Authorities draw fire as Ferguson auction looms

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Not one, but two local authorities have come in for criticism ahead of the auction later this week of a historic collection of Harry Ferguson tractors and implements.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, successor to Banbridge District Council, which long traded on Ferguson’s association with Dromore, has confirmed it “does not intend to pursue the purchase of these items”.

Meanwhile, as the Leader went to press, uncertainty surrounded the plans of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, within whose current boundaries lies the Ferguson homestead at Growell.

That authority having reportedly bowed out of earlier negotiations to buy the Hunday collection, councillors were due, at a special meeting last night (Monday) - to discuss behind closed doors a report on the matter from the Director of Development and Planning.

According to at least some Ferguson devotees among the wider public, failure to secure the collection for display locally would amount, at one end of the scale, to a missed opportunity, and at the other, to “an absolute disgrace”.

Tractor magnate, inventor, innovator and early airman, Harry Ferguson was born at Growell, near Dromore, and has long been hailed one of Dromore’s most famous sons.

At the same time, the homestead’s address at Magheraconluce Road and Ferguson’s association with Hillsborough, where he took to the air as the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane, root him too within the wider Lisburn area.

James Girvan had this to say on Facebook: “Lisburn council were in negotiations to buy the collection for the last year with a view to opening a museum somewhere in the Lisburn area. They were looking for suitable storage facilities in August to house the collection until a museum could be built, so we were sure they had purchased it. Then they pulled out in mid September without a word to anyone . . .”

Lynne McCabe said: “. . . why did the council not take negotiations through to fruition? What happened? Is the deal not available for private investors or a joint venture? I run a guesthouse, one of the nearest to Growell; we have had people from all over the world stay with us, interested in the Ferguson story, but none more passionate than the Irish fans, supporters and collectors.”

Lynne, who thought the collection would make a “great museum tourist attraction” went on to add: “Maybe Banbridge council would do

something ... stuff Lisburn! Growell is Dromore after all.”

The Leader asked Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council if it wished to respond to public comments or indicate its intentions in respect of the collection, but it was unable to offer any statement by time of going to press.

Due to go under the hammer on Saturday (November 14) - in a sale organised by Cambridgeshire auctioneers Cheffins and Suffolk’s Clarke and Simpson - the Hunday collection, hailed the world’s most complete set of vintage Ferguson tractors and implements, boasts 73 tractors and 100 implements, along with other rare memorabilia and literature.

Offered for sale by Paul Rackham, of Camp Farm, near Thetford, in Norfolk, England, the collection is expected to generate great interest among Ferguson enthusiasts from throughout the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA and beyond, and fetch more than £400,000.

It also features a fully restored Series One long wheel-base Land Rover that was purchased new by Harry Ferguson Ltd and has a guide price of between £20,000 and £25,000.

The vehicle was the 13th long-wheelbase (107”) Land Rover to roll off the production line and was supplied new to the ‘grey Fergie’ manufacturers in Coventry in November 1953.

It is thought to have inspired the four-wheeled drive developments carried out by Harry Ferguson Research Limited.