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How close the dream.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE

? The Jones Baler Story, by Gwynfor Williams. Hardback, pounds 24.95. Published by Japonica Press.

FROM humble beginnings, two brothers from North Wales set out to conquer the world of agricultural machinery.

That they almost succeeded bears testimony to their ingenuity, craftsmanship and work ethic.

By the start of the 1960s, Moldbased Jones Balers stood on the cusp of rapid expansion. A new factory had been built, the company's new Super Star baler was a world-beater and a new combine harvester, the product of heavy research, was expected to be a market leader.

By late 1961 Jones Balers had been taken over and within two decades the dream of a Welsh agricultural powerhouse had been consigned to the history books.

But such is the allure of the firm's Dragon badges, and its reputation for excellence, that the name lives on among collectors and enthusiasts, for whom Jones Balers still carries a cachet unrivalled by many of its contemporaries.

Among them is Gwynfor Williams, one of the UK's foremost vintage machinery experts. A former workshop technician and agricultural lecturer, now based in Lancashire, he has written The Jones Baler Story, published last week.

As well as chronicling the lives of David and Glynne Jones, the company founders, he details their lesser known products, such as loaders, tedders, muck spreaders and mills.

"When the company was taken over by Allis Chalmers, the shine definitely came off," said Gwilym.

"The great tragedy is that it could have been so different. Not only was Jones Balers set to launch its combine harvester, Allis Chalmers had the idea and the patent for a round baler.

"Its version only coughed out small bales and had to stop every few yards, but it was the fore-runner of what was to come. Allis Chalmers should have scaled it up at the Mold plant but instead it sold the patent."

David Jones was born in 1908, followed by Glynne in 1911. Moving from farm to farm, the boys and their four sisters were evicted with their parents from Fron Hall, Gwernymynydd, in 1926.

As their new home, at the Nant, Rhydymwyn, was too small to support the family, the brothers went out looking for farm work. During the summer David drove a steam wagon at nearby Ruby Brick Company, and in the winter worked a steam engine and thresher for his uncle Teddy at Aberduna farm.

His interest in machinery had been kindled.

A subsequent job saw the boys install a water system at Pen Bedw, Nannech - home to the Buddicom railway magnates. Impressed, they offered the brothers a loan to start up a contracting business.

It was a good deal for both parties: David, then aged 20, and Glynne, 17, put up pounds 80 of their own savings and went on to found Jones Balers; and the Buddicoms had their loan returned, with interest.

Every penny, other than personal expenses of 6s-a-week, was ploughed into the contracting business. In winter they worked late by the light of hurricane lamps, and in summer they took farm work at 30s-a- week.

By 1934 they had enough money to buy their first baler, a Powell Baling Press. In what was to be their hallmark, they modified it into a selffeed baler, so saving the wages - and the health - of the person previously needed to perform the dusty, dangerous job of bale feeding.

By 1939 the brothers ran the largest threshing baling business in Flintshire .

The outbreak of war meant materials and labour were diverted into armaments, and getting hold of new balers became more tricky.

In January 1942, David and Glynne set about building their own machine, designed in the living room of their house. A workshop was established at the old Rhosesmor Lead Works and by June the first Jones Baler had been assembled.

Initially, manufacture was contracted out. But by 1944 it became clear to the brothers that their own contracting business was being threatened by customers buying their Jones balers. One had to go: the boys opted for the baler business.

Glynne is quoted as saying: "We could now afford to employ better qualified engineers, but labour was difficult to obtain.

"Though the war had finished, the de-mob period took a long time. We made do with men like ourselves who were willing to have a go, to learn along with us.

"Many were horsemen, cattlemen, sheepmen - men off the farms. They were very good and adapted to any job."

During the war, agricultural production rocketed and Jones Balers produced the static Panther baler to handle the vast quantities of straw and hay being generated by farmers.

This was followed by the Lion, a four-wheeled, tractor-towed pick-up baler.

The 18ft-long, three tonne Tiger model, which evolved from the Lion, was the first to use twine. Jones Balers had patented its unique "Tucker Knotter", which allowed twine to be recessed into bales to stop them slipping off. The Jones' grooved bales was their most noted innovation.

The brothers and their staff were also masters of re-invention. Often they would strip down a machine and refine the design for British use: many US machines, for example, were far too wide for narrow, sunken Welsh lanes and 8ft-wide gateways.

