Double anniversary celebrations as historic ledger comes to light

An old sales ledger which records a snapshot of the agricultural industry 100 years ago has been discovered by a Scottish Borders firm which is celebrating its centenary.

An old sales ledger which records a snapshot of the agricultural industry 100 years ago has been discovered by a Scottish Borders firm which is celebrating its centenary.

Earlston-based Rutherford Agricultural and Automotive Engineers, which started in 1911, are also marking another important anniversary this year.

The firm, which started life as Millwrights and Agricultural Engineers, has now been a distributor for Ifor Williams Trailers, one of Europe’s largest trailer makers, for a quarter of a century.

Rutherford is still doing business with later generations of the same families recorded in the fascinating ledger which lists the very first customers to use their services.

It contains a wealth of information, detailing the types of jobs carried out, the costs involved and the time taken to support farmers long before the days of tractors and combine harvesters.

The 20th customer listed is James Mercer, the grandfather of retired farmer Sandy Mercer who lives in Lauder and still buys I for Williams Trailers from Rutherford, which employs 50 people.

The company is celebrating its 25th anniversary of supplying the trailers which are made in the UK and supplied to outlets all over the world.

Mr Mercer uses his flatbed trailer to transport pieces of vintage farm equipment, which he restores himself, to agricultural shows and steam rallies.

The 77 year old said: “I don’t remember my grandfather because he died in 1929 before I was born. He was a saddler before he came to farm at Whitslaid, near Lauder and at that time the farm was on an estate but my family later bought it.

“It was livestock, grain and potatoes mostly. We had sheep and cattle but I retired from it 20 years ago and the farm was sold.”

Mr Mercer said he has spent some time looking at the document which was lent to him by Rutherford, which not only supplies agricultural machinery but also has an Isuzu, SEAT and Case IH tractors and combines dealership and an Esso service station. 

Mr Mercer said: “It says they were repairing the water wheel on the farm which was used to power the threshing mill and also the Osborne binder, used for grain harvesting. It was pretty costly work by the looks of things and I know the water wheel was scrapped on the farm in 1923 because my father Robert, who was running the farm by then, thought it was too costly and bought an international junior tractor from Rutherford in 1923. With the tractor, you could drive the threshing mill and do cultivation at the same time so it killed two birds with one stone.”

Mr Mercer’s grandfather paid seven pounds, nine shillings and tuppence to have the water wheel fixed which took 10 days of labour by the engineers both on the farm and in the workshop.

Explaining why his family have always had strong links with Rutherford, Mr Mercer said: “They have always been very helpful people to work with and I find myself buying things from them because I know what they supply is good quality.”

John Wilson, Managing Director, who has been with Rutherford for 35 years, said he thought the same families were still using the firm ten decades later because they believe in the reputation of the company and associated it with a well run, family business which looks after its customers.

He said: “Rutherford has grown into a very, very well respected and strong brand which gives us credibility and customer confidence which is very important. It has been owned by the same family ever since it started and it is now in the hands of Ann Rutherford and her daughter Jane Millar, who is the chief executive.

“The good thing is that Jane’s son, Nick is now also involved in the business so just like our customers, the company has very much come down through the generations.”

The company has also retained long term links with a select number of other quality agricultural names including Ifor Williams Trailers.

Mr Wilson said: “Our 100th year in business is also our 25th year of supplying Ifor Williams trailers and I think there is a great synergy because like us they are still a family owned business, very responsive and like us operate in a totally professional manner. I quite like the idea of the Scottish and the Welsh sticking together too!”

Peter Nesbitt, Business Development Manager for Ifor Williams Trailers, said: “Rutherford has been a loyal partner of ours and it is always reassuring to hear the customer service we pride ourselves on is replicated by the firms who sell and supply our trailers.

“While we might not have quite so many years under our belt, given that Ifor Williams has been going for just over 50 years, we were founded on very similar principles – a business which can be trusted and relied on to deliver to its customers.

“Although we are an internationally recognised brand and employ world class manufacturing methods, we have retained the core values of a family business.

“Unlike other firms, we do not import trailers from China or Eastern Europe – all our trailers are manufactured at our UK factories.”

Mr Mercer has purchased several trailers from Rutherford. He has used them for a variety of reasons in the past but more recently, he has one to transport vintage pieces of agricultural machinery which he finds at farm sales and restores to their former glory. His collection ranges from an 1880 Albion reaper, used for cutting wheat, to a thatch making machine dating from 1940, used by the land girls to thatch stacks so they remained water tight.

Mr Mercer said: “I like the challenge of getting them to work again and I buy them really as a pile of scrap.”

He said his Ifor Williams flatbed trailer was ideal for transporting the items and added: “I have been buying Ifor Williams trailers for many years and there is really no need for me to consider anything else because they have always been fit for purpose and done the job well. And I find Rutherford very reliable for keeping them in good order for me. There’s never any waiting for parts or anything, they seem to have most of it on site.”

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