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All our yesterdays

Engineers Andy Reid and Willie Bilsland Tell All About Their Vintage Tractors and The Good Old Days!

March 28, 2017

With Over 100 Years’ Service at Hamilton Brothers We Reminisce with Agricultural Engineers Andy Reid and Willie Bilsland!

Engineers Willie and Andy at the Hamilton Brothers Garage

Willie and Andy at the old Hamilton Brothers Glasgow Road Garage!

Whoever coined today’s phrase of “there’s no such thing as a job for life” clearly hadn’t met our agricultural engineers Willie Bilsland and Andy Reid. With a staggering 108 years of steadfast service to Hamilton Brothers between them, these boys could have hung up their overalls years ago. Yet the torque of the tractor is still so great and we’re honoured they’re still around to teach our young apprentices some of the tricks of their now vintage trade!

Willie who hails from Bishopton and Andy from Southend, Campbeltown were brought up on their family farms, so their passion for agricultural started at an early age. Their careers began when Willie joined as an apprentice in 1960 at our original depot in Paisley and Andy arrived in 1964 as an engineer.

I didn’t do an official apprenticeship,” laughed Andy, “there was no need to, because my older brother John already worked for Hamilton Bros, so I’d secretly been his side-kick for years!” In actual fact Andy’s service manager, George Spark who sadly passed away last year told him “If you can do the job, that’s fine by me, you don’t need any papers”. Changed days indeed! 

Are Laptops the New Toolboxes?

Modern Massey Ferguson tractor beside Vintage tractor

Changed days as Agricultural Engineers Andy Reid and Willie Bisland swap their toolboxes for laptops!

When asked the fundamental difference between agricultural engineering then and now, the unanimous response from the boys was “where do we start?”

Whilst the core values of great customer service are still paramount, there’s now a world of difference as to how this is achieved.

Back in the 60’s, tractors were a maze of mechanics from the engine and axle to the steering, gearbox and hydraulics. However, back then a simple 6 or 12 volt charging system constituted tractor electrics. “These days we’re talking spaghetti junction” said Willie, “sometimes we wonder if our toolboxes have been usurped by laptops!” 

When the boys started out in the 60’s, Agricultural Engineers were very much in demand due to their all-round “on the job” training. If it had an engine, they could fix it! They used to completely strip down and rebuild up to 10 engines a month (in comparison to one a year these days) and, if the necessary parts weren’t available, they would make them from scratch. There was no such thing as a same day or next day guaranteed delivery service!

Willie with the old Hamilton Brothers Van in the 60s

Willie with the old Hamilton Brothers Van in the 60s!

The young engineers could also spend weeks away from home completing engine repairs all over the West Coast of Scotland. However, nowadays a lot of this work is carried out in a workshop with the use of laptop diagnostics to identify problems. Sophisticated computerised technology may have replaced the need for traditional mechanical skills, but the older boys are quick to praise the electronic and diagnostic engineering prowess of their younger counterparts.

It would seem the Hamilton Brothers workshop team and our customers benefit from the best of both worlds! Their experience has proven invaluable to our workshop team not just on a day to day basis, but also for specialist projects. 

Vintage Tractor Experts!

Andy and Willie with Classic MF135 and Today's MF 7718

Andy and Willie with Classic MF135 and Today’s MF 7718.

Both Andy and Willie are tractor restoration enthusiasts in their spare time! Willie is an avid vintage tractor collector and a ‘well-kent face’ on the show circuit when he is not hard at work at Hamilton Brothers! In 2016 alone he won 5 rosettes for his prestigious collection which includes a 1955 diesel Ferguson TE20, a grey and gold Ferguson 35 (one of the last produced prior to the merger of Massey and Ferguson), and a 1966 MF 135.

Andy particularly enjoys working on any tractor from the Ferguson T20S to the 300 Series, his all-time top of the tractor pops being the 390T. “I’ve been working on a petrol Ferguson T20S for the last 8-9 years and I’ve just got the bonnet to finish,” more guffaws! “My next one is a diesel Fergie T20S for a friend so I should get that one done in jig time!”

There’s no doubt our boys have been instrumental in forging the careers of dozens of young Hamilton Brothers engineers with their valuable knowledge and experience in the industry and, as they head towards their diamond anniversary with the company, the management team of Hamilton Brothers would just like to say – you’re worth your weight in gold guys. Don’t leave us!

Book your Value Vintage Tractor Restoration with Andy Reid

Has your trusty tractor seen better days? Do you need an extra pair of hands to help with a refurbishment project? Then why not book a Value Vintage Tractor Restoration with Andy Reid at our Bishopton depot to help restore your Massey classic to its former glory! For the month of April 2017 only you can book a restoration with Andy Reid at a reduced labour rate of only  £28 per hour! Terms and conditions apply. Read to find out more about our Value Vintage Tractor Restoration service.

To find out more about our Service department or to book your tractor, trailer or telehandler in for a service, contact your local Hamilton Brothers depot today!

Bishopton Depot

Hamilton Brothers
Greenock Road

T: 0843 886 5930
F: 01505 862221


Tarbolton Depot

Hamilton Brothers
1 Montgomerie Street

T: 0843 886 6297
F: 01292 541978


Campbeltown Depot

Hamilton Brothers
Roading Garage
PA28 6LU

T: 01586 553031
F: 01586 552875

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