In the beginning, there was only Donald. Fergie the 3D character didn’t exist and wasn’t originally on the agenda. It was 7 months into the project that Fergie the tractor came alive. This is the story behind Fergie.
DFS creator Calum MacDonald grew up around the Ferguson TE20. From since he can remember, there was always a TE20 around. The roar from the engine was the main draw for the young Calum, he just loved it and he would spend many hours driving around the croft on his dads knee until he got too big and started driving it on his own. His father Donald was a tractor expert in the area and would regularly source Ferguson TE20’s for other people on Skye and take them in from all over the country.
He knew a good one when he saw one so when an old 1949 petrol paraffin model appeared in the Exchange & Mart in the mid 1990’s over in Aberdeenshire, he was over having a look in a flash. He bought the tractor there and then and took it home on a lorry soon after. Calum still remembers him raving about how good this one was. His plan was to strip it back to the bare bones and restore it to its former glory.
He started this project in 1999 and stripped it right down. It was a slow process the restoration and as he was working a full time job at the same time, progress was slow. The years rolled by and by 2002, the project was half done.
Donald MacDonald, aged 69, departed very suddenly on 16 May 2002. The tractor project was the least of the family’s worries during that time and it lay in the shed in pieces for years, with the family not knowing anybody with the skills to finish the project.
This all changed when William MacDonald, Donald’s other son, met David MacLure from Sleat in 2016. As the talk turned to tractors, David offered to restore the tractor and put the jigsaw pieces all back together again. It was rare to find someone with the skill set and knowhow to actually undertake this work, far less a young man in his 30’s who was just as obsessed with the Ferguson TE20 as William’s late father had been.
The tractor and all parts were uplifted by David and taken to his garage. He spent hours tracking down any missing parts, and other parts which were in dire need of replacement, notably the inside rear wheel which had corroded away badly. He cracked on with the job and restored it to an exceptional standard. Donald MacDonald was right, this was indeed a very rare find.
Never in all his 25 years of dealing with these tractors had David seen the tyre tread that was on this one. He had no idea how old the back tyres were, he even thought they could have been the originals from 1949. He had never seen any Feguson’s with images of this exact tyre tread either. The tread is noticeably different to all the TE20’s seen online today and is impossible to find details about it anywhere.
He also said that the steering was as tight and as good feeling as any he had ever driven and the engine was just running perfectly. In his opinion, the tractor had done very few hours work during its life. It had certainly sat around since 1999 doing nothing but ageing.
The moment he managed to fire up the engine was so monumental that he uploaded the experience onto YouTube for the Ferguson aficionados, and there are many across the world who just love this amazing little tractor, quite rightly so because the 2 litre petrol paraffined engines were a marvel of early engineering and are still testamount to the quality, indeed when they can lie around for 20 years, yet still fire up beautifully as if a day hadn’t passed.
To hear that lovely roar was music to David’s ears and was a milestone for getting the tractor back on the road as a fully operational vehicle.
The handover in Spring 2018 back to the MacDonald family was a special day and Calum was thinking about how his father would have felt knowing the job had been done.
Now that Fergie was back, it gave Calum an idea about the planned DFS video. He would get his brother to drive the tractor down the road and video the scene driving in front. He would then replace his brother with the animated DFS driving instead. It seemed a great idea and would certainly help in making the video memorable. He brought his idea to the table at the first meeting with the animation production company where he was advised that a) it would be very hard to film well and b) it would cost an awful lot of money to get the whole thing looking good.
They suggested that the tractor be replicated into 3D along with Donald. “Hang on a second” Calum said immediately upon hearing this unexpected and unanticipated announcement, “does that mean we can get the tractor talking?”. “Yes it does”, came the reply. And from that moment, Fergie the 3D animation character sidekick to Donald from Skye was born.
This was a game changer for the DFS project, which at this stage was now 6 months in the making. Work began on replicating the tractor from real images and lots of tweaking and weeks worth of work went into getting the tractor looking just right. The traditional Ferguson matt grey paint job finish wasn’t going to appeal to such a wide audience therefore the decision was taken to paint parts of Fergie orange, to match Donald’s hair and beard. DFS is a proud red head and is slightly obsessed with it, therefore the colour fitted with the story line. Eyes, mouth and animation movements were added along with finer details such as foot rests, the holed seat, engine parts, steering wheel adjustments and the entire back end built as well.
