JOHN DEERE DEALING IN ENGLAND

By Staff
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A view of plowing from Don Macmillan's new model D in 1943, with a 4 furrow IH '8C' plow at Highway Farm, Hilmarton, Calne, Wilts.
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Model 'L' Tractor, Serial No. 621777, 9 H.P. No test. Unstyled and very rare version of the 10 H.P. smallholders tractor. Deere first 2 cylinder engine, manufactured 1937.
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John Deere Model 'GP' (Orchard) Tractor, Serial No. 15089, 25.36 H.P. Test No. 153. This is one which stayed in Macmillan's collection.

Last fall, Don Macmillan sent us a copy of the catalog for his
tractor auction in England. We thought our readers would be
interested in the outcome, so we wrote and asked for a more
complete story. What follows are Don’s reflections on his long
career as a John Deere dealer and collector. Don lives at
‘Whiterig’ in Etchilhampton, Nr. Devises, Wilts,
England.

My interest in John Deere started with the arrival on the
Cotswold farm where I was a pupil of a new John Deere AR tractor,
serial no. 259,254 in the spring of 1940.

Until then all the work on a farm a mile square, 640 acres, was
done with horses except for one small Allis ‘B’ and the
occasional loan of brother-in-law’s ‘WF’.

The new tractor was the only John Deere around those parts, and
amazed everybody with its lugging abillity. I was appointed its
driver and we were pulling a 4 furrow Cockshutt, 10′ plow when
Fordson’s pulled 2 furrows and International 10-20s and 15-30s
looking much larger pulled either 2 or at most 3 furrows. I had
learnt to plow with 3 horses and a 2 furrow plow-not a ride-on!

On the petrol tank of the AR it said John Deere, Moline, Ill.,
so I duly wrote to them telling them of our new acquisition and
they replied inviting me to visit them ‘after the war.’

In 1942, Aug. 1st, I left the farm to start custom operating
with a secondhand Oliver 90, a 4 furrow Ransomes plow, a fuel
tender and my motorbyke on a ramp behind the tender.

Since much plowing was needed for the war effort to feed our
island nation, I applied to the War Ag Committee for a new John
Deere and on Feb. 8, 1943, I obtained my first model ‘D’ on
steel wheels for ?417.10.

Gradually over the years my custom operation grew-I had my first
combine in 1944, a Case ‘QRS’ 12′ engine driven bagger
combine which we pulled with one of our 4 John Deere tractors, (the
styled D, an unstyled D, a new A and an unstyled BW). in 1947 I
bought a 220 acre farm which I farmed for 20 years.

Because I had little capital to spare I used to buy a machine
just before the season and sell it as soon as I’d finished with
it, which meant I was dealing in secondhand tractors (mostly John
Deere) and combines, another line in which I specialized. In 1958 I
sold 112 combines which could well be a world record for one
person, and several years I passed the 80 sales mark.

My first visit to the States and Moline was in September 1947
and I was promised then that if Deere ever came to Europe I could
have their agency. In 1949/50 the pound was devalued against the
dollar-from $4 to ?1 to $2.40 to ?1 which meant that all U.S. John
Deere equipment became too expensive to sell in the U.K.

As a result the original importer of John Deere, Standens, went
over to Massey-Ferguson and I acquired all their J.D. spares, and
was the only dealer in the U.K. who kept the green and yellow
banner flying.

In 1956 Deere bought Lanz in Mannheim and in November 1958 I was
appointed their first dealer in the U.K. At the annual dealer
dinner at the Smithfield Show on Dec. 5, 1978, I was presented with
a paperweight which sits on my desk, commemmorating this fact. At
the same dinner I gave the 300 or so dealers, their wives and staff
a ‘John Deere-This is Your Life’ presentation on
the history of Deere in the British Isle.

With the impending depression on the horizon, I decided to sell
my dealership which by then had two branches in Devises and at
Wilton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire to the neighboring John Deere
dealer in Somerset. This left me with a large quantity of parts
they didn’t require, the Branch House stores was also full due
to the beginning of the recession and in addition I had the company
vehicles plus a large stock of the original ‘2 cylinder’
spares.

In 1977 I had decided that if I didn’t start collecting old
John Deere tractors, machines, and literature, they would soon
disappear. I had a model M which I’d bought in Dublin in 1959
and an AW I’d acquired in 1969 as a nucleus and over the next 4
years I collected a further 37 tractors. Most of these were
purchased in these Islands, but I had imported 9 from the States
and Canada in 1978.

Because I needed the space occupied by this collection, all the
parts and the vehicles, I decided last summer to hold the auction
sale, which was the subject of a page advertisement in the Sept/Oct
1981 issue of G.E.M. Of the 39 tractors collected, 6 were
still abroad-one in France, 2 in the U.S., and 3 in Canada, so that
on October 3rd, 33 eventually came under the auctioneer’s
hammer.

Between 300 and 400 attended with some from Europe and North
America. We decided to produce a glossy catalogue of the sale with
a photo of each of the tractors offered, taken by a member of the
Devizes Camera Club. We charged ?2 over here and $5 abroad for this
book which is quite a collectors item in itself, and a few of which
are still available.

My original intention was to sell about 12 of the tractors
offered, which were either duplicates or where I had better
examples on offer to me, and keeping 21 plus the 6 not yet shipped
home. When the auction was complete, however, I ended up selling 21
and keeping only 12- despite the reserves I had placed on most of
the tractors.

As always happens at an auction some of the prices obtained were
surprising, and particularly would this apply if comparing British
and U.S. market conditions. It must also be borne in mind that it
costs over ?800 ($1500+) to ship a tractor from the States to U.K.
now, and after that one must pay 16% duty on nett landed
cost
plus a further 15% Value Added Tax. If one is given a
tractor in North America, it costs over $2000 at home here!

Having said that the 1918 Waterloo Boy made the highest price
for a tractor that I have heard, ?8400, the 1928 ‘D’ ?1200
(required some attention and was stuck), the 1935 ‘D’
?2600-we are not so insistent on steel wheels over here- the 1938
‘G’ ?1500, Bs from ?600 to ?900, ‘H’s: ?800 to 825
and ‘A’s: ?400 to 1400.

I did not sell-intentionally-the unstyled ‘L’ (my pride
and joy), the ‘GP’ orchard model, the unstyled ‘A’
and ‘B’s, my original ‘M’ and the ‘GW’
amongst others. Still to come home I have a 1922 Waterloo Boy, a
1925 ‘Spoke D’ and a 1927 D in Canada, and two 1927 and
1931 GPs in the U.S. and am looking forward to my next trip-to
acquire 3 or 4 more tractors to make up two container loads. (4 or
5 tractors per container)

I hope the above proves of interest. My collection has been
loaned to the National Science Museum, who have recently taken over
a local aerodome with seven large hangars, and where they have the
first hovercraft SRNI, a Comet, Trident and Dakota (DC3), many old
trucks, cars and motorcycles in addition to the agricultural side,
which includes steam plowing engines, a thresher, old combines,
including a John Deere ’36’, and much else of great
interest.

Already I have purchased a ‘BW’ since the sale and have
an AR, BR and BO on offer over here, plus many tractors ‘over
there’ so that I look forward to many years collecting ahead. I
think most of the fun in our hobby is in the collecting, and the
super people you meet with the same interests. For me it is said I
have green and yellow blood in my veins. May I wish you and all
your readers a very happy and successful ‘collecting’ year
in 1982.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines