Saturday 26 April 2014

"The Age of Mechanical Ploughing Has Arrived" - A Tale of Two Tractors (Part Three)

William Watson's International Harvester Company [IHC]
"Type C" 20hp Tractor coupled to an 8 furrow plough 
at 'Mayfield', Heddon Bush, circa 1910
[From my own collection]

This post follows on from my earlier Blog “The Age of Mechanical Ploughing Has Arrived” – A Tale of Two Tractors (Part Two).

In 1909 my Great Great Uncle William Watson, owner of the 800 acre 'Mayfield' estate at Heddon Bush in the Southern province of New Zealand had purchased a 1909 British built 'Cyclone Agricultural Motor'. Unfortunately the 'Cyclone' appears not to have proved equal to the task. While it must have been sold towards the end of 1910 I can find no record of this. The financial difficulties the 'Cyclone' company were by now experiencing may have meant that William Watson had some difficulty in recouping his original outlay.   

But William Watson was obviously not prepared to admit defeat, nor was money evidently an issue in order to achieve his objectives. This was despite a run of very bad luck over the previous three years. He had not only funded the cost of the 'Cyclone Agricultural Motor' (around £26,500 in today’s UK values or NZD$53,250 in New Zealand values) in 1909, funded a six month visit to Britain and Ireland for himself and his wife the same year, but also lost NZD$42,000 – almost the total annual value of his lamb kill – in 1907. He then additionally funded three unsuccessful legal challenges, including an appeal to the Supreme Court of New Zealand, to recoup this lost revenue. But that’s another story!

So it is indeed surprising that by December 1910 we find that William had purchased yet another “Agricultural Motor” or tractor, being (according to knowledgeable tractor enthusiasts) an American built International Harvester Company "Type C" 20 hp. There was initially some discussion on if it was in fact an IHC "Titan" but has now been positively identified by tractor enthusiast Stuart Landry of Leongatha, Victoria, Australia who, in fact, owns and restored a "Type C".

We know that the “International Harvester Company” [IHC] based at Chicago Illinois in the USA had set up a Head Office and large showroom bounded by Lichfield and Madras streets and Bedford Row in Christchurch New Zealand in 1906. Their large and ornate brick building survived until the devastating 2012 earthquake. The company built their first farm tractor the same year, manufacturing a total of 607 of this same model (with 12, 15 and 20 hp engines) between 1906 and 1914. One of these, a 20 hp model, was demonstrated at the Christchurch Agricultural Show in November 1909. By 1910 William had undoubtedly heard of the IHC’s performance or even witnessed it himself as visiting Agricultural Shows was - and still is - a looked forward to part of the annual farming calendar in order to keep up with the latest technology and improvements.

The International [IHC] "Type C" 20hp being demonstrated
with a 12 disc plough at 'Mayfield', 17th Dec 1910,
L to R : William Watson (1st), Alexander Fleming (3rd),
John Fisher ['Otautau Standard'] (4th), James Fleming (5th),
& Thomas Watson (7th).Those present included J. Ryan (Tatarepo),
J. Lindsay (Strathmore) and W. Saunders (Ringway).
[From the original glass plate negative in my collection]

The road wheels for this model were described as having a face of 22 inches (width), the power being transmitted to the wheels by means of friction clutches rather than a cog. The engines were started on petrol then ran on kerosene, having a single cylinder with an 8¾ inch bore and 15 inch stroke, being rated at between 12-25 hp. Total weight was around 5½ tons. These machines could apparently haul anything up to 25 tons on the road or drive a threshing machine, chaff-cutter, and of course – and with the greatest interest to William – it was especially suited to ploughing.

The IHC Company, determined to ensure that their customers and agents received full satisfaction, employed a large permanent staff of experts who could supply technical knowledge along with a good stock of spare parts around the country. Many of the IHC New Zealand staff were well trained and thoroughly conversant with the use and repair of the various agricultural implements being sold by their company, having come from the Company’s own factory at Milwaukee just out of Chicago. The local Southland agents for IHC were “Henderson & Co.” with offices in Invercargill, Gore and Wyndham.        

