Bush humour keeps Bruce ticking along

Bush humour keeps Bruce ticking along

Machinery
Local Beacon farmers and Men's Shed members John Dunne (left), Peter Sweetman and curator Bruce Ingleton in front of a 1923 McCormick Deering, the oldest tractor in the Men's Shed collection.

Local Beacon farmers and Men's Shed members John Dunne (left), Peter Sweetman and curator Bruce Ingleton in front of a 1923 McCormick Deering, the oldest tractor in the Men's Shed collection.

Aa

It's known by locals as 'Bruce's shed'

Aa

YOU instinctively know what sort of interview you're facing with early one-liners.

That was the case with 92-year-old former Beacon farmer Bruce Ingleton, who quipped about his age:

"I went to the doctor and he said I'd live to a 100 and get a letter from the Queen," Mr Ingleton said.

"And I told him she might not be around to see it."

That's all it took for this writer to get the feeling a book was coming on.

Ironically, it was a doctor that changed Mr Ingleton's life back to farming.

Born in 1928 in the Riverland region town of Waikerie, 175 kilometres north east of Adelaide, he remembers his childhood years on a Soldiers Settlement farm in the Waikerie district.

The Depressions years of the 1930s did not treat the family farm kindly and according to Mr Ingleton, "the bank sold us up so we got on a boat and moved to WA".

The family settled in the then Midland Junction before moving to Katanning where his father took on the job as farm manager at the Carrolup Native Settlement.

Leading up to World War II and during the war years, a teenaged Mr Ingleton returned to Perth to work, taking any job he could get and at one stage he had nine different jobs in 18 months, including working for DFD Roads Pty Ltd, operating trucks, dozers, draglines and loaders.

Beacon's Men's Shed curator Bruce Ingleton in front of a Steiger Cougar II. It was donated last year by former Beacon Steiger machinery dealer Bob Adshead. At one time, Mr Adshead was Australia's biggest Steiger dealer and Mr Ingleton hopes it will be fully restored to its former glory.

Beacon's Men's Shed curator Bruce Ingleton in front of a Steiger Cougar II. It was donated last year by former Beacon Steiger machinery dealer Bob Adshead. At one time, Mr Adshead was Australia's biggest Steiger dealer and Mr Ingleton hopes it will be fully restored to its former glory.

"I was working 16 to 18 hours a day and getting paid as much as 25 pounds a week when the basic wage was eight quid," Mr Ingleton said.

"Then one day (in the early 1960s) I got crook and the doctor said my body was just plain tired and he told me to get a job on a farm.

"So the next Saturday I went to an employment agency and met up with Harry Dunne, who happened to be looking for a farm hand for his Beacon property.

"He took me on and the following Saturday, me and (and his wife) Shirley were on our way to Beacon in a 1928 Chev 4 two-door coupe.

"Harry picked up our furniture in his Chev truck."

According to Mr Ingleton it was a dramatic lifestyle change working from 8am to 5pm with a lunch break.

"At seeding I assumed he would start a lot earlier but it was only a 7.30am start and you didn't bring you're crib (lunch) because we went back to the house for lunch and then worked till the sun went down because there were no lights on the tractor."

Mr Ingleton stayed at the Dunne's property for two years before moving onto a neighbouring property where after two years the farmer suggested he apply for a Conditional Purchase (CP) block, "seven miles" north of the town.

"It was 5240 acres (2200 hectares) and the government charge was two pound nine pence an acre and they gave you 20 years to pay it off on the condition you cleared 100 acres every year for cropping," he said.

"Our first wheat crop of 200 acres (81ha) was established with a borrowed plough seeder (one-way plough with a seed box on top) and averaged eight bags, which put £1500 in the bank.

"So I bought a small Pizey dozer for £2400, an Inter KS5 truck for £500 and a Horwood Bagshaw 16 disc seeder for £200 and went farming.

"I got good at answering letters from debtors with genuine sorrowful responses and managed to stave off repossessions for two years."

But Mr Ingleton had high praise for the Federal government which he said "made a turning point decision for agriculture" with the introduction of the Commonwealth Development Bank.

"It was set up to increase production in agricultural areas throughout Australia and farmers could get loans," he said.

"I got £18,000 and bought and cleared 500 acres of some the best country in the district and we started off with two very good years in 1961 and '62 and that set us up and on the pathway to upgrading a lot of machinery.

Local farmer John Dunne shows off this Caterpillar D2 crawler tractor which he donated to the Men's Shed. It was one of the first of its kind in the district and according to John his father Harry used to use it for everything.

Local farmer John Dunne shows off this Caterpillar D2 crawler tractor which he donated to the Men's Shed. It was one of the first of its kind in the district and according to John his father Harry used to use it for everything.

One story Mr Ingleton remembers is the time Wesfarmers wanted to sell him an Allis Chalmers 32 disc plough.

"Things were tight and companies were making all sorts of offers to sell gear," he said.

"They offered me an £800 discount but I couldn't do the deal.

"Then I had a brainwave and asked the salesmen if I could use the discount as a deposit.

"He told me I'd never get it through but the finance man in Perth wanted to see me to discuss my idea.

"Eventually he said he couldn't see me paying for it and I told him I could get plenty of contract work.

