There are two important but very different 100 year anniversaries in 2018. The first one – the ending of the 1914-1918 Great War – is hugely more important but, nonetheless, it is the second one I’ll talk about today.
However, duty calls me to say a few words about the Great War, which came to an end after a horrific four years of fighting on 11 November 1918.
Up to 50,000 Irishmen and women lost their lives in the Great War and a further 70,000 Irishmen were never to return to Ireland, effectively exiled from their own country. Yet, we as a nation airbrushed their courageous sacrifice from our history until relatively recently.
Thankfully, we live in more enlightened times and they’ve certainly been given due recognition this year, 100 years later.
Anyhow, on to the second anniversary. John Deere has reached its one hundredth anniversary as a tractor manufacturer. Now, you probably thought that it suited me to ignore this milestone but occasionally I try to be balanced in this column. After all, if Fendt were 100 years old, I’d have told you a dozen times.
Rather than look back over John Deere’s history – which I’m far from qualified to do – I thought I’d look back at Deere’s local history in south Meath. To do this, I need to mention lots of names and I hope those named won’t object. Remember, it was Oscar Wilde who said, if there’s anything worse than being talked about, it’s not being talked about.
The first John Deere I ever sat in was my uncle Raymond’s. A progressive farmer, he bought a new 2130 in the late 1970s complete with the brilliant Sekura-built OPU cab. With a flat floor and a radio (for Luxembourg), it was a revelation to us and as young lads our tongues were hanging out for a drive in such a cool tractor.
But Raymond was not the father of John Deere in Co Meath. That distinction belonged to the late Herbert Chambers who, as one of the founding fathers of large-scale tillage farming, ran a fleet of John Deeres including the mighty 4000 series.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, few of the mainstream manufacturers offered tractors of 100hp and John Deere with their integrated Sound Guard cabs were way out in front. There was nothing to touch them. A Fendt at that time had a canvas cab and you entered by climbing through the windscreen.
Michael Love has had Deere for as long as I can remember. He has a large collection of working classics, including a pair of iconic 7810s, which wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of Classic Tractor. But shrewd boy that he is, the classics are more reliable than the modern versions with ECUs and EGRs and HMSs and Ad-Blue. That’s true of most brands today.
In recent times, you can’t mention Deere and not Bruno McCormack. Bruno keeps half a dozen virtually new Deeres, so much so that I think he replaces them just before their first oil change is due. Bruno hates to see oil drips on the workshop floor so it’s far too risky to be changing oil.
Here’s to the next 100 years John Deere, and may it be a world at peace.