Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lister Blackstone No 1 Digger

click photo to enlarge
Yesterday the Sinclair Spectrum home computer celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its appearance on the market in the UK. I owned one of these machines and enjoyed the affordable introduction to computing that it provided. I can't remember precisely how long I used the Spectrum before I replaced it with a newer and more capable computer, but it can only have been a matter of a few years, such is the lifespan of this kind of technology-based hardware.

I was recently looking at a few pieces of rather older technology associated with vegetable growing, simple machines and tools owned by someone we know, which have had a much longer life than the Spectrum and have been used every year since they were first acquired. The photograph above shows one of them, the Lister Blackstone No 1 Digger, an implement used for harvesting potatoes. I'm no authority on such things, but from what I can gather, it must date from shortly after the takeover of the Stamford-based farm implement maker, Blackstone* & Co, by R.A.Lister & Company of Dursley, Gloucestershire, in 1936. Consequently it is about 75 years old. This particular example was the version designed to be pulled by a horse: a model for fitting to a tractor was also offered. However, the Digger shown above has a blacksmith-made bracket that allows it to be pulled by a small Ferguson tractor, something that happens annually when the potatoes are harvested from the smallholding where it resides.

As we discussed the machine I expressed reservations about it being pulled along a tarmac road to the place where it would be used - those notched lugs on the steel wheels would make for a slow, noisy and potentially damaging journey. However, I was informed that the manufacturer supplied steel rims that fitted round the wheels, locating in each notch on the lugs. One of the pleasures of quite a lot of older technology is the way that simplicity of design and durability of construction combine to create something with a life that can be measured in decades rather than a few short years. I took my photograph of the venerable machine at rest behind an old shed alongside other equipment and cast-off remnants that gave a suitably time-worn backdrop.

 * The name "Blackstone" rang a bell for me, and I remembered a blog entry of an engine nameplate that I posted some years ago. It is the same company.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 73mm
 F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On