Occasionally we get sent in stories about our tools – here’s one set in Yorkshire and Australia…

“I’ve recently discovered your website and found it very interesting so I’ve written a note which I thought might make someone smile.

Many years ago as a young lad I spent some time in the Australian bush with some professional rabbit catchers. We went from place to place, often camping out, catching sometimes in excess of 1500 rabbits a week by all sorts of means, including ferreting. One of the contracts was to eradicate the rabbits from some flood protection bankings, where they were causing damage to the banks by creating a network of burrows. As the contract ran on it became apparent that the work was not going to be easy. One of the old lads, Doogs was complaining that he was having to dig very deep narrow holes, which were difficult to wield a spade or shovel in.

One night, as he was telling us his woes, I recalled a book that I had won in a competition at school. It was about fencing, and had inside a list of tools of the trade. One was a very long shafted tool with a rounded type of shovel head, called in the book (as I remember it) a Telecom or GPO spade. I told Doogs about it, and his eyes lit up. He pleaded with me to get him one.

A few days later, I called a friend in the Yorkshire Dales, and relayed the situation. He went to my house, found the book, located the article and discovered that the tool in question was made by Bulldog. He drove from his house near Skipton to Wigan, and bought the tool. He then returned to Skipton with a problem. Its quite a large bit of kit. A phone call to Australia was in order!

No problem says I. Cut it up, well fettle it when it gets here. So out came the angle grinder and the shaft was cut down, then the whole thing packaged up and sent out to Oz, at vast expense!

I seem to remember it didnt take long to arrive. When it did it was carried proudly to the workshop, sparks flew, and the shaft was intact once again. I think to say it looked as good as new would be an exaggeration, but it certainly did the job! Of all the lads who saw it, none could recall a similar tool produced in Australia. A market oppurtunity missed I feel! Something that Ill always remember was that, in the heat of the day, all metal tools had to be stuck in the ground, not laid down as they got too hot to touch!

I vowed that I would bring that tool home with me, as it cost me so much, but I ended my trip on the other side of the continent and returned home without it. I received a letter from one of the lads several years later, telling me that Doogs had passed away. He always reckoned he was going to come over and see me, and bring it with him. I doubt it, he didnt even have a passport, or a bank account! I would imagine that its still doing the rounds somewhere, I’m sure it’ll still be going long after I’ve passed on. Years later, back in Yorkshire, I still catch plenty of rabbits and much as I’d love one, Ive never quite got round to owning a Bulldog GPO/Telecom/Rabbiting tool!

There was an article on the radio the other day about the lack of manufacturing in Britain these days, and how we used to be a force to be reckoned with for tools and industrial equipment. I think this story shows, we still are!

All the best, keep up the good work, some of us still appreciate workmanship when we see it!”

Posted in Things we like By Stuart Elsom On 12th July 2011

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