24 September 2020 - Page 8

NOVEMBER 09 2017
When a ‘Bull’ heralded the demise
of horse power a century ago
score years and ten is man’s allotted
span; One hundred times this time, old
Horse has worked for man, To pull the
harrow or the plough. I think he stands
amazed to see what pulls them now.’
(Extract from ‘Know All About Farms’ –
Young World Productions – 1969).
from the farmyard
By Paul Callaghan
Picture: Paul Callaghan
“ F Only They Could Talk” was
the title of James Herriot’s first
book which describes his early
experiences as a Yorkshire-based
vet at a time when the farm horse’s
role across Great Britain and
Ireland was diminishing year-onyear.
If the farm horses on the
Clandeboye Estate in the heart of
north Down had been able to talk
exactly 100 years ago, they’d sure
have had something to say! Since
time immemorial their ‘equine
colleagues’ had worked the lands of
the estate and yet here they were,
in 1917, and their ‘position’ was
being challenged by a ‘growling,
pulsating monster-machine’ which
people were referring to as … a
Courtesy of Hariot Georgina
Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin
and Ava (1843-1936), a ‘Public
Demonstration’ of the Whiting-Bull
Motor Tractor took place on the
Clandeboye Estate on Monday and
Tuesday, September 17-18, 1917.
In the run-up to this event taking
place, provincial newspapers
published articles and notices
exhorting Ireland’s farmers to
‘Wake Up’ and come to Clandeboye
to witness this ‘Revolution in
The programme for the two-day
Whiting-Bull tractor demonstration
read as follows: On Monday there
would be ‘Ploughing, Harrowing and
Cultivating’ followed the next day
by ‘Threshing, Manure Spreading
and Haulage’. Lunch was to be
provided in Clandeboye School
within the grounds of the estate by
Mr Harry McMillan of the Ulster
Catering Company and the field
work on both days was to be filmed
by the Gaumont Company with the
expectation of being later shown in
local cinemas.
Before providing a little more
information on how these days
‘played out’ perhaps it would be
useful to give a brief outline on this
three-wheel Whiting-Bull ‘Paraffin’
tractor. It was made by the Bull
Tractor Company in the USA and
marketed in the UK and Ireland as
the ‘Whiting-Bull’.
By the time of the Clandeboye
Demonstration there were
reckoned to be over 15,000
Whiting-Bull tractors all over the
world and this figure included an
harrow and haul on that second
day would have persuaded many
more farmers to consider investing
in one, which at £350 cost around
the same as 15 agricultural horses!
Only the big men would have been
able to justify such a sum and
perhaps some neighbouring wouldbe tractor-buyers may have made
plans to ‘club together’ and buy a
machine between them.
Mr Wilfred M Joy (Irish
representative of Messrs Whiting Ltd,
Euston Road, London) was on hand
at Clandeboye over the two days
and there can be little doubt his
order book and pencil would have
been kept ‘at the ready’.
It was reported that there were
numerous inquiries throughout the
demonstration from people who,
having watched all that had taken
place over those two days, were
convinced that the manufacture’s
claims were right: The “WhitingBull” farmer gets the crops; The
“Whiting-Bull” farmer saves tons
of horse-keep; The “Whiting-Bull”
farmer ploughs quickly when the
weather suits and finally, The
“Whiting-Bull” farmer does all his
work and with less than half the
man power.
As all those farmers took their
leave of the two-day tractor
demonstration at the Clandeboye
Estate 100 years ago, even the most
ardent machine-age sceptic would
have been given something to think
Yes, there was no doubt about
it, the days of the farm horse were
numbered and the dawn of a new
era in farming was breaking … the
age of the tractor had arrived!
estimated 50 ‘turning the furrow’ on
the Emerald Isle!
Between 400 and 500 people
made it to Clandeboye for the
first day’s demonstration, many
of whom were conveyed from the
train stations at Belfast and Bangor
by charabanc. For those who had
never clapped eyes on a tractor,
this would have been most exciting.
As the first tractor started
performing the world’s oldest
art, in other words ‘ploughing’,
spectators would have noticed
that it moved at twice the pace of
horses. The tractor,
with its patented
automatic self-lift
plough, turned three
furrows at 12 inches
wide and eight inches
deep with ‘no undue
slanting, no tilting back,
no twisting and no
tearing’. Not only did
Back in September
1917 farmers were
invited to the NorthDown Clandeboye Estate
for a Whiting-Bull Tractor
photograph of the Whiting-Bull
Tractor which was demonstrated
on the Clandeboye Estate in
the inclusion of spade lugs on the
front wheel give the tractor real
gripping power, they also served to
break up hard ground in advance of
the plough!
One reporter covering the event
was impressed at ‘how the furrows
just fell into position’ and how
wonderfully the marvellous tractor
turned ‘in less than 12 feet at the
headland’. ‘All the experienced
men’, the aforementioned reporter
recorded, had especially noted this
latter point ‘with much delight’!
It was observed that the sevenacre field was finished before
5pm and when the statistics were
broken down it was estimated that
the Whiting-Bull had ploughed at a
rate of 55 minutes per acre
without any undue strain. Its
fuel consumption had been
2¾ gallons of paraffin per
Unlike some of today’s
modern-day counterparts,
the old ‘Whiting-Bull’ did
not have, it would seem,
an overly-complicated
operating system. According to
promotional literature back in
1917, this simple, durable and
economical machine could be used
by ‘a handy boy or girl’.
Whist the ploughing had been
the main event on the Monday,
the following day it was threshing
powered by the Whiting-Bull
and it was reported that ‘here
again, success had crowned the
experiment’ most notably when
attached to a large five ton
threshing machine.
Whilst the threshing operation
may have been awesome, perhaps
watching the Whiting-Bull tractor
being used to spread manure,
from the
by Paul Callaghan
Available from


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