The tattie picker
You know how these things happen - quite by accident usually - and this one was just the same. Chris and I needed to post a couple of letters the other day and as it was such a cracking day, we decided to have a little walk from home and out towards the Kirbister Museum to a post box. I had my binoculars with me as there are always some interesting birds to see, especially as Spring was on it's way and the Oystercatchers had returned a bit further inland. On our way back we made a little detour up a track to a ruin which would give us a better view of the Boardhouse Loch and over to the Brough of Birsay. By the side of the ruin there was an old farm implement just off the track - neither of us knew what it was, but it appeared to be wheel driven with some kind of rotating 'flinger' at the back. At first I thought it might be something for turning grass for drying. Always on the lookout for a suitable 'garden feature', I was tempted to carry on up the track to the house to ask who it belonged to and if it might be for sale but resisted as it was approaching lunch time and we were both getting hungry.
As we came up the hill to our house, we made a short detour into the disused quarry nearby to see how much it might have changed during the winter after some of the spoil from a nearby new-build had been deposited there. At this time of year with the grass and weeds very low, over in the far corner of the quarry was something that immediately caught my eye - another of these implements we had just been looking at half an hour ago. How come I'd never seen that before?
Later that day I had a wander over to our neighbour, Alfie, the farmer who would no doubt know all about it. Following my lay-man's description, it dawned on him what I was talking about. 'Oh, beauy! that's chest me awld tattie picker we used to drag ahint the tractor'. I asked if he might sell it to me, to use as a 'Garden Feature' but instead he kindly donated it to the cause and delivered it on the loader of his tractor a couple of days later.
THE IMPERIAL POTATO RAISER
As soon as it arrived, I squirted some penetrating lube around the oiling and greasing points and anywhere where there was anything that ought to slide or turn. I then searched the net for any information about the company and their products and came up with a surprising amount of stuff about Mr Alexander Jack and his very impressive business. Apparently he started out as a cart-wright and then gradually moved into making agricultural machinery. Considering the age of this digger (they started making them in about 1901) the castings are remarkable complicated, so their pattern-makers and foundry men must have been very skilful. The company only ceased trading in 1966, so there may even be folk around who worked on these diggers. I would quite like to find out what the original colour scheme might have been - but it's not going to be subjected to any kind of 'concours' restoration - promise! I suppose I will just be the next 'Custodian' of this machine and I'm quite pleased that it has been rescued from its inevitable fate.
During my web trawling I also found someone over in the Netherlands who has an identical machine although with a different drawbar system and we have exchanged a few emails on the subject. Judging by the age of these raisers, mine may also have been modified to be pulled by tractor instead of horses.
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