mower

by alan

Machines in the North East – 1988

June 14, 2018 in Articles, Machinery

Qualcast Suffolk Punch 35S and the cheapest price in the North East

This month our search for machinery takes us to the north-east of the UK, to be more precise it’s to a now defunct chain of home improvement stores by the name of Dickens. By all accounts Dickens was a fantastic place to shop. They said that they had ‘…the biggest, the cheapest and the widest range of mowers in the world…’. They also had tillers, rotavators, lawn rakes etc and there’s a very short video clip at the bottom of this article – can you name any of the machines?

It can sometimes be a mystery as to who sold which machine, take any vintage machine and if really lucky a search of the chassis or tin-work may perhaps result in finding a dealership sticker, generally it may be a local mower shop or an agricultural supplier. These details are helpful in determining where a machine originated from or at least the point where the transaction was logged. We are aware that there’s garden equipment and machines from the 1970’s and 80’s finding their way into collectors hands, yet these machines may not have originated from that trusty local lawn mower dealer or from an agricultural supplier, these 1970’s and 80’s machines may simply have been picked up from the local DIY store or catalogue company, think B&Q, Argos, Woolworths and even Green Shield Stamps.

This takes us onto Dickens home improvement stores, they were like an independent B&Q and actually were eventually bought out by B&Q. Dickens advert shown below from April 1988 at the start of the mowing season to attract the spending public shows a vast range of electric and petrol mowers and strimmers too. Who knew there were so many different models on sale at this time? A transcript of this model list and prices will be at the bottom of this article for perusal. Or click this link to see a larger image of the advert.

Dickens Home Improvement Hypermarket Advert 1988


Briefly, there is a huge range of electric mowers. What’s the difference between the Qualcast Concorde RE25X and the RE30X apart from £10.00 ? Or the Flymo Sprinter E25 and E30 ? A brochure would be mighty helpful!

Of note is the advert showing there is a petrol Flymo Strimmer Weedeater 1400 and also a 1700 model – potentially a rare machine now as many may have expired through the last 30 years. The price then was £114.99 which is equivalent to some £308.00 today so a hefty investment for a homeowner.

Mountfield have some mowers and all with the 3.5hp Tecumseh engine. Mountfield were mentioned in a previous article where some machines were made until 1982 in a factory in Luxembourg (article here) but where these would have been made is unknown. Business-wise there is a connection between Mountfield and Norlett of Belgium; then Qualcast bought Norlett, and further Qualcast/Flymo at the time had a production plant at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham not far from Dickens. It’s all very complicated and tenuous – but with Dickens saying they had ”…the biggest, the cheapest and the widest range of mowers in the world…’ it makes one wonder if they were mostly sourced from the nearest factories at a bargain price perhaps? 

There isn’t a Mountfield electric mower in the bottom right corner of Dickens advert, they may not have been manufacturing them at the time, but their petrol mowers show that the price nearly doubles between the Mountfield Emblem 15″ and the 16″ self propelled with electric start, both with a 3.5hp Tecumseh engine – would that be a premium product at the time? 



There also happens to be a brilliant Youtube video for a 1976 Dickens television advert. This advert briefly shows machines on display in their garden centre with a tiller, rotavator and mowers at about 50 seconds. https://youtu.be/E3xiHJwIaQ8

Can anyone name the machines being shown in the video below?

Is that a Norlett Beaver Powaspade in gold and white? (see above comment re:Norlett/Flymo/Qualcast) 




The machines in the printed 1988 advert with prices:

Black & Decker RM45  £169.99
Black & Decker RM41  £149.99
Black & Decker RM40  £129.99
Black & Decker RM37  £114.99
Black & Decker RM33  £109.99
Black & Decker RM2  £64.99
Black & Decker C35  £64.99
Black & Decker HX3  £49.99
Black & Decker T1C  £54.99
Black & Decker HS1C  £44.99
Black & Decker RS1C  £29.99
Black & Decker C30P  £59.99

Qualcast Panther 30  £29.99
Qualcast Rotamo E30  £33.99
Qualcast Panther 30S  £49.99
Qualcast Concorde E30  £64.99
Qualcast Concorde RE25X  £74.99
Qualcast Concorde RE30X  £84.99
Qualcast Concorde XR35  £99.99
Qualcast Hoversafe 25  £39.99
Qualcast Hoversafe 30  £49.99
Qualcast Rotamo 300R  £59.99
Qualcast Punch EP30  £159.99
Qualcast Punch EP35  £179.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 30S  £209.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 35S  £228.99
Qualcast Suffolk Punch 43S  £249.99
Qualcast Turbo SR40  £234.99
Qualcast Turbo SR46  £259.99