The original video screen play didn’t have any rear view shots therefore the back of the tractor wasn’t initially planned but this also changed when the back end forks were built into the design, allowing the last scene in the video to show the detail that had been put into the animation. The exhaust was also added, some had them positioned where Fergie has, whilst other TE20’s had them stubby and short below the bonnet level at the side. There was the option to have the tractor rusty, with dented bodywork and looking pretty aged but since the 1949 model had been restored, the idea was to keep it in line with that story so the 3D Fergie has great bodywork and is all shiny, just the way you would want one.
David MacLure kindly donated images he took as he was working on the restoration project and a few of them are shown here on this page. One can see exactly how much work David put into the project and Calum MacDonald and his family are eternally grateful for his dedication.
The Fergie Page, dedicated to the man who quite unwittingly helped create Fergie – Donald MacDonald 1932-2002.
Donald asked Fergie about the wheels and tyres and this is what he said : “oh yes Donald, I’ve still got my original tyres from the twenties. Old Harry Ferguson preferred these ones, the closed tread model, they replaced them soon after with the open tread style, less rubber. I’ve still got my original CCL steelie wheels too, they were replaced with the 5 spoke model along with the rubber change, more sporty looking they all thought. I prefer the CCL’s”
“What are the CCL’s Fergie, I’ve never heard of them”
“The coke can lid Donald. No fancy holes along the rim”
“So how old are you, your wheels look ancient?”
“I was the first one that Harry ever made in 1929, long before I was available in the shops. My serial number was TE0001 until it got chiselled off in a garage in Glasgow. I stood out like a sore thumb with that number, I can tell you. Way too easy to trace and that was long before the technology they have nowadays. I had fake papers for years travelling the world with a welsh guy called Howard, a nice guy too, he was a master of these crafts. What a hoot we had. We left skidmarks all over the world during the 70’s, nobody could catch us, we were that sharp”
“You’ve been all over the world? Wow, I’ve hardly left Skye, been to Inverness a few times, Marks & Spencer there”
“lol Spencer, that takes me back. You didn’t want to mess with Spencer, he was a Toyota Land Cruiser from Columbia. Man, he was hard as nails. I thought I was tough until I came across Spencer. He was the boss of 50 Land Cruisers owned by a guy called Pablo. Spencer had armoured plating, guns, satellite phones, anti tracking devices, the works. That’s what I call extras, none of this air conditioning, ashtrays, heated seats kind of stuff they throw at you nowadays. He survived 10 bombing attempts to blow his timing belt right out of him, they must have really hated the Land Cruisers out in Columbia, the Colombians wanted the Ferguson TE20 to remain as the top dog there but Spencer and his four wheel drive cronies had other ideas. The Toyota Land Cruiser coup attempt failed in 1993 when Pablo fell off a roof ladder and Spencer was arrested. Some say he was pushed but he was always pleasant to me Pablo, so I think his bulky frame found him out in the end and he fell off the ladder”
“Wow, you were lucky to get out of there alive Fergie if you were hanging around with this Spencer character”
“hey, I’m not stupid, I could feel the heat coming and I left there in 1977, headed for Argentina and the World Cup. Took a while, it’s big that South America. Saying that it, it could all have turned out differently for me if Ali hadn’t convinced me we were going to win the blinking thing and like a total fool, I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. I wouldn’t have bothered travelling all that way on petrol paraffin had I known we were going to get bumped by Iran in the first game. I was revving flat out all night, I was that cheesed off. Burnt a hole in my cylinder. I was there for the Gemill goal though, right behind the goals. Best night of my life that one, there were some Dutch folk there. Met a beautiful racy Dutch Ford Capri that night, moved back to Amsterdam with her in 1978, that was going fine until I caught her engine smoking away outside a coffee shop. Now petrol and paraffin, they’re fine, anything else in the engine was a complete no no for me back then including diesel which couldn’t pull the skin off a custard without a turbo, so when I saw her glugging away on these flippin coffees, it really was the beginning of the end for us. She started to perform really badly and in the end, I was flipping quicker to 60 than she was and she was a 3 litre”