motor-car. He breathed short, his face wore a placid satisfied expression, and at intervals he faintly murmured ‘Poop-poop’.”

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