Ingin Johnnie.

The morning was overcast and misty but warm enough out, I took off on my trusty stead for Cupar, then up the hill, I climbed before dropping down into Pitscottie then the B939. I was tooting along fine when the font tyre went instantly flat, I pulled the bike off the road and found it was not a puncture but a dodgy high-pressure valve, not having a cap it was always an accident waiting to happen. I had a spare tube I could have fitted but pumped the tyre up and it held most of the way home, another stop to inflate the tyre and this time a successfully completed journey. A fellow of the wheel did stop and ask if he could help – thanks but only a flat tyre and only two miles from home. Front-wheel, so an easy change, and it gave me the opportunity to check the bike over and do a bit of adjusting, cables do stretch.

Breakfast over I spent a couple of hours in the garden, turning over the borders and planting bulbs and corms. Gladioli (the only one I know), Brodiaea, Acidanthera, Liatris Spieata, Freesia (oh I know that one too), Allium Moly, Anemone Blanda. I’m sure they will all be lovely and bring joy and colour to the garden, all 300 of them.

Passing through the complex I picked up a copy of St Andrews in focus, from the hall table. What attracted me to it was the cover an illustration of ingin’ (onion) Johnnie.

I remember well in the 1950s and on into the1960s how the boat from Roscoff in Brittany, France would dock at Methil dock, the hold laden with golden onions, grown only in this part of France and the soil they grow in fertilised by seaweed from the shore, they were hard and firm and a cut above anything grown in our own garden, like Ayrshire potatoes, they had no equal.

Ingin Johnnie would live onboard the boat and tie the onions into garlands that hung and were sold from their bicycles. At that time trains had guard vans you could put a bike on so they were able to travel all over Fife, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire selling their special wares.

The bicycles themselves were built by the French equivalent of the Panzer Tank Company. An extra bar ran across the front of the bike under the handlebars, and this was draped with garlands of onions,

along with an extra crossbar and rear carrier. Not only was the bicycle festooned with strings of onions, but Ingin Johnnie himself, would have strings of onions hanging around his neck as he pushed his bike, from door to door selling his goods, although little selling was necessary, they sold themselves. The opening of supermarkets and motorways put pay to ingin’ Johnnie, on our streets.

When I cycled in Brittany in the late 1950s I saw the fields from where these onions were grown and I believe still are to this day, but I suspect in a much more commercial way. 

Days of my childhood, where are they now.

Keep well.      

2 thoughts on “Ingin Johnnie.

  1. Hi Walter The Jonny winiwns used to come around to our house as well well into the 70s. I don’t remember the bike, just people walking, presumably from a van. They started coming again a few times a year in recent years and set up in the square in Dolgellau. They sold onions and garlic this time. If they were there for a day my workmates used to buy me a string of each and keep them for the next time I worked down in that area. Sean does not remember them coming around his house but Essex was more modern in the 70s than rural Wales, so he tells me. Surely not! Take care Brenda

    On Tue, 2 Mar 2021, 12:51 pm The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond, wrote:

    > threewheelsonmywaggon posted: ” The morning was overcast and misty but > warm enough out, I took off on my trusty stead for Cupar, then up the hill, > I climbed before dropping down into Pitscottie then the B939. I was tooting > along fine when the font tyre went instantly flat, I pulled the” >

    Like

    1. Strange, You should mention that Brenda, Wales was a favourite place for Onion Johnny, for they understood the language easier (certainly easier than Fife or Dundonian) No I met up with a Welsh man in France, he was married with two kids, they had moved to Brittany and he had set himself up as an electrical contractor, they could not do enough for me, all I asked for was directions, and ended up with a free bed and meals over the weekend. I think they just wanted to hear and talk in English for a while, (or maybe they just liked all my stories) The French like to speak there own language, and dislike anyone who expects them to speak English without at least trying to speak some French, Which is only right.

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