Twelve year restoration of historic machine completed as tribute to father who died in tragic circumstances

Mark Branagan

WHEN head greenkeeper David Spurden died in a freak shooting accident on the golf course where he worked, the son who had expected to follow in his footsteps turned his back on the profession.

Chris Spurden had spent three years studying at Askham Bryan College, near York, ready to follow his father into the trade.

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When his father was shot dead at Ganton Golf Club, near Scarborough, his son opted to join the fire service instead. But there was one memory of his past life he was reluctant to let go.

Before his death, David Spurden’s 1950s petrol-driven lawnmower had stopped working and he had spent ages tinkering with it, trying to get it back in action before he retired.

Such was its sentimental value Mr Spurden jnr sent it off for repair, even though the company stopped making the parts long before he was born. Now, 12 years later, thanks to a labour of love, mower and owner have finally been reunited.

Mr Spurden, 31, plans to use the Atco mower on his own lawn at Staxton, near Scarborough, this spring. He said: “It was always my dad’s wish to use the mower when he retired on his own lawn.

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“It was his own personal mower and he kept it in the green sheds at Ganton, after buying it in the late seventies. As well as being the head greenkeeper, he was meticulous with his lawn at home.”

Before taking his son and daughter to the championship course at Ganton in 1982, Mr Spurden snr was head greenkeeper at Knaresborough Golf Club and before that worked at both Ilkley and Otley golf courses.

He was highly regarded in both national and international golf and greenkeeping circles. His son spent the majority of his childhood in Ganton and was a pupil at the village school.

One of his father’s duties was to control the rabbit population on the course, mainly by shooting the rabbits in lamp lights during darkness.

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On September 24 1997 during a hunting party Mr Spurden was shot dead at close range with a 12 bore shotgun in front of his son, dying in the teenager’s arms.

Not only did his son have to face the trauma of losing a parent in such tragic circumstances, but 19-year-old Mr Spurden also lost his childhood home, Wood View, which was a tied house.

“Our whole life revolved around the golf course. I thought it was the best thing to do to get away from the profession because of the circumstances that surrounded it. So I decided to do something different and join the fire service,” he added.

As he started his career with the Cleveland fire service, repairs continued on the lawnmower by his father’s friend John Adamson, who runs a horticultural engineering company FG Adamson & Son based at Swanland, near Hull.

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Mr Spurden then made a transfer request to Scarborough fire station, allowing him to set up home with fiance Rebecca Boothby at Staxton, the next village down from Ganton.

Consumer watchdogs have joked that if most modern lawnmowers had to take an MoT they would probably fail because, among other things, the new lightweight models often do not cut grass very well.

Mr Adamson said Mr Spurden would be enjoying all the benefits of a product built to last which would produce a much better striped lawn.

But restoring it had been a labour of love. He said: “The problem was getting hold of bits for it because it is a 60-year-old machine. But Chris’s late father was not only a good customer but a great friend.”

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His fitter Andy Wade was also a friend of David Spurden. So year after year he cast a careful eye over traded-in and written-off machines in search of the elusive parts.

Mr Adamson said: “We basically salvaged bits from people’s cast-offs. The company which made the engines had gone bust. Everything you wanted for the machine has been obsolete since the 1960s.

“But they were built to last, which they are not now. This model dated from the mid to late 50s. There were a hell of a lot made, and you see them lying about. But it is unusual to find one working now – and it should last him years.”

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