Councils not sold on Ferguson bid

Harry Ferguson driving a TE-20 at his Cotswold home, Abbotswood.
Harry Ferguson driving a TE-20 at his Cotswold home, Abbotswood.

A historic collection of Harry Ferguson tractors and implements goes under the hammer tomorrow (Saturday) with no prospect of a bid from Lisburn’s local authority.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council met behind closed doors on Monday to discuss the weekend sale of the Hunday Collection, but the Star understands councillors voted narrowly against bidding on what has been called the world’s most complete set of vintage Ferguson tractors and implements.

Both LCCC and the neighbouring Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council have come in for criticism ahead of the auction, with at least some Ferguson devotees convinced failure to secure the collection for display locally amounts to a missed opportunity.

The ABC council promptly confirmed it did not intend to pursue the purchase of the items, among them 73 tractors, 100 implements, other rare memorabilia and literature, offered for sale by Paul Rackham of Norfolk.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, meanwhile, was unable to indicate its plans ahead of Monday’s meeting and has yet to publicly declare its intentions.

Tractor magnate, inventor, innovator and early airman, Harry Ferguson was born at Growell, near Dromore, and has long been hailed one of Dromore’s most famous sons.

At the same time, the homestead’s address at Magheraconluce Road, within modern LCCC boundaries, and Ferguson’s association with Hillsborough, where he took to the air as the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane, root him too within the wider Lisburn area.

James Girvan said on Facebook: “Lisburn council were in negotiations to buy the collection for the last year with a view to opening a museum somewhere in the Lisburn area. They were looking for suitable storage facilities in August to house the collection until a museum could be built, so we were sure they had purchased it. Then they pulled out in mid September without a word to anyone . . .”

The Star put his, and similar, comments to one vocal opponent of any LCCC bid, Councillor Pat Catney, who said Harry Ferguson was properly recognised as a local icon but the notion of housing the Hunday Collection was an ideal for which local ratepayers could not bear the cost.

“Someone needs to tell me who would pay for all of this,” he said. “There’s no way without a sound financial case that I would burden the ratepayers of Lisburn with this now.

“There’s the cost of the collection, of shipping, of temporary storage and of setting up a museum to put it in; it’s mind-boggling. It might never be paid off.”

Tomorrow’s saleis nonetheless expected to generate great interest among Ferguson enthusiasts globally, and fetch more than £400,000.