The History of Tullylagan Manor

The present house at Tullylagan was built during the early 19th century by the Greer family. The style is that of a late Georgian classical Villa. While the precise history is unfortunately not known, it is believed that this building replaced a much older structure which was erected by the Sanderson family who named the land ‘Tullylagan’ after where they were born in Scotland.

In 1898 Thomas MacGregor Greer the only son of Thomas Greer, M.P. Carrickfergus, inherited the lease of Tullylagan Manor. Thomas Mac Gregor Greer was responsible for much of the development of the Manor. MacGregor Greer was a talented man who had many diverse interests. He considered the Manor House inadequately proportioned for a country residence so rather than risk spoiling the architecture by adding to the house he decided to excavate the basement! This was a mammoth task at the time, depending heavily on manual labour, with the soil removed from the basement, the house became three-storey.

The grounds of the estate received similar attention with many rare & exotic trees and shrubs being planted. Greer was able to identify each plant by its common and Latin name.

In the farmyard he installed carpentry facilities and here many fine examples of chairs, tables and other items were produced. As he had by now an exquisite collection of fine bone china, a kitchen sink was made from softwood and installed in the manor house. This was to minimise damage to the china during washing. Desertcreat church was to benefit as the Holy Table, Chancel Chairs and beautifully carved Reredos were made here and presented by Greer to the church.

To enable work to continue during the hours of darkness a turbine was installed to drive a dynamo. Initially only those buildings located in the farmyard had electric light, in later years the dynamo was replaced by a larger model and electricity was supplied to the house.

One of MacGregor Greer’s many varied interests included the motor car. He became the first man to drive a car, a Dion Bouton, through the famous wide main street of Cookstown. Subsequently Greer purchased another car believed to be a Vauxhall, a make at the time gaining a reputation for fast, well built cars. However Greer’s latest acquisition would not perform to his satisfaction and attempts to remedy the situation failed. Greer had heard about a young mechanic called Harry Ferguson who was supposed to have a way with engines. So the young Ferguson was summoned to Tullylagan. His success with engines impressed Greer to such an extent that Ferguson was asked to service all cars (horseless carriages) at Tullylagan from then on. When Harry was required to stay overnight he slept in the farm buildings - today known as Harry's Bar & Bistro, before he left he was sleeping as a guest in the Manor House!

MacGregor Greer also shared Ferguson's enthusiasm for mechanised farming & when Ferguson started his own garage Greer was a major financial backer. Not long after the construction of the Ferguson prototype (popularly known as ‘The Black Tractor’) was completed in order to evaluate the design a series of field tests commenced. One of the locations chosen was none other than Thomas Macgregor Greers Tullylagan Manor Estate. Here a field well away from the public gaze was used to enable the testing to take place in secret. It subsequently became the best known secret in the district! Joe Warnock a neighbour of Greer’s would drive the tractor leaving Harry and his right hand man Willy Sands free to concentrate on engineering matters. It was an understood arrangement between Harry Ferguson & Mr Greer that the first production & plough would be sold to no-one else other than Thomas MacGregor Greer. Mr Greer wanted to secure his place in history as the owner of the first tractor & plough built for the hydraulic system. On 12th January 1937, this became true and the No1 tractor & plough and general cultivator were sold to Mr Thomas MacGregor Greer – Tullylagan Manor.

On 9th June 1941 Thomas McGregor Greer died at Tullylagan Manor. It would appear that McGregor Greer was particularly proud of his tractor as at the time of his death, it was rumored that he had expressed a desire for the No1 tractor to pull the trailer with his coffin on it. This however did not happen; instead it was pulled by an Austin Martin car sent from Harry Ferguson's garage in Belfast. Jim Scott was the driver. The funeral cortege made its way to the nearby Desertcreat church. Today Henry George (Harry) Ferguson is noted as an Irish engineer and inventor who is renowned for his role in the development of the modern tractor, becoming the first Irishman to build and fly his own airplane, and for developing the first four wheel drive formula One Car.

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