The above photo of the IHC "Type C" tractor with original caption
as it appeared in the "Otago Witness" of the 8th March 1911 

Mr John Fisher, owner and Head Reporter of the local paper, and along with an interested entourage, were not long in visiting William to view the new “motor traction” at work, his article being printed in “The Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle” on the 20th December 1910. Here are some edited transcripts of his article :

Motor Ploughing :

On Saturday [17th December 1910], a small party from Otautau visited Mr William Watson’s farm at Heddon Bush to witness the work of the motor traction (now called tractor) that gentleman had installed for doing his ploughing. The party consisted of Messrs. J. Ryan, Tatarepo (President of the Wallace Agricultural & Pastoral Association), J. Lindsay, Strathmore, W. Saunders, Ringway, and Mr John Fisher, “Otautau Standard.”….

Mr and Mrs Watson’s hospitality was extended on arrival, after which the motor was set going, and soon convinced the visitors that ploughing by motor traction had developed a long way past the experimental stage.  The engine was working in a 30 acre paddock with a pretty fair show of canadians. It was attached to two digger ploughs (a double and a single furrow), which Mr Watson explained was not its capacity, but was all he had of the ploughs to give it. Travelling was done at a good walking pace and the work appeared to give no trouble to the machine, which was ploughing 8 acres a day at a cost of 4/- per acre, and this, Mr Watson reckoned, could be reduced by giving the machine more to do so as to get the maximum out of it. To show the visitors with what ease a change could be made, the ploughs were unhitched, the engine run across to another part of the field and coupled to a disc harrow with tyne harrows behind and with these two implements it simply walked round the field.
The gearing is so simple, the whole time occupied in changing the implements was not two minutes. An excessive downpour of rain coming on work was stopped, and all hands camped on the engine under the hood.

[A very similar International Harvester Company 
"Mogul" Type C 20hp]

Mr Watson is very well satisfied with the work of the machine. It does all that was claimed for it and is a splendid implement for getting work done expeditiously. Already 270 acres have been treated this season either in ploughing, discing or harrowing, and as Mr Watson remarks, even if no saving was effected in doing the actual work the benefit that results from having your work forward and your crops in in time more than compensates, and is in itself profit. The machine can be started in a minute or two, and saves all the trouble and expense of feed when not in work. A small house in winter is all that is wanted. No expensive stables, horse feed, paddocks or covers. Mr Watson’s enterprise is well worthy of the attention of other farmers, and a visit while the motor is at work will prove an education.”  

"Old and New" - The IHC "Type C" Tractor would soon displace
the trusty Draught Horse, taken at 'Mayfield', circa 1913.
William Thomson on the horse with James Watson at right.
[From my own collection]

The last photo I hold of the International Harvester Company "Type C" 20hp is dated around 1913. We know that in August 1918 he purchased an American built "Moline" Model B. Ironically, William’s ground breaking experiments in top dressing led to his moving away from regularly ploughing vast tracts of land for winter cropping and by 1924 he relied totally - and quite successfully - on simply wintering stock over on well managed and top-dressed grassland. In that year only 80 out of his 800 acres were cultivated. The results of his pioneering work on top dressing formed an outdoors scientific display at the New Zealand Dept. of Agriculture stand at the Dunedin and South Seas International Exhibition held in Dunedin during 1925-26. William was also the first farmer to introduce the Southdown breed of sheep to Southland, not only achieving record prices for his fat lambs but also receiving rapturous accolades for the quality of his 1927 lamb kill when it reached the British market. Even up until his sudden death in May 1931 [and] “In spite of his advancing years he was always looking forward to “next season,” and laying plans for further improvement in farming methods.” 

Mr William Watson of 'Mayfield',
Heddon Bush, taken circa 1925
[From my own collection]

William Watson held an unshakeable belief that new if not revolutionary farming methods and equipment were the way of the future for the New Zealand farmer. Although he was not the first tractor owner in Southland William Watson is however recorded as the first Southlander to fully "tractorise" his farm thus dispensing with the trusty draught horse. His contribution to Southern New Zealand farming was significant.

Copyright : The content of this blog, including images, may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the express permission of the writer. Excerpts may however be freely quoted for non-commercial use subject to suitable acknowledgement being given, including a link back to this page.

