As I mentioned right at the beginning, my father, Ron Goodliffe, was a tractor driver on the estate, and his normal steed was an orange Allis-Chalmers, made in Milwaukee, USA, and probably shipped over here at the end of the war. It was called a crawler or caterpillar, because instead of wheels it had tracks like a tank. These tracks, combined with its relatively heavy weight, gave it much more pulling power. So my dad landed up doing much of the ploughing on the vast estate. Field after field after field. Spanning an area from Red Cross, where New Addenbrooke’s Hospital now is, to Grantchester. Fortunately he was a man perfectly happy with his own company, and indeed his lowly paid occupation; but it wasn’t the most glamorous of jobs. Preparing the soil for the spring sowing started in the autumn once the harvest was safely gathered in, and carried on well into winter. Now we used to have proper winters back then, and tractors were still totally cab-less and open to the elements. He would plough on, literally, through everything the skies had to throw at him. Wet through and chilled to the bone; up and down, up and down, he would guide his beloved Allis-Chalmers, keeping the furrows as straight as a die – the hallmark of an expert ploughman.
If you will forgive my indulgence I would like to finish these recollections with an extract from a poem that I composed as a eulogy upon his death in 2005.
“There was another love in your life, by the name of Allis-Chalmers. And you spent many hours alone in her company as she ploughed each field with furrows.
As a child I’d sometimes join you on her ample bench type seat. The constant roar of the engine and the screaming of the gulls made conversation difficult and I often fell asleep.
So you’d put your strong arm round me, to stop me falling and getting crushed, and we’d plough ’till after sunset then bike home, through the dusk.
This is how we bonded, . . . a father and his son. . . . In silence . . . on a tractor, the three of us as one.
Many hours I spent in your company through all seasons on the farm. The other workers called me Young Ron, to which I proudly warmed.
You were such a gentle man, moderate of voice and slow of hand. You gained respect through love, not fear, and sowed seeds of common decency in the minds of both your sons.”
Ron Goodliffe on the tractor, with Brian sitting beside his father and Michael standing on the trailer, 1956, probably from the gateway into Trumpington Park, looking across Grantchester Road to the churchyard. Photo: Goodliffe family.