Kenyan Steyr tractor with an Irish connection

The Steyr tractor with a Wexford engine replacment is now back hard at work in Kenya.

The work of missionary priests abroad is in modern times often forgotten but occasionally we are reminded in the most peculiar ways of where they ended up. This picture, taken less than a decade ago is of a battered tractor working hard on Kenyan roads in Africa.
This work weary little Steyr tractor has a strong Irish connection, one which was again reinforced a few short years ago. Steyr is an Austrian brand, and though it may be hard to distinguish in the picture, this little Steyr tractor is painted in the Austrian colours of Red and white.
How did this little tractor built in central Europe find its way out to Kenya? Well, about three-quarters of the Austrian population profess to be of Roman Catholic faith. In turn, there is a strong clerical presence within the country. More than a couple of decades ago (possibly more than three), a monk, local to the Steyr factory at St.Valentin ‘secured possession’ of this particular tractor for missionary work abroad.
So off it was sent to Kabarnet, located in the East-African country of Kenya. In Kenya, under the control of Irish missionary priest and engineer Father Gerry Foley, it has worked hard all its life as again the picture clearly shows.
This was not without its challenges though, certainly for Father Foley but also for the little Steyr. In 2008 it suffered a loss of engine oil pressure which resulted in not inconsiderable and very expensive engine damage. Steyr parts are very expensive for older Steyr tractors.
Through Father Foley’s Irish connections, he managed to locate a Steyr dealer in Ireland and price the parts needed to carry out the repair back in Africa. That tractor dealer was Springmount Tractors Ltd., Ballycanew, Gorey, Co. Wexford. Springmount Tractors was the Steyr tractor importer in Ireland.
The new parts for the Steyr were working out to be very expensive. So an alternative to the new engine parts was suggested to Father Foley, where-upon intensive negotiations were entered into between him and Alfie Spencer at Springmount Tractors. Despite Father Foley being in his eightieth year at the time, these negotiations were extensive!!
Father Foley returned to Ireland to inspect the engine and finalise ‘the deal’. With the second-hand engine started and run for Father Foley to see at Springmount Tractors, it was then boxed up for its long journey out to Kenya where you can see from the picture it returned to hard at work!
(Father Gerry Foley is currently retired back home in Ireland but the tractor is probably still working….)
by Bruce Lett (

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