February 23, 2009

Daft Laddie tales from North Tyne & Rede: A load ‘o Hareshaw coal

Northumberland, farming, humour, dialect, Fergie tractor, Daft Laddies, history, 1950s

By Donald Clegg

Hareshaw Head Farm, farmed in the 1950s by Barty Armstrong who also owned the drift mine that was on the right side of the Bellingham to Otterburn road, just off the bottom of the picture. (D Clegg)

Wor oot o' coal - hadaway te Hareshaw pit
Then there was the time when the boss sent me with the Fergie and trailer to fetch a load of coal from Hareshaw pit, about three miles from the farm. The pit was an old drift mine at the very top of Hareshaw Moor, reached from Otterburn cross roads up two long and steep inclines known as the Lang Banks. About a ton of coal was duly shovelled into my trailer by the pit workers and I set off for the farm.

Trundling downhill for home at 15 miles an hour soon became boring, so I decided to hurry the job alang a bit and save the boss fuel, and therefore money (being ever conscious of his not bein made ‘o muney). So I knocked the ever-willing little Fergie out of gear.

The increase in speed was at first exhilarating, then exciting, then downright alarming. Shouting 'Woah' didn't work! When the trailer began to sway from side to side and the tractor felt like it was about to overturn at any moment, I stamped on the clutch and eventually, after several desperate attempts, crashed the engine back into gear.

For a few terrifying minutes (it may only have been seconds), I thought all the Fergie’s 45 horses were trying the get oot of the stable at once! The noise of the screaming, tortured engine was unbelievable. as tractor and trailer fought each other for supremacy. Thankfully, the tractor gradually slowed, the swaying ceased, and the equipage resumed its steady 15 miles an hour.

An instant medal for Harry
I personally awarded Harry Ferguson with the Order of the Garter, and owt else he fancied for his engineering genius! Needless to say, the remainder of the journey was sedate in the extreme and the boss never did get to know how close he had been to losing tractor, trailer, his load of Hareshaw best coal, and his Daft Laddie into the bargain!

Harry would have appreciated an honour from Don Clegg as he never got one from the Queen. He was an Irishman and should have been given The British Throne for his contribution to mankind!

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