A lifetime of DB

The following article was written for ytmag some time ago.

A Lifetime of David Brown
By Samuel Kennedy

I was born in 1950 and reared on my family’s 100 acre farm. It was a fairly typical Northern Ireland farm where the main enterprise was dairying but some pigs, poultry and sheep were also kept. Potatoes were grown for sale and oats were grown to be used for cattle and horse feeding. Up to about 1958 the dairy cows were fed hay with some turnips and after that grass silage was the main winter feed. That same year was the last in which flax was grown on the farm. Flax provided the fibre which was the base material for the world renowned Irish Linen Industry.

A David Brown Cropmaster tractor was used on the farm from 1948 for most of the cultivation and harvesting. I still remember the last Clydesdale cart horse being used on the farm by my father and grandfather, I think the horse was last used about 1960. From the age of 7 or 8 my brother and I like all other farmer’s sons were expected to help out on the farm with little jobs like calf feeding and egg collecting. William was always interested in livestock and I liked working with tractors and machinery. I learned to drive on the Cropmaster which was good to learn on because it seated 2 people. Farming was prospering in Ulster in the 1950’s and 60’s with plenty of demand for all types of agricultural produce.

My father bought his first brand new tractor in 1956. It was a David Brown 25D which was a great improvement on the petrol/TVO Cropmaster because of its easy starting and economical fuel consumption. The 25D was later fitted with a Mill front end loader and this tractor gave excellent service for many years. In 1961 I helped my father to overhaul the Cropmaster’s engine. We fitted new pistons and liners, new big end bearings and reground the valves. The engine had been suffering from lack of compression and was prone to oiling up the spark plugs. Often a coat button had to be placed in a plug lead to heat up the spark and stop missfiring. This engine repair job kindled my interest in things mechanical.

In 1960 a neighbour came to cut silage on our farm with his new David Brown Hurricane forage harvester powered by a 4 cylinder Massey ferguson 35 tractor. This outfit really impressed my father and the next year he bought his own Hurricane. The 25D was used to drive the Hurricane but more power and a live clutch were needed .Soon a David Brown 950 Implematic was purchased and the problem was solved. By the mid 1960’s the farm was almost exclusively involved in dairying. Silage making and slurry spreading were the main jobs for the farm tractors. Most neighbouring farmers used Massey Ferguson or Ford tractors but my father remained loyal to David Brown right up to the time of his death in 1981. The 950 Implematic was followed by a 990 Implematic, 990 Selectamatic, 1210, 1212 and finally a 1390. Some were bought new, some secondhand and often there were 3 David Browns at work together on the farm.

When I was at secondary school during the years 1962 -69 I often helped to carry out tractor and machinery repairs in the evenings and on Saturdays. I also did some tractor driving but my time was being increasingly taken up by my interest in electrical installation work. In 1965 I had assisted an electrician installing new dairy equipment on our farm. Subsequently I began to carry out electrical wiring jobs on local farms . This part time business soon began to interest me more than my schoolwork. By February 1969 I had so many wiring jobs on hand that I left school and started to work full time on my own account as an electrical contractor.

During the 12 years up to my marriage on Boxing Day 1981, my work virtually excluded any involvement with the family farm and I only had a passing interest in the tractors which were in use locally. My new wife Betty thought that I should have a hobby. She encouraged me when I thought of restoring an old tractor. On the 5th of March 1983 I bought my 1st Vintage David Brown, a 1948 petrol/TVO Cropmaster.I carried out a complete mechanical rebuild, cleaned and primed the entire tractor and today, 24 years later, it still has not been painted or completely reassembled.

My David Brown tractor collection got bigger and bigger until I purchased 5 tractors from the famous collection of Fred Campling in Lincolnshire England on the 12th of July 1986.Twenty one David Browns, some good, some bad and some ugly were in my sheds when I sustained a severely broken left leg. My business was not going well and my premises were damaged by a freak flood later on in the same year. To raise some cash I decided to have an auction, offering all my tractors and other surplus equipment for sale. The tractor list included David Brown tractors 50D crawler, VIG aircraft towing tractor, VAK1, VAK1A, Cropmasters diesel & TVO, 25, 25D, 30D, 900D and others. About half of the tractors were sold at the auction.

After another 7 years, in 1994 I decided to close down my electrical contracting business. Another auction sale was held and a few more tractors were sold. Although I had not bought any tractors for 8 years I had continued to collect David Brown sales literature, parts books and operators manuals. The tractor collecting bug was only dormant. In February 1996 I purchased a neighbour’s 780 Selectamatic at his farm clearance sale.I carried out a complete restoration of the 780 and began to build up my collection again. By 2007 about 25 tractors had been purchased ranging from a VAK1 to a 1690 Turbo. A DB3800 from Canada and a DB750 from Germany were joined by a Satoh S650G from USA. In 2007 I built a new shed to house my tractor collection. October 2008 saw the arrival of seven David Brown tractors from Sweden. These tractors had been expertly restored by the late Ingemar Karllson from Knivista,Sweden who was a renowned DB collector. Included were a 50D,31D,Super Cropmaster, Prairie Cropmaster,990 Implematic,880 Implematic(4cyl) and an 880 Selectamatic. These tractors are now the centrepiece of my collection.

In 1996 I became one of the founder members of The David Brown Tractor Club in England. Through the club and by means of the internet I now am in regular contact with David Brown fanatics worldwide.

I hope you have enjoyed this potted history of my lifetime interest in David Brown Tractors.

I am keen to learn more and to share the information I have. Please feel free to contact me.

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