Preparations for The Irish Rovers charity tractor run from John O’Groats in Scotland to Lands End in Cornwall this May have stepped up, with the tractors and drivers receiving a blessing at Mount Melleray Abbey in Co. Waterford.

In a warm up for the 22-day marathon, three of the four tractors and their drivers drove to the abbey for mass last Sunday, where they were blessed by Fr. Denis Luke after the service.

Unfortunately, the fourth tractor, a Leyland 2100, was unable to make it on the day but, we are assured, it will be ready in time for the trip.

Irish Rovers at Mount Melleray Abbey
Three of the Irish Rovers, James Keohane, Tom Fitzgerald and Kieran O’Donaghue with their respective tractors at Mount Melleray

The run is in aid of CRITICAL, a voluntary organisation made up of health care professionals who act as first responders whenever there is an emergency in their area, a vital link in the chain of care in rural areas where there might be some delay in an ambulance getting to the scene.

Facts and figures

After the blessing at Mount Melleray, Tom Fitzgerald, who spent a good deal of time organising the route and stopovers, went through a few of the figures involved and explained the reasoning behind the choice of towns and villages which they will be visiting on the way.

Each day starts at 8:00a.m and they will cover, on average, 70 to 80 miles, with the longest day being over 100 miles and the shortest just 18, as they take it easy on the last leg to Lands End itself.

Rear of tractors at Mt Mellerary
Each tractor has been fitted with a spares box and equipped with beacon and mirrors where necessary.

The average speed is calculated to be around 16mph and each driver will spend somewhere between 120 and 150 hours in the seat over the 22 days.

It is estimated that the tractors will consume around 2,000 litres of diesel with half of that being donated by a Martin Fennihough, a fellow tractor enthusiast from the UK who has a particular intertest in County’s.

Cashel Engineering of Co. Mayo have chipped in with the loan of a fuel bowser, while Tom Harte Farm Services and O’Donovan Transport, both of Co. Cork, have also helped out, as have Stenna Line and Irish Ferries in offering half price tickets across the Irish sea.

Route Planning

Highlights of the trip include calling in at the most northly tip of mainland UK, Dunnet Head, as well as its most southerly, the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.

Edinburgh Castle is also on the list as is passing through the Lake District and Heriot Country in the Yorkshire Dales.

Further south, there will be a visit to Clarkson’s Farm in the Cotswolds and a Vintage Rally at Castle Combe in Wiltshire, having dropped in at Stonehenge.

Dealers plate on Nuffield
The original dealers plate is still attached to the Nuffield which will return to the village where it was first sold 72-years-ago

One point of interest along the way, is calling in at the the village of Walford in Herefordshire. It was here that the Nuffield Universal was originally sold to a local farmer in 1952 by the then dealers for the marque, D. Hitchings Agricultural Engineers.

The route has been set to avoid major roads although some mileage on them is unavoidable. The team will be leaving plenty of space between the tractors to ease overtaking and will do their best to let traffic pass safely.

Tractor prep

The same tractors were prepared thoroughly prepared for a Malin to Mizzen Head trip in Ireland two-years-ago, and other than servicing them, no work major was deemed necessary for this journey.

At Mount Melleray, all three drivers were keen to express their appreciation for the help they have received from friends and well wishers in their local communities for the help given in getting the tractors ready.

Close up of Nuffield engine
The tractors were given a full make over for an earlier run and have been thoroughly serviced in preparation for the UK trip

There will be a support pick up truck going with the team and this will carry spares and tools for the three tractors, and a front wheel that just happens to fit three of the machines.

Spares carried will include all major wearing parts such as bearings, belts and starter motors while rear tyres will be fixed, if necessary, by local tyre fitters along the route.

Accommodation has already been booked and the trip is set to end at the end of May.