General Notes on Harry Ferguson

General Notes on Harry Ferguson

Only one invention in ten thousand succeeds.  The reason is that there is no plan behind the failures.

Harry Ferguson’s birthplace, with blue plaque. The house was originally covered in creeper. (Photograph John Hurrell)

Henry George “Harry” Ferguson was born at Growell, near Dromore, 4th November 1884. in County Down, Northern Ireland, the son of a farmer.  He was one of five brothers.  He died in 1960 at 76 years. Being born in 1884, a few months before Daimler and Benz invented their cars.

Harry Ferguson was hard working and a confirmed agnostic.  There was no free education in those days.  He was sent to the village school, but mainly self-educated i.e. no secondary schools or technical colleges.

Farms then used horses, scythes, hand milking.  He loved the country but thought farming was drudgery.  He saw ways of making farm work easier and more productive.

At sixteen he started his own workshop, 1900.  No one to teach us said Brother Joe.  No matter, said Harry we’ll teach ourselves by taking one or two to pieces.  They formed a company J.B. Ferguson, Automobile Engineers in Belfast in 1908.

Hands teach the brain.  Gothlieb Daimler was a baker’s son, self-taught man – first motor bike made by him.  Karl Benz – son of railway engine driver.  Brighton Run ‘Emancipation Run’ 39 cars.  Harry serviced this type of car in his garage.  But was more keen on motor cycles.

In those days very few people knew anything.  There was no training for mechanical work – service was unreliable.  Service was Harry’s key word, along with honesty and reliability.

His slogan – “Always the best and only the best”.

There were no instruction manuals.  He realised the great importance of clear instruction manuals i.e. communication.  Read the instruction book – golden rule.

He built and raced his own motor bike and car.

Principle – a man should never submit when he is convinced he is right.

The same should apply in business.

1909 Bleriot flew the channel.

Harry Ferguson built his own aeroplane and flew it in 5 months same year. First flight in Ireland

Severely injured in crash.

He married.  His wife tried a measure of control and guided and supported him in everything.

1914 Irish Dept. of Agriculture:  Tractor was replacing horses on a few farms.

Heavy tractors panned soil and tipped backwards.

Two horses can consume all that the farmer can grow on six acres, can be more, or as low as three acres minimum.

Agriculture is the most important industry in the world.  Yet it is the only industry still in places conducted by antiquated methods.  It still is in many countries.  The good earth must produce more than enough to keep the whole population well fed and content at prices people can afford to pay.

He could see a new principle was needed.

Flywheel energy – climb differential i.e. pinion can climb differential gear in a few seconds.

If farmer breaks an implement it is time not the cost that worries him – he must be able to get on when soil conditions are right or harvest at correct time.

Engines or machines must be strong and suitably designed.

The 1933 – 1st Ferguson Tractor weighed 16½ cwt.  Steel wheels.  Cost £230.00.  Ferguson system implement attachment was easy etc.  Control was from driver’s seat.

Ferguson-Brown Type A was introduced early summer 1936.

Sold 300,000 Tractors.  1 million implements.

1947 Henry Ford died 83 years.  His death spelt end for H Ferguson.

Grandson Ford terminated agreement (unwritten).

1946 Standard Motor Company.  No aeroplanes to make.  Empty factory.  Steel was short.  Agreed with Sir John Black (to refit their armaments factory at Banner Lane, Coventry).

By 1948 – 150 machines a day at Coventry were built.

Also built factory in Detroit still in use.

Law suit against Ford.  Principle.  9 million dollars awarded.

The principle was to protect rights and interest of small men and big company’s exploitation.

1952 Ford case cost 9 ¼ million dollars to Ford Company over a patent suit.

1953 amalgamated with Massey Harris.

March 1956 Half a Million Tractors had been made at Banner Lane (Farming Reporter, April 1956)

H.F. was in bed every night 9 p.m.  Notebook and pencil to hand.  He could be described as eccentric.

H.F. died at his home Abbotswood, Gloucestershire 25th October 1960, as the result of a barbiturate overdose; the inquest was unable to conclude whether this had been accidental or not.

Beauty in engineering is that which exactly fulfils its purpose and has no superfluous parts.

Refused knighthood twice.  Not for businessmen he said.

He was undoubtedly a genius.  But patient and stubborn and made his mark on the mother of all industries, agriculture – production of food upon which all life hinges.

Famous from Tibet to Antarctica (Hillary Tracks) South Pole.  Ferguson Tractor used to go to South Pole.

He insisted on being responsible even after warranty expired.

He would also stop in roads to see machines working in fields and if necessary get on the job himself to the amazement often of the farmer.

What is technology?  For example, an application of technology – for centuries Arabs burned camel dung while there was oil beneath their feet.  Technical skills enable progress often against prejudice and resistance to new ideas.

He was a great man.

Harry Ferguson Ltd. – Aims and Orders

Classification of breakdown and investigation of complaints.

Order of Investigation.

  1. Check Handling –
    Operator Instruction Book
    Correct Installation
  2. Manufacturer – Workmanship
  3. Design Faults
    In fault finding and checking, the design of machine is the most important thing of all.

The Product – Order           

  • Product Reliability (customer)
  • Product durability (service)
  • Product accessibility (service)

Sales will follow.

L0904 © Mike Thorne/KJM