Changing the global grain industry from a Henty workshop

September 1, 2015

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Taylor’s great nephews, Bruce Taylor and Colin Wood, aim to recognise his achievements with a bronze sculpture.

Henty is well on the way to raising the $100,000 needed to erect a bronze sculpture of grain harvesting machinery inventor Headlie Shipard Taylor.

The Headlie Taylor Header Museum committee displayed a restored version of the HST header at last year’s Henty Machinery Field Days, and have raised $41,600 over the past year.

The funds will be put towards a $100,000 bronze sculpture of Taylor and also provide an ongoing memorial scholarship to support innovation in agricultural equipment.

The sculpture will depict a young Taylor toiling over an anvil in his farm workshop, and will take pride of place in front of the museum on the Olympic Way at Henty.

The display at last year’s field days included the header and a draught mare and her foal, marking the centenary of the public debut of the HST header at the Henty Show in 1914.

Museum committee members and Taylor’s great nephews, Bruce Taylor and Colin Wood, will have the header at this year’s field days, along with a paddock-to-plate educational display on the process of taking grain from harvest to consumer.

The header will be sited alongside the Henty and District Antique Machinery Club’s vintage display, with field day visitors invited to contribute a gold coin donation to the sculpture and scholarship.

Mr Taylor said extensive research combined with historic family photographs would be used to give the sculpture authenticity.

“To recognise history where it happened in a small, rural town with an iconic sculpture telling the story of part of our rural beginnings would be a fitting and responsible achievement,’’ he said.

“Headlie had high principles and was a patriotic Australian – he was a man of moderate stature brought up in a religious family.’’

Taylor was 28 when he roughed out a vision in his head – a machine that could benefit all grain growers by harvesting downed crops.

He was no university educated engineer or qualified mechanic – he had left school at the age of 14 to work on the family mixed farm, Emerald Hill, on the edge of Henty.

Spurred on by his own determination, Taylor set to work enlarging the slap workshop at Emerald Hill, and installing a lathe, power drilling machine and emery wheel.

He consumed every book on mechanical drawing, pattern making and moulding he could lay his hands on.

Taylor laboured over his new machine day and night to have it ready for the 1911-12 harvest, often calling upon his siblings to help with heavier jobs.

The harvest was almost over when the new header was finally ready but the family had reserved a small standing crop next to the workshop for the test run.

Frequent stoppages meant it took Taylor almost half a day to get once around the paddock.

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The HST header being demonstrated to Henty district farmers in 1915.

Disappointingly, the comb would not go into the crop and knocked down more heads than it gathered.

Taylor returned the header to the workshop and conceded the machine would not be ready for a second trial that season.

Exhausted and with finances drained, he took a three week break to freshen up, returning to the workshop with a completely new design only retaining the wheels and axle.

With the help of mate Ralph Garth, Taylor had the second machine ready for the 1912-13 harvest when it handled 80ha of badly lodged crop with ease.

In 1913, Taylor took out the first patents and was granted more claims for novel features than had ever been granted for a harvesting machine before.

Empowered by the success, he set about building a third machine, aiming to have it ready for display at the Henty show in the spring of 1914.

The final coat of paint went on the header two days before the show.

The public debut was a success and Taylor had laid the foundations for the mechanical harvesting of grain, which was later to be adopted around Australia and the world.

Headlie Taylor Header Museum patron, the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, said it was fitting to look back with gratitude on our nation’s rural heritage.

“One of the outstanding contributors was Headlie Taylor, who 100 years ago in Henty invented the header harvester which led the way for more efficient harvesting,’’ Dame Bashir said.

“Indeed, Australia’s wheat and other grain production is equal to the finest in the world.

“Appreciation of this is now being understood world-wide, with some overseas nations eager to acquire ownership of this, and indeed other sections of Australia’s peerless food production industry.

“We must never forget those forebears of agricultural excellence in our land, and their considerable legacy in Australia’s ascendency to a great nation.’’