5 January 2001


THE well of nostalgia for the David Brown tractor gets deeper. It is probably best explained by Alan Earnshaw who lived opposite this all-British tractor manufacturer and served his apprenticeship with it.

"Working at Browns initiated you into a club and a family… It was more than just a job," he says.

Prof Earnshaw is the author of one of two volumes of farm classics which trace the history of this much-loved tractor from its birth in the pre-war partnership between David Brown and Harry Ferguson, the eventual Case-Tenneco takeover to the last tractor rolling off the assembly line in 1988.

A story in the second volume, written by another one-time David Brown apprentice, Anthony Heath, probably explains the abiding affection for this agricultural workhorse of yesteryear and the firm that made it. When local farmer Trevor Mitchell was urgently admitted to hospital leaving his muck-spreading half-completed, David Brown came to the rescue by sending two tractors with drivers to complete the job. Thats customer care with knobs on!

Prof Earnshaw describes the story of the David Brown tractor "as one of the most fascinating pieces of British agricultural engineering history". From 1939 to the end the huge works dominated the small town of Meltham, near Huddersfield. "Fitting snugly into an attractive and deeply wooded valley on the edge of the Pennines."

As relations with Ferguson cooled, Brown resorted to cloak and dagger tactics to build his own machines. A wooden mock-up was followed by the first of many bright, stylish show models dubbed "pansy tractors" by the blunt Yorkshiremen who made them.

Before this second volume of the David Brown story was published customers in 30 countries were queuing up to buy it. Hundreds of enthusiasts still stay loyal to the Meltham-built tractors including one local farmer who has 10 of them. Five years ago a David Brown Tractor Club was formed which has members all over the world. TM

The two David Brown Tractor volumes – 1936-1964 and 1965-1988 – are published by Trans-Pennine Publishing, PO Box 10, Appleby-in-Westmoreland, Cumbria CA16 6FA at £6.50 each, p&p free in UK.

David Brown tractors are a popular exhibit at rallies.