"So I booked up contracts, rang him back and that convinced him I could buy the plough.

"I brought it up on the back of a Bedford truck breaking overwidth rules but I didn't see a cop the whole way."

Like many farmers of the era, Mr Ingleton remembers the "big drought" of 1969.

"The whole industry was in trouble and the government had to make drought loans available," he said.

"We were lucky because by that time we didn't have a lot of debt and we were able to get through it.

"By 1982 I was able to buy another 3000 acres of neighbouring property and we got going on new methods of farming such as spraying and direct drilling.

"We were a bit slow to start direct drilling but it became pretty evident it had to be the way to go because working up and back was only building up Sunday soils (too dry to sow on Saturday, too wet to sow on Monday).

"I bought a Steiger Panther and a John Shearer 31 foot (9.3 metres) Trashworker and the first time we put it in the ground we had to manually lift 10 tynes and choke them because we were going in about six inches (150 milimetres) and we couldn't pull it.

"The boomsprayer we had was a WA-made Computorspray with a 20ft (6m) wide boom."

By the time he established his last crop in 1998 his machinery plant was "a bit of everything'.

"We still had the old Steiger which had clocked up 9500 hours and it sold at our clearing sale but I can't remember how much for,'' Mr Ingleton said.

Mr Ingelton cranks a Caterpillar D2 crawler into action. The model has a petrol pilot motor which you had to start first to crank the diesel motor to "oil it up and get it warm".

Mr Ingelton cranks a Caterpillar D2 crawler into action. The model has a petrol pilot motor which you had to start first to crank the diesel motor to "oil it up and get it warm".

These days, he remains one of the main characters in Beacon as curator of the Men's Shed, which he established with his mate and retired local businessman Maurice Bailey in 2010.

The locals call it 'Bruce's shed' and at any one time, you might find four old tinkerers restoring machinery.

It has since expanded to two sheds and the hope is that in the future another shed will go up to accommodate a growing list of tractors, trucks, harvesting and seeding gear to become one of the town's tourist attractions.

Currently the sheds house 33 machines.

The first project was to restore a 1947 Fordson Major E272N which had been retrieved from the scrap heap by a local farmer.

"The original owner was Frank Styler, who was one of the original settlers in Beacon," Mr Ingleton said.

The oldest tractor is a 1923 McCormick Deering which has been loaned to the Men's Shed by local farmers Jason, Raymond and Stuart Faulkner.

"The engine parts were scattered in the sand when we went to pick it up and the Faulkner brothers supplied parts they sourced from the United States," he said.

"We stripped it and rebuilt it in two weeks to working order."

The second oldest is a 1924 Holt crawler tractor with Caterpillar-type tracks and with a power rating of 19 kiloWatts (25 horsepower).

"It starts on petrol and runs on kerosene," Mr Ingleton said.

"It was from John Arnold's property at north Wialki and was used for clearing when the country was being opened up.

"We painted it in the original grey."

A rare tractor in the line-up is a 1936 Fordson Major half track with the "famous" Perkins Six engine.

"It was one of the first half-track tractors to be built but when we got it as a donation from a local farmer the rear end was on tyres," Mr Ingleton said.

"We found the half tracks on a farm north of here and decided to take the wheels off and put on the tracks.

"The engine was stuffed but we stripped it and rebuilt it.

"The only modification was drilling two holes into the back of the transmission to fit the engine properly to make it as close to the original as possible."

Another rare beauty is a Deutz M317M with a water-cooled engine which was donated by local farmers Jeff and Sue Munns.

Mr Munn's father Stan used it as the farm's main tractor which he bought in 1961.

"The timing gears were stripped so we got new gears fabricated in Perth," Mr Ingleton said.

"It still has its original tyres."

A young Mr Ingleton (right) with a local farmer Ted Shipway, circa 1950s. Photo: Beacon the beginning, by Marilyn Dunne.

A young Mr Ingleton (right) with a local farmer Ted Shipway, circa 1950s. Photo: Beacon the beginning, by Marilyn Dunne.

Another member of the historic collection is a Steiger Cougar II donated last year by former Beacon machinery dealer Bob Adshead, who at one time was the biggest Steiger dealer in Australia.

"We want to paint it and it needs a bit of tarting up but the engine is still sweet," Mr Ingleton said.

"It's a big restoration job and way beyond our little group but hopefully we'll get it done somehow."

Another local farmer John Dunne donated his father's Caterpillar D2 crawler tractor, which triggered another story.

"I was working for Harry Dunne at the time when he got it," Mr Ingleton said.

"He was reading the instruction book at the railway siding and couldn't work out how to start it.

"But I knew it had a petrol pilot motor which you had to start first to crank the diesel motor to oil it up and get it warm.

"So I got it started and drove it back to the farm.

"It was one of the first of its kind in the district and it came up from Wigmores in Guildford."

According to Mr Dunne, his father "used the tractor for everything".

Another milestone was his marriage to Shirley Williams as a 22-year-old.

And the memories live on as Mr Ingleton recalls one of his great joys in his younger life was to dance with Shirley.

"All good things come to an end and Shirley passed away on October 15, 2009, just nine months short of our 60th wedding anniversary," he said.

"She's buried up there in the Beacon cemetery."

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by