page last edited: 28 December 2017
Massey-Harris Manure Spreader - 321
Hell this one takes me back. When I was very small
I had the Dinky Massey-Harris tractor, this model, the Halesowen trailer
and the disc harrow, all with some Britains lead animals and a set of
plywood farm buildings painted red which my father had made. Of course
in those days they were all metal wheels version of the Dinkys, this is
a late release with plastic wheels and rubber tyres.
Outside in the yard my father had the full size item. Getting rid of cow muck was quite a chore on a Lakeland dairy farm. All winter the cows were tied up in the shippons and had to be mucked out twice a day. This generally took about four big wheelbarrow loads (guess how I know). The ordure was wheeled to a corner of the yard and piled into a midden. When the midden got so large that it threatened to take over the world and was half way across the road out came the muck spreader.
Dad would load this item with a shovel, later he got a fore end loader for the Ferguson 35 and made the job significantly easier. The model is remarkably accurate. the spinners at the rear were driven by the wheels just like the toy. However the wheels were much larger and had the same tread as the back tyres on the tractor, only they were put on the other way around as they were taking traction from the ground, not applying it. There was big chain rather than a coil spring driving the spinners and it was outside the bodywork. The ridges across the floor shown on the model were in fact lengths of angle iron attached at each end to more drive chains, these moved back along the floor and returned underneath in a continuous loop, pushing the contents of the spreader on to the spinners from where it was distributed on to the fields.
All this was happening in the depths of the cold, wet, dark Lake District winter and tractors in those days did not have cabs. Imagine all that cow muck having to be loaded over the sides of this machine with a shovel in the cold and rain, then driving the tractor with it flinging the poo in all directions behind you and frequently all over you.
And then people ask me whether I regret leaving that life behind to run my nice little software company in Oxfordshire.
Addendum Sept 07: I was discussing this article with my older brother and he was able to add more to the story, first off the machine was not Massey Harris but International Harvester. Did both makers make the same machine, or more likely, did Dinky model an International machine back in the fifties and then stick Massey Harris decals on just because they had them already?
Next to the use of the thing. You only used it on very frosty days in winter when the ground was hard and you didn't sink. Our tractor was a Ferguson 35, no Massey. It was the very first of the line, grey and gold rather than red and grey and with a four cylinder diesel engine, not the later three cylinder. These early diesel tractors would never start. You had to spray a substance called 'Easy Start' into the air filter which was highly explosive and sometimes got the bugger going. Cold weather just made it worse. My uncle used to keep his in the shippon with the cows so that it was warm in the mornings.
Our farm had the road running through the middle of the buildings and was on a small hill. The trick was to keep the tractor in the barn at the top of the hill. You churned it over till the battery went flat and once convinced that it wouldn't start on the key you let it roll down the hill and dropped the clutch once it was rolling. Sometimes that would start it before you got to the bottom of the hill, sometimes, but remember, this is a frosty morning and the road is icy, frequently it was so slippery that the wheels just skidded on the ice and you found yourself at the bottom of the hill with a dead tractor.
Now the car would usually start - it was a good old British Humber after all. So the Humber Sceptre came out with a chain on the back and my mother would drive it up and down the lane towing the tractor behind with my dad aboard trying to bump start it. It always started in the end - but by now, the sun is up, the frost has gone, and there's no muck spreading today. This is how we lived in those days.