|Born||Henry George Ferguson
November 4, 1884
Growell, County Down, Ireland
|Died||October 25, 1960
Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
|Known for||Inventor of modern tractor|
Henry George "Harry" Ferguson (4 November 1884 – 25 October 1960) was an Irish engineer and inventor who is noted for his role in the development of the modern agricultural tractor, for becoming the first Irishman to build and fly his own aeroplane, and for developing the first four-wheel drive Formula One car, the Ferguson P99. Today his name lives on in the name of the Massey Ferguson company.
Ferguson was born at Growell, near Dromore, County Down, the son of a farmer. The Irish census of 1901 shows the young Harry Ferguson aged 16, listed as a "farmers son" at the family farm "Growell" at Ballykeel.
In 1902 Ferguson went to work with his brother Joe in his bicycle and car repair business. Whilst working there as a mechanic, he developed an interest in aviation, to the extent of visiting airshows abroad. In 1904, he began to race motorcycles.
In 1909 Ferguson became the first person to fly in Ireland, when he took off on 31 December in a monoplane he had designed and built himself.
Agricultural engineering 
After falling out with his brother over the safety and future of aviation Ferguson decided to go it alone, and in 1911 founded a company selling Maxwell, Star and Vauxhall cars and Overtime Tractors—eventually to be named Harry Ferguson Limited.
Ferguson saw at first hand the weakness of having tractor and plough as separate articulated units, and in 1917 he devised a plough that could be rigidly attached to a Model T Ford car—the Eros, which became a limited success, competing with the Model F Fordson.
After one or two false starts Ferguson eventually founded the Ferguson-Sherman Inc., with Eber and George Sherman. The new enterprise manufactured 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 system and three point linkage was first seen on his prototype Ferguson "Black" now in the Science Museum, Kensington, London. A production version of the "Black" was introduced in May 1936, made at one of the David Brown factories in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and designated Ferguson Model A tractor. In 1938 Harry Ferguson's interests were merged with those of David Brown junior to be called "Ferguson-Brown Ltd".
Henry Ford 
In October 1938 Harry Ferguson made the famous "handshake agreement" with Henry Ford Senior. Ferguson took with him his latest patents covering future improvements to the Ferguson tractor and it is these that led to the Ford-Ferguson 9N introduced to the world on June 29, 1939. It should be noted that the 1938 agreement intended that the Ferguson tractor should also be made in the UK at the Ford factory at Dagenham, Essex but Henry Ford senior did not have full control at Dagenham and, while his firm did handle US made 9N/2Ns, Dagenham did not make any.
Henry Ford II, Ford senior's grandson, ended the handshake deal on 30 June 1947, following unsuccessful negotiations with Ferguson, but continued to produce a tractor, the 8N, incorporating Ferguson's inventions, the patents on almost all of which had not yet expired, and Ferguson was left without a tractor to sell in North America. Ferguson's reaction was a law suit demanding compensation for damage to his business and for Ford's illegal use of his designs. The case was settled out of court in April 1952 for just over $9 million. The court case cost him about half of that and a great deal of stress and ill health.
By 1952 most of the important Ferguson patents had expired, and this allowed Henry Ford II to claim that the case had not restricted Ford's activities too much. It follows, of course, that all the world's other tractor manufacturers could also use Ferguson's inventions, which they duly did. That is the real testimony to Harry Ferguson.
A year later Ferguson merged with Massey Harris to become Massey-Harris-Ferguson Co, later Massey Ferguson.
Standard Motor Company 
As a consequence of Dagenham's failure to make the tractors, Harry Ferguson made a deal with Sir John Black of the Standard Motor Company to refit their armaments factory at Banner Lane, Coventry. Production of the latest Ferguson tractor, the TE20, started in the autumn of 1946, over 20,800 TEs being built by the end of 1947.
To fill the gap in Ferguson's sales in the US, thousands of TEs were shipped over from England.
Harry Ferguson Inc 
Production of a US version, the TO20, started at a new plant, owned by Harry Ferguson Inc, in October 1948, leaving the UK plant to supply the rest of the world.
Ferguson died at his home at Stow-on-the Wold in 1960, the result of a barbiturate overdose; the inquest was unable to conclude whether this had been accidental or not.
Memorials and recognition 
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, 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.
Ferguson was commemorated in 1981 when he appeared on stamps issued by the Irish Post Office in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Ferguson's image appears today on the obverse of £20 sterling notes issued by the Northern Bank.
In 2008 the Harry Ferguson Memorial gardens were officially opened, opposite the house Harry Ferguson lived in, just outside Dromara, Co. Down. A beautiful bespoke life-size bronze sculpture of Ferguson by John Sherlock OBE ARUA, recognised as Northern Ireland's most eminent bronze sculptor, was erected in the garden depicting Ferguson leaning on a fence surveying the view. The gardens are open to the public.
The University of Ulster opened the Harry Ferguson Engineering Village (18 February 2004) on the Jordanstown campus in recognition of the outstanding contribution made by him to engineering and innovation in Ireland.
See also 
- "Harry Ferguson: The Man and The Machine". Yesterday's Tractors. Retrieved 2006-04-28.
- "They Came From Dromore: Harry Ferguson". Dromore. Raymond's County Down Website. Retrieved 2006-04-28.
- "Claim Against Ford Company", The Times, Thursday, Oct 06, 1949; pg. 2; Issue 51505
- "Tractor Inventor's £90M. Claim. Allegations Against Ford Company", The Times, Tuesday, Mar 27, 1951; pg. 3; Issue 51959
- "Settlement In Suit Against Ford Company £3M. Award To Fergusons", The Times, Thursday, Apr 10, 1952; pg. 6; Issue 52283
- "Standard Motor Company Record Turnover And Profit, Mr. C. J. Band On Expansion Policy", The Times, Friday, Dec 21, 1945; pg. 10; Issue 50331
- "Henry George (Harry) Ferguson". Ulster History Circle. Retrieved 2008-10-19.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Harry Ferguson|
- Official Harry Ferguson Memorial site
- Massey Ferguson Tractor and Combine site
- The Harry Ferguson Engineering Village at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown, N.Ireland