I was taking the narrowboat through the 34th lock at Shannon Harbour when Peter rang me.
He’d startled me as I was deeply immersed in reflective thought as this was probably the last lock I’d be going through, if all went well with the prospective buyer I had on board.
It was also particularly poignant as curiously this was also the first lock, I’d ever put this boat through, away back in the misty depths of October 2006.
In the intervening years we’d travelled as far west as Ballinasloe, north to Clondra in Longford, east to Sallins and south to Graiguenamanagh and everywhere in between. For life slows right down on the inland waterways and eight miles a day is like intergalactic travel.
However, the year of 2012 was cataclysmic for me, not helped by the sudden death of four friends, not least of whom was agronomist, Gerry Bird. Gerry was, among a great many other things, a regular traveller on the boat and between that and other stuff, I lost interest in the boat. I took it out of the water then and into storage. The interest never really returned so this spring The Tom Rolt was spruced up for sale.
Have I regrets? Of course I do. We had good times and especially when the children were younger. They were often, either singularly or collectively, the conscripted crew but never Mrs P who, it must be said, provided valuable taxi services.
But there’s a time for everything and so the boat must go. Besides, I had a top-secret plan for the funds if the buyer on board was a happy bunny. He certainly looked it.
Now, I’ve digressed wildly from Peter’s phone call. He needed help setting up a Bateman sprayer he’d just brought in from England. I gladly said I’d go over the following day. I had to spray wheat (Dawsum) with Avadex in the morning but I’d be over after that.
Besides, I’d never been to Peter’s yard and isn’t it always a treat to have a wander around someone else’s farm? They say apples don’t fall far from the tree and Peter’s father was a very precise and tidy farmer and a great machinery man. His son is no different.
The place was immaculate, the machinery was immaculate and the firewood was stacked so neatly that it’d beat any Hans, Helmut or Heinrich in a German tidy farmyard competition. I rounded a corner and then I saw her. She was a little beauty.
A 1995 Bateman Hi-Lo, a model which I remember taking a great fancy to back in the day.
Some people collect vintage or classic tractors
I should have splashed out on one instead of the Gem I did buy (that’ll be a Gem sprayer in case you’re thinking of other types of gems). Had I chosen one then, I’d say she’d still be with me today.
But this Bateman clearly was always a well-loved machine and now she couldn’t have gone to a better home. I was pleased.
Some people collect vintage or classic tractors. Some even odder people collect old combines. But the really odd, like me, aspire to collecting early self-propelled sprayers. There’d be a Chaviot 902, an International-based MCV, a David Brown-based SAM, a Frazier Agri Buggy and, with pride of place, an early Bateman Hi-Lo.
To add kudos to my collection, I’d have a couple of pallets of long withdrawn and highly illegal heritage chemicals like Bayleton CF, Gramoxone, Metasystox R, Tolkan and Tribunil, by kind permission of the Minister of Environment, Eamon Ryan.
But while Peter may have a classic sprayer, you certainly won’t find any of these auld classic chemicals scattered around his place. And, yes, The Tom Rolt is gone.