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Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Tue 16 Apr 2024

Duck Migration for Harry

Taking a look back at one of my recent articles featured in Earthmovers Magazine, unedited and with alternative photos and video.

I first encountered young Harry McKay back in 2019 when he was being mentored by Cornish digger driving legend my good friend Graham Centini, who was giving Harry a tutorial on the finer points of using a tiltrotator.

Duck Migration for Harry

We revisited a site to see rising star Harry again in 2021 as he continued his early career working for Wagner Plant operating a Hitachi Zaxis 130LCN-6 from spin off business JAW Plant Hire, on a holiday park job in Praa Sands in Cornwall. Since then, the ambitious 22-year-old has moved on to pastures new and is enjoying the challenge.

Harry takes up the story, “I left Wagner Plant last September and took an operating position with Champion Groundworks for a short while, however, I quickly realised it wasn’t for me on the house bashing game.

As usual, I always speak to Graham and seek his advice and experience which is something I really respect, around that time he mentioned Courtney King and suggested it would be a good idea to take a job with him. I have to say, I was slightly unsure and nervous, as previously, I had never ventured outside my comfort zone, but I always trust Graham’s advice and so I thought, lets give it a go”.

Harry spent a month operating a tracked excavator before he was gifted the drive on a brand new all singing, all dancing Develon DX100W-7 wheeled excavator, which was supplied by local dealers Kellands Plant Sales.

Harry continues “I have to say, Courtney has proven to be an amazing guy to work for, not only as a boss, but in the way he looks into the guys who work for him, helping to nurture them along, improving our skills along the way. It was also nice to be working once more with Elliot Stephens, who I was also working with on Wagner Plant, so I had a familiar face to settle in with.

Elliot has been a massive help in guiding me around the finer points of the Engcon with endless tips on how to get to grip with it all. Elliot is running a Develon DX140LCR-7 c/w Engcon on which he had offered me ‘stick time’ on before my machine arrived. Even now he is always on the end of the phone if I have any issues or I need more tips”.

Moving onto the duck full time was another daunting experience at the start, but true to form Harry has taken to it like a duck to water, pun intended!

Harry said, “When the new duck was first mentioned I was somewhat unsure about it all and once again, felt completely outside my comfort zone, but Graham said to me, give it a go and see what you think, you have nothing to lose. When Courtney told me how he had specced it all up, it all felt a bit unreal and hard to believe I was going to be running a mount like this, until the day I saw it in the metal for the first time in the yard, when to be perfectly honest, I was left speechless! As you know, this kind of set up has been a dream of mine since the beginning of my operating career”.

We caught up with Harry and his new mount on an interesting job, taking place within the grounds of Treliske Hospital in Cornwall, where he was working on the construction of a downdraft wall around the air ambulance helicopter pad to protect passing traffic and pedestrians from the impact of the air that is deflected downwards from the aircraft’s rotor blades.

Harry was clearly in his element putting the Engcon equipped Develon to work, talking about the machine Harry said, “The Engcon is such a massive perk to have on any job site, on this project it’s been invaluable, often digging off-set, working on tricky steps in the foundation and working in corners, and even more so as we have been negotiating all the underground services around here. By its very nature the job is tight for space as the road adjacent to our work has to remain open, so I have been having to work at some awkward angles to get the job done, having the Engcon and the 4-wheel steering on the duck has enabled me to accomplish the work perfectly and above all, safely.

Having the triple articulated boom (TAB) is also very useful, and I find myself using it more and more during the course of my work. The cab is well appointed with a comfortable air suspension seat and features all the usual creature comforts we have come to expect. Being a compact radius machine, there is not a massive amount of storage space within the cab, but its sufficient for my needs and overall, it’s a really nice place to spend my days in”.

Powered by an electronically controlled 4-cylinder, Stage V emissions compliant, Develon D34 diesel engine offering a power output rating of 100hp (75kW) this example is fitted with a front mounted dozer blade, and independent rear stabilizers.

The DX100W-7 offers a maximum digging reach at ground level of 7605mm, maximum digging depth of 4245mm, and a maximum dumping height of 6250mm. At 2.45m-wide the machine features a rear tailswing of 1.6m which means only 375mm of overhang when working over the side, combined with the 60o offset boom angle to either side, this makes the machine ideal in close quarters working areas as were seen on this job site.

Harry also has an ever-increasing number of attachments at his disposal including, pallet forks, sweeper brush, and concrete placing bucket, there is also talk of a tipping trailer in the future for that real Scandinavian working approach.

Forward thinking Courtney King is no stranger to the Engcon product and has graced the pages of this magazine previously, back in the days when he was a one-man band owner/operator. Courtney has become something of an ambassador for the Swedish manufactured tiltrotators and other technologies that bring massive benefits to his business.

Talking about the DX100 Courtney said, “We have a lot of job sites close together and many of these sites are awkward with tight access, the versatility of the rubber duck being able to nip between neighbouring sites across roads has been really helpful.

With the weather and time of year where we've been stood down on one site, we've been able to drive over and support other sites that are able to keep going. The job it's currently on is a tight site where the working area and compound are separated by a road constantly in use, we would have struggled with any other machine to do the job.

The site where the machine is working now is tight, right next to roads accessing the hospital and the helipad and there has been a lot of unknown services to contend with. The capabilities of the machine with a skilled driver like Harry was essential and it has been able to do everything on site, right up to the end now tending the stone masons and moving between the other sites when the masons are unable to lay.


The Engcon kit speaks for itself really, but the reputation for back up and service is why we started using the brand in the first place. If there is ever any issue, they have an engineer out the same day wherever possible, but to be honest it is very rare that we have any issues with them. We have had great service and support from Andrew Badham and Tim Leech so no question of who we would go back to”. 

Talking about the acquisition of young blood on the firm Courtney said, “It's been great having Harry join us, he has a great work ethic, takes pride in all of our kit and is a skilled operative.

We have had compliments from the hospital, main contractor and members of the public about the team working on the downdraft wall, from their professionalism, their active efforts to maintain Health and Safety on site, all while continuing to produce work at the best possible level, to taking the time to speak to members of the public when they have been approached to politely explain what they are doing and what the works are for. Harry is an asset to the team and we hope he is with us for the long haul”. 

The company has expanded significantly in recent years and they are winning larger and larger projects. “We are getting great feedback on the works we're doing from the main contractors, not just in terms of quality of work, but in respect of Health and Safety on site.

We have made some big investments over the last 12 months into a range of kit and the Leica systems, we've also recently obtained our Constructionline Gold accreditation.

The company is still very much a team effort with me and my wife and we're both very hands on, I still regularly jump in and out of the machine when we need cover and Holly is in the office, she is the one who has worked to get our Constructionline Gold status along with the day to day running back the office”. 

Summarizing Harry said, “I’m very much looking forward to the future working for Courtney, and its going to be interesting seeing what kind of jobs we get with this duck over the coming years, we have a great team here and as the saying goes, teamwork makes the dreamwork, my ultimate dream is to one day become an owner/operator, but for now I aim to enjoy this opportunity and to further enhance my skills and knowledge of the game”.


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