seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Harry Ferguson, Mechanic & Inventor

Henry George “Harry” Ferguson, a British mechanic and inventor who is noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor and its three-point linkage system, for being the first person in Ireland to build and fly his own aeroplane, and for developing the first four-wheel drive Formula One car, the Ferguson P99, dies in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, England, on October 25, 1960. Today his name lives on in the name of the Massey Ferguson company.

Ferguson is born on November 4, 1884, at Growell, near Dromore, County Down, in what is now Northern Ireland, the son of a farmer. In 1902, he goes to work with his brother, Joe, in his bicycle and car repair business. While working there as a mechanic, he develops an interest in aviation, visiting airshows abroad. In 1904, he begins to race motorcycles.

In the 1900s Ferguson becomes fascinated with the newly emerging technology of powered human flight and particularly with the exploits of the Wright brothers, the American aviation pioneers who made the first plane flight in 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

The first person to accomplish powered flight in the UK is Alliot Verdon Roe in June 1908, who also flies an aeroplane of his own design, but this has not yet been achieved in Ireland. Ferguson begins to develop a keen interest in the mechanics of flying and travels to several air shows, including exhibitions in 1909 at Blackpool and Rheims where he takes notes of the design of early aircraft. He convinces his brother that they should attempt to build an aircraft at their Belfast workshop and, working from his notes, they work on the design of a plane, the Ferguson monoplane.

After making many changes and improvements, they transport their new aircraft by towing it behind a car through the streets of Belfast up to Hillsborough Park to make their first attempt at flight. They are at first thwarted by propeller trouble but continue to make technical alterations to the plane. After a delay of nearly a week caused by bad weather, the Ferguson monoplane finally takes off from Hillsborough on December 31, 1909. Ferguson becomes the first Irishman to fly and the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane.

After falling out with his brother over the safety and future of aviation, Ferguson decides to go it alone, and in 1911 founds a company selling Maxwell, Star and Vauxhall cars and Overtime Tractors. He sees at first hand the weakness of having tractor and plough as separate articulated units, and in 1917 he devises a plough that can be rigidly attached to a Ford Model T car — the Eros, which becomes a limited success, competing with the Fordson Model F.

In 1917 Ferguson meets Charles E. Sorensen while Sorensen is in England scouting production sites for the Fordson tractor. They discuss methods of hitching the implement to the tractor to make them a unit. In 1920 and 1921 he demonstrates early versions of his three-point linkage on Fordson tractors at Cork and at Dearborn, Michigan. He and Henry Ford discuss putting the Ferguson system of hitch and implements onto Fordson tractors at the factory, but no deal is struck. At the time the hitch is mechanical. Ferguson and his team of longtime colleagues, including Willie Sands and Archie Greer, soon develop a hydraulic version, which is patented in 1926. After one or two false starts, he eventually founds the Ferguson-Sherman Inc., with Eber and George Sherman.

The new enterprise manufactures the Ferguson plough, incorporating the patented “Duplex” hitch system mainly intended for the Fordson “F” tractor. Following several more years of development, Ferguson’s new hydraulic version of the three-point linkage is first seen on his prototype “Ferguson Black” or ‘Irish tractor’ as he calls it, now in the Science Museum, South Kensington, London. A production version of the “Black” is introduced in May 1936, made at one of the David Brown Engineering Ltd. factories in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and designated Ferguson Model A tractor.

Ferguson’s interests are merged with those of David Brown junior to create the Ferguson-Brown Company.

In October 1938, Ferguson demonstrates his latest tractor to Henry Ford at Dearborn, and they make the famous “handshake agreement.” He takes with him his latest patents covering future improvements to the Ferguson tractor and it is these that lead to the Ford-Ferguson 9N introduction to the world on June 29, 1939.

Henry Ford II, Ford’s grandson, ends the handshake agreement on June 30, 1947, following unsuccessful negotiations with Ferguson, but continues to produce a tractor, the 8N, incorporating Ferguson’s inventions, the patents on almost all of which have not yet expired, and Ferguson is left without a tractor to sell in North America. His reaction is a lawsuit demanding compensation for damage to his business and for Ford’s illegal use of his designs. The case is settled out of court in April 1952 for just over $9 million. The court case costs him about half of that and a great deal of stress and ill health.

