David looks to unearth the truth in digger rivalry

Newport's David Adams doesn't want this to seem like a dig at JCB, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary... but he says the claim that Joe Bamford invented the backhoe loader is just not right.

Alf Ingram arriving at Roye Adams & Co with the firm's brand new Whitlock 370 digger in June 1972.
Alf Ingram arriving at Roye Adams & Co with the firm's brand new Whitlock 370 digger in June 1972.

David, who was plant department manager of Newport agricultural engineering firm Roye Adams & Co from 1963 to 1982, says the accolade for bringing it to this country belongs to Hugh Carleton Whitlock, whose machines David's firm used for years.

"While JCB would definitely like the world to think they invented the backhoe loader, as far as I am aware the original hydraulic backhoe was invented in Australia, being inevitably called the 'Dinkum Digger'.

"It was brought to this country by Hugh Carleton Whitlock who established his factory at Great Yeldham in Essex and, having fitted the backhoe to a Fordson tractor equipped with a front loader and cab, it came onto the market in the early 1950s while Joe Bamford was still building farm trailers in his country workshop," says David.

"By the 1960s the Whitlock was the most popular digger in the country. We bought our first one when I set up our company's plant department in 1963, which I was to run for the next 19 years.

David says he came across this lonely and forgotten Whitlock 370 digger rusting away while walking in Fenn's Moss in 2014.

"H C Whitlock was an engineer while Bamford was an engineer/advertiser. JCB was easier to pronounce than HCW so with massive advertising Bamford gradually caught up and began to become predominant in the 1970s.

"What happened to Whitlock I don't know, but his company was sold to Hymac in about 1972.

"We bought our last Whitlock 370 machine in 1972. We had a superb driver, the late Alfred Ingram, but there was one tricky incident when we were short of work near Christmas and a Telford contractor rang us to say that his driver had gone sick on a very important job and could he borrow Alf.

"Certainly I said, and took Alf over to him, only to find that he was not prepared to lower himself to drive a JCB machine. We drove back in silence but then Alf took our machine out and driving around the farms found us three weeks' work, problem solved.

"This does not in any way diminish J C Bamford's great achievement, of which we should all be proud, but the name of Hugh Carleton Whitlock should not be forgotten either."

One of David's early diggers clearing snow off the A41 at Crosshills, Sambrook, in 1967.

David, 82, who is a former mayor of Newport, also tells of an amusing incident arising from the Whitlock-JCB rivalry, when Joe Bamford was extending his new factory at Rocester.

"When he applied to the highways department of Staffordshire County Council to have the road widened and improved outside their contractor turned up with, inevitably, a Whitlock digger.

"A furious Joe immediately got in touch with the contractor, saying that he must remove his machine and he would supply him with a free Bamford machine. The contractor thought for a while and then decided to inform Whitlock's who responded by offering him a better deal, and sending a photographer to take a picture.

"It would make great advertising they said, to show a Whitlock working outside the JCB factory. This incident caused a great chuckle to go right round the plant industry, and we were told by their representative with a broad smile."

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