Red Cliffs Big Lizzie

Vintage Tractor Festival

| September/October 1998

P.O. Box 284 Red Cliffs, Victoria 3496 Australia

Red Cliffs is a small, friendly country town with lots of sunshine and a laid-back country atmosphere, nestled amidst acres of irrigated vineyards, oranges, avocados, almonds, asparagus, and other horticulture in the northwest of the State of Victoria, Australia. It was founded after World War I as a soldier settlement area, the first-allocation of blocks taking place in 1921. The early settlers gave their hearts and souls to the district with a courage and determination that laid the foundation upon which modern Red Cliffs is founded. And throughout the century, agricultural machinery has played an important part in the lives of the local horticulturists. It was inevitable that the tractor became the modem symbol of farm mechanisation.

The first internal combustion powered tractors arrived in Australia at the start of the 20th century. They were crude, but they heralded a new age and revolutionized farming practices. Within two decades tractors from North America and Europe flooded into the country, and Australia also established an indigenous tractor industry with highly comparable machines. However, the early tractors were noisy, cantankerous and uncomfortable.

Today one can find a wealth of old tractors of all sorts in Australia that are highly coveted by overseas collectors. They are scattered on farms in various degrees of decay and have been collected together in museums all around the country. Dedicated fanatics who have collected and restored tractors delight in displaying their machines at the number of tractor and vintage machinery rallies that are held all over Australia.

The McDonald engineering business in Victoria commenced in 1903, when brothers Alfred Henry and Ernest John McDonald set up a workshop in Melbourne which they registered under the business name of A.H. McDonald & Co. In 1908 they launched the first Australian tractor, known as the McDonald Model EA, followed by Model EAA. It possessed only one gear with a forward speed of 2.25 m.p.h. And it is the McDonald connection with 'Big Lizzie' that is of interest to Red Cliffs.

Big Lizzie is probably one of the physically-largest tractors ever built in Australia, a most remarkable lady, who today resides in Barclay Square, Red Cliffs. She was the brain-child of Frank Bottrill, who utilised all his inventive ingenuity and perseverance to turn out a remarkable mechanical monster that laid its own track as it went along. In 1915, he began to construct the frame and assembled the tractor himself at a yard rented near the A.H. McDonald & Co. works in Melbourne. Gears and other machine components were supplied by the McDonald Company.