When your ship comes in

Published: 03:16PM Mar 13th, 2012

David McNamee’s thoughts often wandered back to childhood days of driving a tractor until he realised it just had to be a David Brown Cropmaster.

When your ship comes in

One of David”s friends tries out the David Brown Cropmaster for size.

I was first introduced to a Cropmaster when I was about nine or 10 years of age. As a small boy I used to spend many happy hours on the farm opposite our house in Worsley near Manchester. The farm was tenanted by William Smalley who farmed dairy cows and chickens on 50 acres of land.


Throughout the summer, grass was grown for hay and silage and the tractors used were a David Brown Cropmaster and a David Brown Super Cropmaster. My first introduction was one hay time when William asked if I wanted to drive the tractor. I jumped on and was told to press that pedal right down and put the gear lever to No.2. I quickly realised that wearing clogs shod with irons was not a good idea and so very quickly replaced iron with rubber. I lost count of how many times my foot slipped off the clutch pedal!

At 16 I left home and joined the Merchant Navy sailing all over the world, often being away for several months at a time, but I always did a spell on the farm when I returned home on leave. The Cropmaster was eventually sold into preservation and replaced by a David Brown 990 Implematic. The Super Cropmaster went into preservation and I think it was bought by the same gentleman who bought the Cropmaster and believe he was from the Whalley area.

My interest in vintage vehicles continued and during my time at home my wife and I became frequent visitors at various traction engine rallies around Lancashire and Cheshire. In 1971 I purchased an extremely run-down Aveling & Porter steam roller built in 1912. Together with enthusiastic friends and a very helpful chief engineer from the ship, of which I was now captain, the engine was finally restored some two years later. We rallied the engine for four years and then sold it prior to moving to Slaidburn. Another steam roller was purchased and the Slaidburn Steam & Vintage Vehicle Display was born in 1980. Our annual rally was now attracting more and more exhibitors and visitors to this beautiful village in the Bowland Fells. Driving a steam roller up and down hills some 1 in 6 became hard work and eventually the roller was sold to an enthusiast in Kendal.

There was a particular day when my ship was in Warrenpoint, Co. Down, and I was invited to visit the Cooley festival in Co. Louth, organised by the late John Hanlon. I was awestruck by the high standard of restoration on some of the tractors and the name Joe Brown came into the conversation. Sometime later, only months before John Hanlon passed away, I went to see John’s collection and again the name of Joe Brown cropped up.


I was determined more than ever to get a Cropmaster which would complement my 1949 Series One Land Rover. Looking through the many vintage tractor magazines, it was becoming clear that David Brown Cropmasters were becoming harder to find and ones that were for sale were invariably in ‘hedgerow’ condition and required a total rebuild. Last year, while on the ship, I got a call to say that Joe Brown was selling a David Brown Cropmaster. It would be a week before I was due home, but Joe said that was no problem. At last I saw Joe’s tractor in his garage, and it was probably the finest restored tractor I have ever seen. Joe’s wife remarked that the one he was selling was in just the same condition. We went to Joe’s workshop and there was the David Brown Cropmaster – resplendent. It fired up first time and was perfectly sound in every way. The offer was agreed and I returned a few days later with Andrew Newhouse and his Discovery and trailer and brought the tractor home.

The tractor made its debut at our village rally and needless to say it attracted many favourable comments and a great deal of attention. The tractor had been completely restored – engine and gearbox totally rebuilt, new tyres front and rear followed by a complete respray. So you see why it had to be a David Brown Cropmaster.

Words & Pictures David McNamee

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