Bibliography / Rārangi Pukapuka :
  • Watson Family Papers and Photographic Collection (held by the writer)
  • "Papers Past" [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
  • Dunedin City Libraries / Kā Kete Wānaka O Ōtepoti (McNab Room Resources)
  • A Century of Farm Tractors 1904-2004” (NZ), by RH Robinson
  • Stuart Landry, Victoria, Australia

Wednesday 16 April 2014

"Honouring Our Local Boys" - ANZAC Day Remembrance 25th April 2014

Featured in my 2013 ANZAC Day Blog, the schoolchildren of
the small Heddon Bush School commemorate the
"Brave ANZAC's", taken 1917
[From my own collection] 

The 25th of April 2014 again marks that rare day each year when the two sovereign nations of Australia and New Zealand both commemorate those servicemen and servicewomen who have served and also fallen in military operations for their respective countries. ANZAC Day 2014 will be even more significant as we lead up to the centenary of the commencement of "The Great War" of 1914-1918.

But how did local New Zealand communities personally honour those servicemen who both went to war and those who were lucky enough to return home safely after having done their duty for King and Country? For those who returned home the physical and mental scars were often patently obvious for all to see. I have no doubt that many communities wanted to give some tangible object of their gratitude for the obvious sacrifice these young men had made.    

My childhood rural community of Heddon Bush in the southern province of Southland New Zealand were no exception and may possibly have done more than most. I do suspect that some local and well established individuals also dug very deeply into their own personal pockets. But one also has to remember that farmers had personally profited from high commodity prices during the First World War period so this may have been a way for some community-minded folk to "give something back". Overall, the ability of the local community to raise funds for "Patriotic War Relief" was quite prodigious and the school children were also no exception. My own Father aged 12 years gave a "recitation" for Belgian Day in 1915 (in support of Belgian Relief Funds) with an additional  "voluntary" offering of his pocket money amounting to one shilling. He had gone onto High School (College) by the time the above group photograph was taken in 1917.  

Part of the Heddon Bush Red Cross Society Bed Cover of 1918.
I can find no record of where it was sent.
[From a glass plate negative in my own collection]

Under the New Zealand "War Funds Act" of 1915, the Government of the day sought to regulate the huge amounts of War Relief Funds being collected. It was more at the local level that problems arose where in the main the money from each district had been applied for the relief of servicemen and their dependents within that district. Thus, soldiers from districts who had sent many men into service but were unable to raise large amounts of relief funds were disadvantaged in regards to comforts received by those who came from areas where there was greater personal wealth or perhaps, in the case of Heddon Bush, an exceptionally well organised and well-supported Relief Committee. Thus War Relief Funds would now be applied uniformly over the Dominion "so that no sailor, soldier, or dependents, should be without relief". All collectors were required to hold an official collection card or be subject to a conviction with a fine of up to £20.  

So, working within the Act (which appears only to have related to actual financial support), the Heddon Bush community still wished to personally give those servicemen who left the district a tangible object of their heart-felt gratitude but also honouring those who safely returned. Reading local newspaper accounts of the period and reading the frequently published casualties and deaths, the Heddon Bush community were by mid war in no illusion whatsoever as to the risks their boys might face at the front. So an additional financial sacrifice for "their" men was but a small price to pay. But how could they show their gratitude and heart-felt best wishes for a safe return home?

On final leave in 1918 prior to leaving for
England, and in one last full family
photograph, my Uncle is pictured wearing
his gift from the local community.
[From my own collection]

The local Patriotic Committee generously decided that all Heddon Bush servicemen on final leave before departure for Europe (at least from mid-war) were to not only be given a decent send-off in the local hall but also presented with what I believe to be a very practical and well thought out gift - a good quality Swiss made silver 'Rolex' military wristwatch. The reverse was engraved "From Heddon Bush Friends" including the date of presentation.

