Digger Man gets vintage send-off

Tractors process through Brackenfield to the church for the funeral of Wilfred Bown.
Tractors process through Brackenfield to the church for the funeral of Wilfred Bown.

There was a 22-strong tractor parade as hundreds of family and friends turned out to pay their respects to Wilfred Bown last week.

Wilfred, 53, of Ashover, who died last week, was known as The Dancing Digger Man for his act entertaining at shows around the country.

His coffin was carried on a trailer pulled by one of his beloved tractors, a Massey Ferguson 175 that he had spent two years restoring.

This was followed by another 21 vintage tractors driven by enthusiasts through Brackenfield to the village’s church for Wilfred’s funeral on Friday, June 24.

Wilfred’s son Matthew, 29, of North Wingfield, said: “It was a very sad day, but a day that also made us all feel proud. The amount of people that turned up was amazing.

“I’ll remember him for being a showman. He was the Dancing Digger Man, that’s something to be proud of. I’ll remember him with his thumbs up, 20 feet up in the air on a machine that really shouldn’t be that high up.”

Matthew added that he remembered the moment his dad’s act was born.

He said: “It was at the school fete at Ashover Primary School. He was popping balloons with the back arm of his digger.

“Afterwards he did a little performance where he had the digger on its side. He took it a little bit further and added music and it just took off from there.

“It was all word of mouth, he never really advertised, but he ended up going to shows all over the country, he went down as far as Cambridge. He drove the digger down there, going on A-roads the whole way at a top speed of 13 miles per hour, it must have taken hours.

“He became quite well known and we were always really proud of him. That’s how I’ll remember him.”

Wilfred’s sister Doreen Sullivan said: “I think Wilf must have given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. We’re very grateful for all the support from the vintage tractor enthusiasts.”