"Sometimes they did sail a bit close to the wind," said Gwynfor.

For many farmers, Jones Balers were simply too expensive. In 1950 a Lion cost pounds 1,100, limiting the marketplace mainly to contractors. Around this time, David fell ill with TB, spending over a year at Talgarth Sanatorium, near Brecon.

Until he was transferred to Llangwyfan, near Denbigh, Glynne's visits by motorbike would have taken the best part of a day.

The company's next landmark was the Invictor, the world's first self-propelled baler. Powered by a Ford V8 engine, it freed up tractors to do other farm work. The Invicta won an RASE gold medal at the 1950 Royal Show, so cementing the firm's reputation, if not its finances.

Curiously, there were no sprayshop facilities at Rhosesmor. All machines were hand-painted by a team of women led by Marie Evans. The company's signwriter was Jack Jones - even though he only had one arm.

Before long, demand was outstripping supply from the awkward Rhosesmor site, comprised of a series of long tin "shacks". A new factory was commissioned onWrexham Road, Mold, with good access to the railway station, now a Tesco.

Broncoed Park Works opened in 1958, with the workforce eventually rising to 400. The focus was now on the company's conventionally trailed Minor and Major pick-up balers. Offered with power take-off and popular with farmers, some 40% were exported.

Introduced in October 1960, after two years of development, were two new models, the Star and Super Star balers. They re-established Jones Balers as the field leader.

The Super Star, in particular, was the firm's masterpiece, and 30,000 left Broncoed.

The brothers Welsh Many are still in use. In a sign of what was to come, Jones Balers signed an agreement in August, 1961, with US outfit Allis Chalmers to manufacture and sell the Super Star in America. Jones Balers would receive royalties on the first 10,000 machines.

Though Glynne Jones denied rumours of a takeover, within 13 months Allis-Chalmers was in charge. The red Jones Balers sign, illuminated at night on the roof at Broncoed, was removed and the company's famous red dragon logo was retired.

"The brothers were probably made an offer they couldn't refuse," said Gwynfor Williams.

"By that time they'd had half a century of dust, grime and hard work. They also had other interests, such as clay pigeon shooting."

Glynne returned to his farming roots, running a barley beef unit at Sealand Manor Farm, bought in 1958 to enable the brothers to test their machines in secrecy. David set up the North Wales Shooting School at the farm, and would later establish Flintshire Caravans at Queensferry.

were internationals Both men became Welsh internationals at clay shooting, a sport that dovetailed nicely with the contractors' habit of carrying a shotgun on their tractors.

At Broncoed, Allis Chalmers cancelled Jones' promising Cruiser combine. The Super Star still sold well, but for many farmers the purchase was made through gritted teeth.

"Although Welsh farmers knew the Allis baler was a Jones Baler underneath, they didn't like it because Allis was a Yankee outfit," said Gwynfor.

"Re-sale value was also lower because of the failure of the Allis ED-40 tractor, which did nothing for the company's reputation."

In 1971 Allis sold Broncoed to Bamfords of Utoxeter, with the Esmor works going to ex-Jones Baler manager JM Jones.

The dragon logo was revived, but the end was in sight when Burgess, once Europe's largest agricultural dealership, took a controlling interest in Bamford.

In 1980, Burgess collapsed with debts of pounds 4.8m and while a new company was formed, the Jones Balers plant in Mold closed a year later, with the loss of 300 jobs.

The dream was over, but the Jones' dragon is still breathing fire, thanks to the efforts of an increasing number of Jones Baler enthusiasts.

The brothers were Welsh internationals Two farming brothers from North Wales took on the mighty world of agricultural machinery - and almost won. Andrew Forgrave, Rural Affairs Editor, reports The first British-built pick-up bailer, "The Automatic Jones Pick-up Press"

CAPTION(S):

MAIN PICTURE: "How's it going, George?" Glynne Jones oversees Panther baler testing at George Denson's Pen Porchell Isaf farm, Henllan, Denbigh Pictures from The Jones Baler Story Show debut: Marie Evans applies the Dragon logo to a Cruiser combine Jones Balers lined up for export The 1960 Super Star was a world-beater, capable of up to 15 bales per minute
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2011
Words:1613
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