The  silver 'Rolex' military wrist watch
presented to my Uncle in May 1918.
The card dial is damaged but the
watch is still in working order.
[From my own collection]

Mr W. Watson, after expressing pleasure at seeing such a large number present, called upon Mr J. Boyle to present the two young soldiers with a wristlet watch each…. Mr Boyle said the watches would act as a connecting link between soldiers and their homes, and as tokens of esteem in which they were held by their friends at Heddon Bush… [the servicemen] briefly returned thanks. Excellent music for dancing was supplied by Egan’s Band…” [30 May 1918]

I still hold the wrist watch presented to my Uncle at this event, being well-used but still in perfect working condition. He never had to face the full horrors of the war as the Armistice was signed while he was in training in England. Nevertheless he told me in 1982 (at age 85) that he still wished he had gotten to fight. He died later that year.

[Footnote : I have since had this watch manufactured in 1915 fully restored by a specialist watchmaker so that I can now occasionally use it]

The back of the (still working) 'Rolex' military wrist watch
a quality Swiss movement with no less than "15 jewels".
The reverse of the back cover is engraved to the recipient.
The way carried a date mark and serial number for 1915.
[From my own collection]

But what could the close-knit Heddon Bush community give their boys once they returned home? This gift, which would serve as a special thank you from the community, would be something quite unique and valuable. Again, some thought appears to have gone into this and the result was, I believe, a triumph. What could be more meaningful than a quality locally made and engraved gold watch chain fob? But additionally they would also receive the very useful sum of £10 in cash each as some recompense for their very considerable trouble. That converts to the equivalent of NZD $920.00 in today's money.   

I also proudly hold the 9ct gold fob presented to my Uncle. The reverse is personally engraved to my Uncle. This was given by the Heddon Bush community to all local servicemen who returned from service overseas, regardless of, as in my Uncle's case, if they actually fought.

The 9ct engraved Gold Fob presented to my Uncle
upon his return from "The Great War" 1914-1918
[From my own collection]

"A large enthusiastic and friendly audience gathered in the Heddon Bush Hall on Friday to bid welcome to six district boys [all named]. The function took the form of a dance... Mr Watson, as Chairman, made a speech of welcome and let the boys see that all present were very pleased to greet their soldiers back to their own home. He then called on Mr Tilley to make the presentation to each, which consisted of a gold medal, suitably inscribed, and a wallet of notes, value £10... The soldiers then had their say, thanking everyone for their kindness and welcome which would be dearly appreciated. It was an untold pleasure to be back, the war over, and peace reigning, and we are fully convinced there is no place like home. "For they are jolly good fellows" was then heartily sung, after which supper was dispensed and dancing continued." [A report of a similar presentation held on the 3rd October 1919]. 

The medal, comprising of crossed rifles, the letters "NZ" and engraved ferns, was designed and manufactured by Mr William James Wesney, a talented young Jeweller of Otautau and Riverton in Southland from 1916. How many of these were produced is unknown but other Southern communities are known to also have presented this "welcome home" present to "their boys". The local rural town of Otautau presented all returned soldiers, who at the time of enlistment had been resident in the district at least 12 months, with this medal, including to the parents of those who had died in the service of their country.

The Heddon Bush Roll of Honour
[Photo Credit : Vicki-Lynne Hubber]

Those pupils of Heddon Bush School who served and also fell in "The Great War" of 1914-1918 (including the Second World War of 1939-1945) are today commemorated in a large wooden 'Roll of Honour', having been purchased from the proceeds of the Heddon Bush School 68th Jubilee Anniversary Celebrations in 1949. This is now located in the Heddon Bush Hall. While seemingly an odd date to celebrate a Jubilee it was felt the time was opportune as a number of first day pupils were still alive and able to attend.

Footnote : I was very sorry to note that both Mr WJ Wesney, the designer of this wonderful medal, and his wife Mrs GL Wesney, died together in a motor accident at "Heenan's Corner" on the Hundred Line on the 30th November 1964, aged 76 and 64 years respectively. Both are interred in the Otautau Cemetery.

Copyright : All images, except the Roll of Honour board, are from my own personal collection. These may not be used for any commercial purpose without my express permission but may be freely copied for private use provided the images are suitably acknowledged and / or a link is given back to this page.

Bibliography / Rārangi Pukapuka :
  • Family Archives (held by the writer)
  • "Papers Past" [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
  • Museum of New Zealand / Te Papa Tongarewa