One of the biggest changes in farming over the lifetime of those interviewed has been the advance of mechanisation and in particular the introduction of tractors. The Gribbin brothers commented on the scale of the changes that they have witnessed in their lifetimes, from working with scythes to the advent of the combine harvester.

While tractors were used on some farms in the 1930s – Willie Stevenson recalls his father acquiring his first tractor (a Ferguson Brown) in that decade – there was a dramatic increase in the numbers acquired during the Second World War. At the beginning of 1939 there were 550 tractors in Northern Ireland. By 1945 this figure had risen to 7,300.

A number of those interviewed indicated that a tractor was acquired for their family’s farm for the first time during the war. The Lorimers at Holestone bought their first tractor around 1941 – a Fordson. Derek remembers that it came with steel wheels rather than rubber tyres. A previous tractor ordered by Derek’s father had been lost when the ship carrying it had sunk in the Irish Sea. The Robsons at Ballyhamage acquired their first tractor at around the same time. Before this Billy’s father had taken the Alvis car that he had used to deliver eggs to Belfast and made it into a cut down car and effectively used it as a tractor. Lorry tyres were attached to the ordinary car tyres and the Alvis did quite a bit of work in the fields. Other farmers were doing something similar on their farms, and Billy notes that considerable ingenuity was shown by farmers at this time. John Milliken’s father acquired his first tractor around 1950. It was an Allis Chalmers which sat higher than either a Ferguson or Fordson and, as John points out, was better for going through crops.

South Antrim Living Memories Project wishes to acknowledge the assistance of: