Massey Ferguson MF35 Tractor Roller

As spring time in 2022 comes around it has been a year since our Massey Ferguson tractor returned to the club after it’s big overhaul.

While we will be looking in the tractors history, the condition of the tractor before the overhaul, the overhaul and the return to the park it’s really important that we remember all the people who have involved with the tractor and the memories that many of volunteers and grounds staff who had the tractor experience over the years. (Some of the tales have become very tall tales indeed). If you have any further information about the tractor or what to share a story please get in touch.

There is one person who is most remembered with the tractor and that is John Thompson who served on the committee for 37 years, and much of ‘retirement’ as our clubs groundman. Thomo was always going to have the first ride on tractor in September 2021 when it returned to the park, even putting it into top gear! We were really grateful we had this moment as Thomo passed as not long after this on the 14th of October 2021, aged 85.

Tractors History

The current members of the club don’t have a lot of detail about the history of the club from what we know the tractor was acquired in the early 1970’s and it was one of two tractors which we believe a farmer converted to have the rollers on it, the second tractor was for Old Collegiate Cricket Club presumably to serve at Elmwood Park.

A check of the 1978/79 annual report shows an asset called “Motorised Roller” which was purchased for $200.00 and had a book value of $80.00, being depreciated over 5 years. This would indicate that if this is the tractor it arrived in 1975.

We think that tractor is MF 35 type and that tractor ended production in 1959, and in some of the photos it has a yellow paint coming through which could indicate anything – but some were used in civil work and they were coloured yellow or grey.

There is stamp on the gearbox which indicates it as forged in the Nuneaton works in the UK. The tractor also had a licence plate – ‘431UN’ but a check of some databases by our sources failed to reveal any history there.

Due to the tractor roller being essentially lightweight, it was partnered up with a large water filled roller which it could tow for ‘heavy rolling’. This must have proved a bit of a challenge to drive as the way the steering is setup it is opposite to a car, so you turn the wheel the right and you actually head off to the left!

Tractor problems

Keeping an ageing tractor going on no budget was becoming a challenge and it became more of a “fill up the oil” more than petrol issue.

Thomo emailed the committee in his typical understated style back in June 2015

Greetings,- A short note re our illustrious Tractor.

The water pump has now given up creating a situation inside the engine and block that requires major surgery.

I have engaged Kendall Motors to hopefully make some running repairs. They have removed the Radiator which may be beyond repair but this can be overcome using a  makeshift core and adapting this to other parts of the chassis making the cooling system workable. The water pump may be repaired and hopefully the fan and generator can be placed back in some form to enable our tractor a reprieve from extinction. I will oversee  progress and  report back later.

The core and water pump with fan have been removed from the shed and taken to Kendall motors. They are in Sheffield Crescent. That’s progress so far.  They will g ive me progress reports re costs etc.etc. Cheers and Beers.JFT

John Thompson

The Kendall Motors that Thomo is referring to is our Friday Junior cricket sponsors and Mike from their has been called out to the park on several occasions to keep the tractor going.

In 2017 we captured a video of the tractor which then was in the hands of Dave Robertson and with the help of Mike from Kendal Vehicle services they were keeping her in action over the next two seasons.

The Overhaul

By 2019 the tractor really was sick and if it was not for the right man in the right place at the right time we are not really sure what might have happened.

Burny and Janet Martin moved to NZ from South Africa and as luck was to have it they found themselves living close to Burnside Park. Burny and Janet’s daughters Nicole and Lee-Ann both play for the club, and their relative Des Knowles and his sons John Cowley and Clayton both play for North-West Youth Cricket.

Burny is a diesel mechanic by trade and an excellent seam bowler, we had been chatting to Burny about the tractor and coaxed him into the shed one day to look at the sorry state of affairs in back 2019 here is a short video of that occasion

Burny suggested that we would be able to help get it running much better but said that it really needs to get delivered to his place of work where there is a back shed with better room and tools to work on it.

I’ll just take it away and fix a couple of oil leaks

Burny Martin 2019

It’s not really clear when Burny decided that he would undertake this bigger project, but we are so grateful that he did, because what he organised was a strip down and replacement of the moving parts, bearings, brakes, gearbox and also full rewire including ignition, dials and gauges and it even has a key now! There were a number of collaborators who didn’t wish to be mentioned and the club is grateful for their help but the main players to thank are:

Burny and Janet Martin, Coleman auto electric, Des and John Cowley and Richard Moffat

In July 2021we were able to take Thomo along to see progress and he was more than surprised, as was Dave, about the extent of work that had been undertaken and the decision to repaint the tractor – in club colours. Burny went through the work undertaken and parts replaced.

Here is video during the visit

Thomo checks up with the work in progress in July 2021

We were almost there and Burny called to say there are a few things which he would like to change that he was not been to sort out, but that we should get, this included a replacement carburettor, some other small parts, and decking for the tray of the tractor. The club decided to run a give-a-little page and we were looking for $875.00 and we managed to raise $1,175.00 from 19 generous donours. Thanks to each and everyone of them

Burny and everybody worked really hard to finish off the tractor in time for the start of the new season in 2021 and soon it was ready for transporting back to Burnside Park

Return to the Burnside Park

In September 2021 the tractor roller was returned to the park and we arranged to have Thomo come down to give it the first drive. The sun was shining and Thomo accompanied by life members Reg Hintz, Graham Dowling, Paul O’Grady were joined by Burny Martin, Dave Robertson and Shane Young. Thomo was delighted to have the tractor back in service where it will be cared for and a source of pride for many years to come.

We managed to get this video and actually captured Burny talking about what he did to the tractor, apologies for the quality of the sound – but a great video!

Thanks to Burny and Janet Martin

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