Henry George (Harry) Ferguson (November 4, 1884 - October 25, 1960) had an important role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, and his name lives on in the name of the Massey Ferguson company. As a young man he became the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane, with the 1909 flight of the Ferguson monoplane, and his company later developed the first four wheel drive Formula One car, the Ferguson P99.
He was born at Growell, near Dromore, County Down, Ireland, and was the son of a farmer.
In 1902 Ferguson went to work with his brother Joe in his bicycle and car repair business. Whilst working there as a mechanic he developed an interest in aviation, to the extent of visiting airshows abroad. In 1904 he began to race motorcycles.
In 1909 Ferguson became the first person to fly in Ireland, when he took off on December 31 in a monoplane he had designed and built himself. After falling out with his brother over the safety and future of aviation Ferguson decided to go it alone, and in 1911 founded a company selling Maxwell automobile, Star and Vauxhall cars and Overtime Tractors - eventually to be named Harry Ferguson Limited.
Ferguson saw at first hand the weakness of having tractor and plough as separate articulated units, and in 1917 he devised a plough which could be rigidly attached to a Model T Ford car - the Eros, which became a limited success, competing with the Fordson Model F.
Ferguson eventually founded the Ferguson-Sherman Inc., along with Eber and George Sherman. The new enterprise developed a ploughing system that incorporated a Duplex hitch system which fitted the Fordson line tractors. Ferguson's new hydraulic system was first seen on the Ferguson-Brown Model A tractors. Ferguson eventually made a handshake agreement with Henry Ford so that Ford could use Ferguson's three-point hitch system on his new line of tractors (Fordson 9N, 2N, and 8N). Henry Ford II, Ford's grandson, abruptly ended the handshake deal on June 30, 1947. Ferguson's reaction was a law suit demanding $251,000,000 in all. Ferguson then set up his own company to build Ferguson Tractors, the first model being the Ferguson TE 20, which was very similar to the Ford-Fergusons, built by Fordson. The disagreement was settled with Ferguson receiving the then huge sum of £9,500,000 in April of 1952. A year later Ferguson tractors merged with Massey-Harris to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson Co. This merger eventually turned into the Massey Ferguson Company.
Ferguson's research division went on to develop various cars and tractors, including the first Formula One 4 wheel drive car. See Ferguson Research Ltd. The Ferguson 4 wd system was used in the Jensen Intercepter, a car ahead of its time, being built nearly 20 years before the Iconic 4 wd Audi "Quatro" Rally cars that popularised the use of 4 wd in road cars.
Memorials and recognitionEdit
A blue plaque commemorating Ferguson is mounted on the Ulster Bank building in Donegall Square, Belfast, the former site of his showroom. A granite memorial has been erected to Ferguson's pioneering flight on the North Promenade, Newcastle. A full-scale replica of the Ferguson monoplane and an early Ferguson tractor and plough can be seen at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra.
Ferguson was commemorated in 1981 when he appeared on stamps issued by the Irish Post Office in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Ferguson's image appears today on the obverse of £20 sterling notes issued by the Northern Bank.
In 2008 the Harry Ferguson Memorial gardens were officially opened. Situated opposite the house Harry Ferguson lived in, just outside Dromara, Co. Down. A sculpture of Harry Ferguson was erected in the garden and sees the famous man leaning on a fence surveying the view. Sculpted by Whiteabbey based artist, John Sherlock. The gardens are open to the public.
- Harry Ferguson: The Man and The Machine
- They Came From Dromore: Harry Ferguson
- The Ferguson Tractor Story By Stuart Gibbard
- Unofficial Ferguson site
- Massey Ferguson Tractor and Combine site
- Massey-Harris-Ferguson Collection at the University of Guelph Library, Archival and Special Collections
- The Harry Ferguson Engineering Village at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, N.Ireland
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