Machinery & markets

Farm Machinery

The modern farming pattern in East Lothian experienced fundamental changes since the war. The horse, as the main power source, declined and was rapidly replaced by tractor power, supplied by manufacturers such as Fordson, Case, Allis-Chalmers, John Deere and Ferguson. But it was with the introduction, in 1947, of the 3-point linkage system, controlled by the tractor hydraulics, which had the biggest impact on farm mechanization. Patented by Harry Ferguson it was known as ‘The Ferguson System’. In East Lothian the main dealer for the complete range of Ferguson tractors and implements was Geo. Henderson Ltd, trading from their Kingston depot from 1942-1962, when they moved to larger premises in Haddington. Since 1945 the tractor evolved from the first 20 series petrol models to the 35s and 135s upwards to modern diesel-driven 150-200 horsepower machines capable of handling the wide range of cultivating and irrigating equipment available.

One man and a combine, Dirleton pre-1975

Other machinery, which greatly impacted on farm modernisation, was the combine harvester, which developed from the early self-propelled machines, to high output computer controlled harvesters capable of cutting 50-60 acres per day. By the late 1950s/early 1960s the use of combines and pick-up balers was widespread. Modern grain drying and storage facilities were installed and machines for cutting and collecting silage were also more common. The appearance of big round balers in the late 1970s for hay, silage and straw baling enabled farmers to secure their crops quickly and more efficiently; silage and hay bales were sealed in plastic wrapping were weatherproof and enabled outside storage. A number of farms utilised their balers further and undertook contract baling.

Another revolutionary invention was the advent of the precision seeder, enabling seeds to be sown at regular intervals, thus saving the labour intensive work of singling and hoeing.

Potato production in East Lothian had become a specialized business requiring large expensive equipment for the production, harvesting and storing of the crop. Gone were the days of the potato squads.

Livestock Markets

During the war, the marts at Haddington and East Linton, owned by Messrs John Swan & Sons, were operated as collective centres. Panels consisting of an auctioneer, a butcher and a farmer graded fat cattle and sheep; cattle were weighed and classified and payment made to producers at previously published prices, dependent on the category decided by the panel.

Sheep were classified into lots from each consignor and paid on an estimated carcass weight. Pigs were marked for identification and paid on carcass grade and weight. Large numbers passed through both centres and 300/600 cattle and 2000/4000 sheep were not unusual. These collecting centres, held on alternate Mondays, ended in 1954 and both marts returned to selling by auction. Store sheep sales by auction were held at Haddington for many years in the late summer and early autumn. These took place on a Friday on a fortnightly basis. The increase in road transport and changes in farming policy caused their demise.

‘East Linton Fair’ was held on the second Thursday in October. This was a popular sale for store cattle and buyers attended in large numbers. A special train left Grantshouse on the sale morning and collected consignments at various stations en route to East Linton. Numbers were usually around 1200 home bred and 1000 imported Irish cattle.

East Linton mart ceased trading in March 1960 and Haddington in February 1976. Thereafter livestock from East Lothian, for sale through the auction system, was traded through the marts in Edinburgh or St Boswells.