Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Meet the women who can build a tractor in 8 and a half minutes

An all-women team of mechanics are shaking up the vintage machinery scene, write Claire Fox and Jamie Casey

The girls in action
The girls in action

An army gunner, a bar worker and a hair dresser walk into a bar.

It sounds like the start of some yarn but in fact it marks the beginning of how the only all-female team in the country that can rebuild a vintage tractor in under ten minutes was formed.

The Socket Rockettes, from Broomhill Vintage Club, Coachford, Co Cork are a recently formed group of eight women who work in teams of four to rebuild the parts of a Massey Ferguson TE 20. They can currently rebuild the vintage tractor in eight and a half minutes. The group formed after meeting in a local pub in Coachford last year.

Socket Rockette member Catherine O' Brien and Chairperson of the club, Jer O' Sullivan are calling on clubs from rival teams in Cavan and Donegal to challenge the Socket Rockettes to an all-female All-Ireland Championship. They are currently the only female team in Ireland that operates completely unassisted by male physical strength.

"We asked the Cavan team to challenge us but they refused. We want to go up against the Cavan and Donegal teams to try and reignite the All-Ireland Championship," said Jer.

The Broomhill club's male team are current World Champions and have won the All-Ireland five times. Jer said that he hoped to set up one female team but that they had so much interest that they had to make two teams.

"We were inundated with interest from women in the area. There's only ever four in a team so we had to set up two teams. They practice all the time," he said.

Retail worker, Catherine O' Brien joined the group because it is a way of raising money for charity. "It's a community thing and great for charity. We raise money wherever we go and most of us have children so we would hope that they would follow in our footsteps in the future," said the 44-year-old.

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Catherine works in an electrical shop in Millstreet, Co Cork and admitted that she, like the other members knew nothing about mechanics before joining the Socket Rockettes.

"Jer and the boys' team have been a tremendous help to us. They've so much respect. We practice in our shed every week and it's just so much craic. I'm the eldest but we've girls in their 20s in the team," she said.

Catherine added that two women work on the front of the tractor and two work on the back of it in an effort to rebuild the machine as quickly as possible."I'm at the front with another girl. There's more parts at the front but they're less heavy while the girls at the back have less parts to work with but they are heavier. We all help each other out,"she explained.

Jer said that the women rebuild the 200 nuts that make up the tractor and lift the machine parts in their own unique way.

"When you strip down the tractor there are 50 parts altogether and 200 nuts that need to be hand tightened. They don't use any power tools.

"They format it in a way that they help each other lift the different parts, so they can get it done as quickly as possible. Other teams in Ireland have help from the men with lifting but the Socket Rockettes do it all themselves."

The skillful team, made up of a variety of women, including a hairdresser, a factory worker and a waitress beat their previous record of rebuilding in 12 minutes at the recent Grass Women silage event in Mount Melleray, Co Waterford. This time they managed to complete the task in an astonishing eight and a half minutes.

Army gunner Nicola O'Doherty (24), is the team's youngest member. She said that some men at the event in Waterford joked whether the tractor they were working on was real."They were coming up questioning whether the parts were real and making sure it was a real tractor," said Nicola who works on the back of the tractor installing the PTO and top cover.

Jer said that the women are fast approaching the male team's record of rebuilding in five minutes and is hoping that they will soon get the same big break that the men's team got when they appeared on hit BBC show, Top Gear in 2009.

"The Top Gear team heard about the lads and had them appear on the Top Gear Live Show in Dublin in 2009.We'd love if the ladies could get the same exposure," he added.

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