Everyone who knows me will confirm that I am interested in the history and operation of railways.
Especially of railways in the United Kingdom and particularly in railways in Scotland. At one time, every town boasted a railway station and the vast majority of villages also had their own station, usually close by, although there were a few railheads that were a fair distance from the village whose name they bore. The reason was simple; the better part of a century ago, everyone and everything which had to travel more than a few miles went by train, prince and pauper, needle and anchor. The mail came by train, as did the newspapers, the coal, the medicines, the builders’ sundries, the cigarettes … everything other than purely local produce. And, of course, local produce which was in demand elsewhere left the area by train, for nearby towns, for further away cities and, often, for seaports to be exported to foreign lands. And one such seasonal traffic was seed potatoes, for Scottish seed potatoes were … and, indeed, still are … renowned worldwide for their quality.
Which brings us to Sherie Plumb, for Sherie Plumb is the reigning World Potato Champion; and Sherie Plumb grows the majority of her world-beating ‘taters from Scottish seed potatoes, mostly supplied by Jamieson Brothers of Annan (JBA Seed Potatoes) and by Peter Guthrie of Castlemill. Sherie and her husband Fred are both Essex people who started growing vegetables thirty years ago and have been members of Essex District Association since its inception. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Hyde Hall … where visitors learn how to choose the right plants for the right places and to work with the prevailing conditions to create a garden of beauty … is less than ten miles from their home; and Sherie became involved in “Grow Your Own” weekends, putting on superb displays locally before she became interested in competing further from home to the point nowadays where competitive vegetable growing competes with caring for her family to dominate her life.
This year’s World Potato Championship … yes, that’s right, World Potato Championship … takes place in Camperdown Park, Dundee, on the 6th, 7th and 8th of September during the Dundee Flower and Food Festival. Sponsored by JBA Seed Potatoes, the World Potato Championship requires exhibitors to show thirty-six potatoes, six plates of six tubers each, six named varieties. And, as well as the pride in being crowned World Champion and the pleasure in taking home the Trophy, the winner will be rewarded with a cash award of £250, with the runner-up winning £150 and £50 going to the third-placed exhibitor. Fourth, fifth and sixth placed will win £30, £20 and £10 respectively.
Nor is that all, for JBA Seed Potatoes is also sponsoring the Scottish Potato Championship Trophy, for which competitors must exhibit sixteen potatoes, four plates of four varieties, four tubers each, named, with the winner taking home a cash prize of £30, while second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth will win £20, £10, £7.50, £5 and £2.50 respectively. But before you think of popping down to the local supermarket to buy an appropriate number of the best examples of the requisite number of varieties, that is strictly against the rules and extremely unlikely to be successful in any event. JBA’s website discloses that the varieties which are among the most popular prize winners include Amour, Blue Belle, Bonnie, Bute, Casablanca, Harmony, Heather, Kestrel, Lady Christl, Maxine, Pentland Javelin and Picasso … and I haven’t seen many of these in my local Tesco! And, of course, seed potatoes for September harvesting should have been planted many weeks ago; so it looks as if neither you nor I will be competing with Sherie Plumb this year.
Sandy Simpson, Polmont Horticultural Society