By 1952, most of the important Ferguson patents have expired, and this allows Henry Ford II to claim that the case had not restricted Ford’s activities too much. It follows that all the world’s other tractor manufacturers can also use Ferguson’s inventions, which they do. A year later Ferguson merges with Massey-Harris Limited to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson Co., later Massey Ferguson.

Ferguson dies at his home at Stow-on-the-Wold on October 25, 1960, as the result of a barbiturate overdose. The inquest is unable to conclude whether his death had been accidental or not.

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, County Down, and 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.


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British Ultimatum to the Irish Delegation at the Anglo-Irish Treaty Talks

The Irish delegation at the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks in London are given an ultimatum by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on December 5, 1921. Sign the treaty or face “immediate and terrible war.”

In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, the Government of Ireland Act not only establishes the new state of Northern Ireland but gives that state the right to opt-out of a future self-governing Irish Free State within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The Northern state consists of the six northeastern counties of Ulster with a unionist majority. They are Antrim, Down, Armagh, Derry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh. Belfast is to be the seat of a government and hold limited devolved powers. The counties of Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan are to be absorbed within the Irish Free State controlled from parliament in Dublin.

Irish nationalists are dismayed with the plan. Protestant Unionists, particularly those living within the boundaries of the new state, accept and start to implement the Act. Sectarian attacks are launched upon Catholic homes in Belfast, Derry, Banbridge, Lisburn, and Dromore. Catholics are driven from Belfast shipyards and from various engineering works in the city. Supposedly these attacks are in revenge for Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassinations.

The IRA continues the campaign to establish a republic with the Irish War Of Independence. By the middle of 1921, both sides are exhausted and a truce is called on June 9.

In July 1921, Éamon DeValera, the president of Dáil Éireann, goes to London to meet with Prime Minister Lloyd George. They agree an Irish delegation will come to London to discuss terms in the autumn.

The delegation appointed by the Dáil to travel to London consists of Arthur Griffith (Minister for Foreign Affairs and chairman of the delegation); Michael Collins (Minister for Finance and deputy chairman of the delegation); Robert Barton (Minister for Economic Affairs); George Gavan Duffy and Éamonn Duggan, with Erskine Childers, Fionán Lynch, Diarmuid O’Hegarty, and John Chartres providing secretarial assistance. DeValera himself does not attend. Future historians wonder if he knew they would not be able to negotiate a 32 county Irish Republic.

During the debate, Lloyd George insists Ireland remain part of the Commonwealth and Dáil Éireann members take the oath of allegiance to the British throne. After a delay of two months, Lloyd George delivers the ultimatum on December 5, sign a treaty within three days or there will be war.

The Anglo-Irish Treaty is to give Ireland a 26 county Free State with Dominion status. The right to raise taxes, regulate foreign trade, independence in internal affairs, own an army, and the oath of allegiance is changed to one of fidelity.

The British are to retain three naval bases within the jurisdiction of the Free State, at Cobh, Lough Swilly, and Berehaven. The Northern Ireland boundary is to be determined by a commission. This gives false hope to large tracts of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh, and Derry City would be given to the Free State as they have Catholic majorities.

Just after 2:00 AM on December 6, 1921, the Irish delegation, without consulting the Dáil, finally sign a treaty with the British. Collins writes, prophetically, later on the day of the signing, “early this morning I signed my death warrant.”

The Treaty displeases the Catholics in the north and the unionists in the south. Meanwhile, many of those involved in the conflict are abhorred at the fact that not all of Ireland is to leave the United Kingdom.

(From: “The Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921)” by Brian O’Neill, Your Irish Culture, http://www.yourirish.com, May 20, 2020)


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Death of Author Benedict “Ben” Kiely

Benedict “Ben” Kiely, Irish writer and broadcaster, dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.

Kiely is born in Dromore, County Tyrone on August 15, 1919, the youngest of six children. In 1920, the family moves from Dromore to Omagh. After living for a short time in Castle Street and Drumragh, the family finally settles in St. Patrick’s Terrace in the Gallows Hill area of Omagh. This area is to be a lasting inspiration for Kiely.

