November 1, 2008

Northumbrian milking machine tales: The revolution from hand milking to machines

Byres, hemmels, shippons and mistles - milking machine tales

by Jack Dent (2005)

Forty-five years doesn’t seem long as you live it, but nowadays I get some queer looks from young ones when I mention what went on in the past. This was brought home to me during my last few months working for Simplex. I was moving on after twenty odd years as I had reached the dizzy heights of “Northern Sales Manager”.

Image: an advert for Simplex milking equipment from Farm Mechanisation magazine, August 1966 kindly supplied by Tom Clancy, retired milking machine installer, Hamilton NZ.

The Simplex bucket unit used on North Tyne farms

I had to fill in for one of my reps and went up into the Whitby Dales to follow up an enquiry. The farmer was a nice young fellow and I sold him a small milking machine. As I was leaving he said –‘Oh do you have a son working for Simplex”? I said that I didn’t and asked why he wanted to know.

He replied – “When I was a little lad at home a man called Jack Dent put our milking machine in, and he stayed with us and he used to play football with us, eeh we had a grand time”. I looked closer at him and asked if he had lived at Waupley New Inn farm, and he said “Yes I did’! He couldn’t believe it when I told him that I was the same Jack Dent he’d known as a boy. In his mind he imagined that I had stayed the same age even though he had grown into a man.

I don’t think I put in the first milking parlour in the North of England, although I might well have been among the first. But I quite definitely sold the first New Zealand style “herringbone” type parlour in the North. This was to a man at Low Mowthorpe near Malton, and was on the next farm to MAF Experimental Husbandry Farm; it caused a great stir in the district.

Modern New Zealand herringbone

I sold a good many from that one, and I subsequently found that my competitors were taking their prospects to see it, and telling them that their’s was more advanced than ours. I suppose this was fair game as I had taken John Rowbottom down to the Farmer’s Weekly farm at Tring in Hertfordshire to see a Gascoigne herringbone. That was the only herringbone in the country at the time and mine was next.

I shudder to tell you the teething troubles we had with that machine and I just about lived on that farm for weeks. One night I was there and my fitter (Derek) was sorting things out. We couldn’t get something to work right and we decided he would stay the night to keep the thing going.

By this time, Derek was very popular as he was a brilliant piano player after the style of Russ Conway and the Rowbottom girls were all in love with him. They were delighted he was going to stay the night. It was 60 miles from his home and he said to one of these young ladies who was looking forward to hearing him play, “I’ll just nip home for my pyjamas.” “Oh please don’t be long” she said, “I have to go to bed soon.”

The well-cared-for old byre at Greenhaugh on the end of the house

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