Flymo Minimo S  £44.99
Flymo Sprinter E25  £49.99
Flymo Sprinter E30  £54.99
Flymo Sprinter E38  £79.99
Flymo Minimo Plus XE25  £74.99
Flymo Sprintmaster XE30  £89.99
Flymo Sprintmaster XE38  £114.99
Flymo Chevron 300T  £79.99
Flymo Chevron 350S  £109.99
Flymo Strimmer Minitrim  £24.99
Flymo Strimmer Multitrim £33.99
Flymo Strimmer weedeater 1400  £94.99
Flymo Strimmer weedeater 1700 £114.99

Mountfield Emblem 15″ Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £199.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £249.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Self Propelled, Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £299.00
Mountfield Empress 16″ Self Propelled, Key Start, Tecumseh 3.5hp 4 stroke engine £369.00









by alan

Ireland’s first golf course gang mower with Cletrac – 1922

August 20, 2017 in Club News

Although this article is about trialing machinery on an Irish golf course, it is also a good example of engine powered machinery and mechanisation taking over from horses.

In October 1922 A newspaper in Ireland printed the following image along with a text article, describing and depicting a tractor and set of gang mowers during a demonstration at Malone Golf Links, Dublin:

Squint at the image a bit and try to see what is shown…..


Cletrac Crawler

Being of not the best scanned quality the machinery depicted is at best blurry and indistinct. But as with many images the detail can be deciphered to a degree anyway. The means of towing the mowers is a Cletrac crawler (similar machine shown right) and the gang mowers are, as we later discovered a set of Ransomes gang mowers. 

Almost a year later in September 1923 another Irish newspaper printed the following photo shown below with the caption that ‘This motor lawn-mower is at present at work on the Malone Golf Links, Belfast. It is the first of it’s kind introduced into Ireland‘. 

From that statement we can assume it is the first golf course gang mower that they had, rather than their first mower. Image below.


The images at the top of the page show three gangs yet the image above shows more – actually five. The Cletrac model shown would also have been new around the early 1920’s too. 

Additionally some text in the 1922 newspaper with the first image tells us about the demonstration of Ransome’s triple mowers at Malone golf links, all arranged by T & J McErvel, Victoria Square, Belfast. Dealers names and addresses are always useful for research. 

The golf course had been trialing the Ransomes mowers for over twelve months – so they must have started in mid-1921. However the mowers had been drawn by a single horse with the three gang mowers cutting a seven-foot width of grass. They then tried five gangs (shown above) and had to use two light horses or a 17hp Cletrac tractor. The tractor ‘being the caterpillar type‘ does not mark or injure the ground in any way. 

McErvel, Belfast, advert showing that they were agents for Ransomes as well as having a working Cletrac tractor on their stand at the Royal Ulster Agricultural Show, May 1923.

Apparently a similar combination had been employed on the Neasden Golf Links near London and they were able to cut an area of eighty acres in four days or twenty acres per day of 7.5 hours each. The cost of the tractor was 2s per hour (so were Cletracs used on several golf courses??)  and in comparison with horses there was a saving of £7 per week after allowing for depreciation. It used to take four men and four horses one week to cut the same area of fairways. So here the Cletrac and gangs is starting to use less labour as well as being quicker and cheaper and presumably easier than using horses.

At the 1922 demonstration several golf clubs were present to see the machinery in action. Additionally Mr Tom McErvel represented the local agents, Mr J H Cathcart of Dublin represented Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies. Mr Alexander Milligan represented H.G.Burford & Co Ltd makers of the Cletrac tractor

Wonder what happened to the horses once the Cletrac and mowers took over?

A little more information about Ransomes in Ireland from an 1895 newspaper column (image below) in The Belfast Newsletter reads: “Celebrated Lawn Mowers, – A large consignment of Ransome’s famous machines has just reached their Sole Ulster Depot, and should be inspected by all lovers of nice lawns and tennis courts. These mowers have been largely supplied to local Golf Clubs, and the best families in North of Ireland. Ransome’s New Sweeping Machine for lawns, paths, and the public parks has also reached Belfast. – Address of Depot, 14 Lombard Street (T. EDENS OSBORNE’S well known Warehouse). Free trial against any other make – British or Foreign. Mowers sent carriage paid to any Railway Station in Ulster. Write for illustrated catalogue“.


1895 Ireland Ransomes mower advert