Harry Ferguson was born near Dromore in County Down. He was a gifted engineer and he began his career working with his brother in his bicycle repair shop. He was fascinated with powered flight. He and his brother decided to build an aircraft and together they built the Ferguson monoplane.
Harry flew the aircraft in Hillborough in 1909, becoming the first man in Ireland to fly. In August 1910 he flew his aircraft in Newcastle, County Down and the Belfast Newletter reported the occasion: ‘Mr Ferguson flew a distance of almost 3 miles over the Newcastle foreshore, in the presence of a large number of people. He rose near Dundrum Bar and flew at heights of between 50 and 100 feet and alighted safely on a strip of sand near Blackrock’.
Harry designed the Ferguson TE5 tractor known affectionately as the ‘Wee Fergie’. It was manufactured between 1946 and 1956 and was revolutionary because of its light weight and manoeuvrability.
One of his most important designs was the ‘Ferguson System’ or ‘3 point linkage’. He had noted the limitations of towing a plough behind a tractor in the same way horses had previously been used, so he designed a method of linking the plough in a way that made it part of the tractor, allowing the implement to be raised and lowered using a linkage system. The height of the plough could be adjusted to different depths.
This system is still in use to this day in agricultural machinery.