Steerage Cultivator

Steerage Cultivator

This article is the result of a collaboration between two Club members, Peter Drinkwater and myself. Mike Thorne.

Back in September of last year Peter contacted me by letter to inform me he had purchased a most unusual Ferguson implement, a Steerage Cultivator, I’ll let Peter tell the story of how he came to purchase this example.

“Back in October 2000 I was attending the funeral of the late Dick Dowdeswell, one time head demonstrator for Harry Ferguson. There I was introduced to Alex Patterson, one time engineer with HF from the early days of tractor development as well as having worked on the LTX project. Needles to say we chatted about things Ferguson including some prototype implements that he had been involved with during the late thirties and early forties. I indicated to Alex that my line of work with my brothers was vegetable growing in the Cotswolds on a sizable acreage. Alex seemed to focus his conversation on one implement in particular, claiming he thought only two had been built, it was known as a Ferguson Steerage Cultivator. They were made in the Ferguson factory in Northern Ireland. These implements Alex remembers were sent via a dealership in England to be field tested in the Vale of Evesham on vegetable farms which were wide spread at the time in that area. Alex made the point that [he implement was never put into production which he found disappointing. This was due to the lack of feed back from the users.

It could be used to mark out a prepared field prior to the planting of Brussel Sprouts, by equipping the tool frame with tines similar to those fitted on the latter Ferguson 9-NKE-20 Cultivator. These would be set at 36″ apart, with the cultivator usually equipped with the Ferguson patent steerage fin and a marker set to one side and the other to align with the tractors front wheel, on the return run thus maintaining good alignment of the marks so necessary for good subsequent inter row cultivation. The procedure for marking out a field was thus, parallel runs would be made north-south and further runs east-west, ie, at right angles, thereby giving a grid of lines 35″ square. This was a lot easier than marking out by hand. Later when the plants were established and require inter row cultivation, the same implement was used but the tines first having been replaced with L shaped hoe blades, set to clear the plants. For this operation there was a choice of one or two men working. In the first case one man – the tractor driver, the steerage fin would generally be fitted and a stabiliser bar attached between the tractor and the implement to maintain good control. The alternative was to set the cultivator up as a steerable implement with the second man doing the steering of the implement from his own seat just behind the cultivator but with its fixing point utilising the mudguard bolts on the left hand side with the implement floating freely on the three point linkage. Alex went on to tell me that Ferguson were developing a steerage hoe and one might assume he was referring to was the latter models that were marketed early in the TE20 era, i.e. steerage hoe rigid ID-KE-20 without discs or steerage hoe independent gang ID-KE-20 without discs.

I also remember Alex’s parting words with wry smile, ‘you never know, you might come across one some day’. Well believe it or not, long after this conversation with Alex, I did in fact find one in a field of brambles on the edge of a village in the Vale of Evesham, alongside some Ferguson tractors and implements. Not long after that discovery I found a second example in another nearby village, this time it was in a shed but I was told by the owner, a retired vegetable grower that it was not a Ferguson implement and he did not think I would be interested in buying it. Needless to say I did buy it, because the commission plate confirmed it was of Ferguson manufacture.

About a week or two later I called on a friend and fellow enthusiast to go through some files he had of old farming brochures and to my amazement we found a single page supplement of this steerage cultivator, plus some other brochures … My friend mentioned the fact that his father could remember this steerage cultivator being used behind a Ford 9N tractor”.

Mike Thorne and Peter Drinkwater: Published in Journal 73, Spring 2013