Around the croft

Scattered around the parish’s crofts are the remains of old farm implements. Some may be rusting, covered over by weeds or, occasionally, put on display. Much of the old machinery has been superseded by newer models, although some are still in use, many decades after they were first acquired.

A number of implements were originally drawn by a horse or two; however, as tractors came on the scene, some crofters had them adapted for motorised usage. Other pieces of kit were made specifically for use with tractors.

Unfortunately the heritage society does not have the facilities to conserve or display any of these old implements, but we would like to catalogue them and record for posterity how they were once used. We also receive old photographs of machinery in operation, so will also feature these images.

If you can add any information or photos, please get in touch.


Back Delivery Mower

This piece of horse-drawn machinery has flails to keep the crop against the cutting bar and the the heavier one with the teeth comes round and sweeps the bundle of crop of the machine, ready to be hand tied. It saved a lot of gathering up by hand.

As a bonus, in the background of the photo are some beautifully made stacks with one thatched and tied with stack rope which was quite coarse.


Allen Tractor Operated Shovel (ATOS)

The ATOS digger was launched in 1952 and was pulled behind a tractor. The hydraulics were driven from the tractor Power Take-Off (PTO).

Sutherland Estates had one, very early on, and hired it out at times. The picture may well feature the Estates’ excavator and it may have been used for digging gravel for repairs to the Craigton road.

The bucket was fixed in one of three positions; it had no stabiliser legs either. But it would dig to 8ft. 6in. deep and load over height was 12ft. 9in. The hydraulic system used three separate pumps one for each of the movements so that full power was available to each ram when using two or three services together. Control was by three levers.

Although it had its limitations it was a useful and powerful improvement on the alternative pick and shovel.

(Additional information from Classic Machinery.)

ATOS digger


Woods tractor and hay mower

Andrew Sutherland, Craigton, driving a ‘woods tractor’ and towing is a hay mower. The photo seems to have been set up because they are running over the cut crop, they should be going in the opposite direction. The shedder is the wooden board that is at the outside of the cutting bar (finger bar) to divert the cut crop inwards a little to make a space for the tractor wheels the next time around. This is likely to have been a horse drawn machine converted to be pulled by the tractor.


Turnip slicer

Cutting, slicing and pulping turnips was necessary for young livestock that did not have fully formed teeth. The slicer consists of a frame with bars through which a turnip was forced using a lever.

The frame and handle were made from iron and the cutting bars were usually made from high tensile steel, set into cast iron end sections which were bolted to the outer frame.

The cast iron weight played no part in the cutting process; it was used to counterbalance the weight of the handle and would keep it in the upright position when another turnip was placed in to be cut. These cutters required quite a bit of pressure to cut a really solid swede.


Howard rotary dung spreader

This had a flail chain spreading action which could deal with solid manure, liquids or any combination of the two. At one time the Rotaspreader accounted for almost 80% of spreader sales in the UK.


Cockshutt single furrow drag plough

This type of plough is very rare, certainly in this part of the world .Crofts generally did not have enough depth of soil for it to work properly. The photo shows it at work in 2021.



Heavy duty disc harrow

A harrow is used to till the soil where crops are to be planted and to chop up unwanted weeds or crop residue.The disc harrow has cutting edges which are a row of concave metal discs, which may be scalloped, set at an oblique angle.


Spring tine cultivator

Cultivators are used for breaking up the ground and uprooting weeds. The one pictured has a home made leveller attached.


Grass Topper

This fairly heavy duty Grass Topper sits on metal skids and can follow the contours of the ground because the fixture from the top link mounting is a chain which allows it to rise or fall independent of the tractor. Some had a single flat bar with replaceable cutting tips at the ends. It was driven by the tractor at high speed.

Other models have two chains with replaceable cutters at the ends. These had a bit more of a chance of avoiding damage when they hit stones etc. Some of the newer models may be swung out to the side which stops the tractor flattening what was being cut.

With grateful thanks to Robert Mackay, Rhemusaig, for text and photographs. Additional photographs from the estate of Neil Sutherland.