Kiely begins to feel the urge to become a writer during his teenage years. He has a keen interest in the work of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Jonathan Swift. In 1936, after completing his education at Mount St. Columba Christian Brothers School in Omagh, he goes to work as a sorting clerk in the Omagh Post Office.

However, Kiely soon realises that the post office will not provide him with the life of the scholar which he so desires. In the spring of 1937, he leaves Omagh and begins a new life in Emo Park, Portarlington, County Laois, where he decides to train as a Jesuit priest. His life as a Jesuit is not meant to be for, exactly a year later, in the spring of 1938, he suffers a serious spinal injury, which results in a lengthy stay in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas, Dublin. During his hospitalisation, he is given plenty of time to think about the course his life has already taken, and about a course it might take. He also realises that he lacks a vocation to the priesthood and abandons his training as a Jesuit.

When Kiely gets out of hospital in 1939, he returns to Omagh to recover from his back problem. The following year, he begins working as a part-time journalist in the weekly Catholic Standard newspaper. In 1943, he graduates from National University of Ireland with a B.A. in History and Letters.

In 1945, Kiely begins working for the Irish Independent, where he is employed as a journalist and critic. In 1950, he joins The Irish Press as a literary editor. In 1964, he moves to the United States where, over a period of four years, he is a Writer-in-Residence at Emory University, visiting professor at the University of Oregon, and Writer-in-Residence at Hollins College (Virginia). In 1968, he returns to Ireland. In the spring of 1976, he is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware. He continues to receive acclaim for his writing and journalism, a career which spans over six decades, receiving the Award for Literature from the Irish Academy of Letters. By now, he is one of Ireland’s best known writers. In 1996, he is named Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour given by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Kiely visits Omagh in 2001 which is marked by the unveiling of a plaque outside his childhood home on Gallows Hill by Omagh’s Plain Speaking Community Arts group. Every September an event is held in Omagh called The Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend to celebrate his many achievements.

Benedict Kiely dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.


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Birth of Benedict Kiely, Writer & Broadcaster

benedict-kiely

Benedict “Ben” Kiely, Irish writer and broadcaster, is born in Dromore, County Tyrone on August 15, 1919, the youngest of six children.

In 1920, the family moves from Dromore to Omagh. After living for a short time in Castle Street and Drumragh, the family finally settles in St. Patrick’s Terrace in the Gallows Hill area of Omagh. This area is to be a lasting inspiration for Kiely.

Kiely begins to feel the urge to become a writer during his teenage years. He has a keen interest in the work of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Jonathan Swift. In 1936, after completing his education at Mount St. Columba Christian Brothers School in Omagh, he goes to work as a sorting clerk in the Omagh Post Office.

However, Kiely soon realises that the post office will not provide him with the life of the scholar which he so desires. In the spring of 1937, he leaves Omagh and begins a new life in Emo Park, Portarlington, County Laois, where he decides to train as a Jesuit priest. His life as a Jesuit is not meant to be for, exactly a year later, in the spring of 1938, he suffers a serious spinal injury, which results in a lengthy stay in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas, Dublin. During his hospitalisation, he is given plenty of time to think about the course his life has already taken, and about a course it might take. He also realises that he lacks a vocation to the priesthood and abandons his training as a Jesuit.

When Kiely gets out of hospital in 1939, he returns to Omagh to recover from his back problem. The following year, he begins working as a part-time journalist in the weekly Catholic Standard newspaper. In 1943, he graduates from National University of Ireland with a B.A. in History and Letters.

In 1945, Kiely begins working for the Irish Independent, where he is employed as a journalist and critic. In 1950, he joins The Irish Press as a literary editor. In 1964, he moves to the United States where, over a period of four years, he is a Writer-in-Residence at Emory University, visiting professor at the University of Oregon, and Writer-in-Residence at Hollins College (Virginia). In 1968, he returns to Ireland. In the spring of 1976, he is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware. He continues to receive acclaim for his writing and journalism, a career which spans over six decades, receiving the Award for Literature from the Irish Academy of Letters. By now, he is one of Ireland’s best known writers. In 1996, he is named Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour given by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Kiely visits Omagh in 2001 which is marked by the unveiling of a plaque outside his childhood home on Gallows Hill by Omagh’s Plain Speaking Community Arts group. Every September an event is held in Omagh called The Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend to celebrate his many achievements.

Benedict Kiely dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.