ODAAT: 
one day at a time…
Monday, 29 September 2003

Pix Of The Day: Onion Johnnies & Roscoff Pinks
CREDITS: © Peter Turner/MaccCAM.co.uk MAP: Portsmouth-Roscoff.
When clicked, thumbnails popup enlarged versions of the images.

Old Roscoff © Peter TurnerPeter Turner's Macclesfield based MaccCAM.co.uk crew recently went on vacation to Brittany, in the northwest of France. Travelling on the quieter and more dignified Plymouth to Roscoff route, rather than following the crowds on the ferry routes leaving Dover on the shortest cross channel routes, they arrived in the early morning.

Visit the CAM for a two part gallery starting on the English coast, and continuing on French soil for some pictures of the quiet port town of Roscoff in the low morning light. A shot of a plaque commemorating the 'Onion Johnnies' brought memories flooding back. Back in the 50s, at the end of the last millennium, the Autumn (or 'back end' as it was often called) brought exotic looking men in berets, pushing bicycles heavily laden with delicious pink onions from the fields around Roscoff.

The trade began in 1828 when Henri Ollivier, a 20 year old Roscovite, filled a boat with onions and headed for Great Britain. In a few days he had sold all his crop of pink Breton onions. Other were encouraged to emulate his success, and a regular trade was built. For more than a century, thousands of young Roscovites crossed the Channel to stay in Great Britain. They would leave in September and return the following Spring. It was not an easy life. It began by crossing the channel, often in inclement weather conditions, in schooners. Accommodation on the boats, and on land in Great Britain, was often rudimentary. Payment was usually made at the end of the trip, and unsold stock was deducted from the payment. Disaster was always a possibility, and in 1905 the 'Hilda' foundered at Roscoff, and 70 Johnnies perished.

The story of the Johnnies is told in an article on Brittany-Bretagne.com, which includes a regrettably small picture of horse drawn onion carts on the dockside. Philip Delves Broughton, a correspondent for Telegraph.co.uk, has an article on the Johnnies, and another Telegraph correspondent Yvonne Thomas adds her own spin to the story. William Chisholm at TheScotsman.co.uk follows one of the Johnnies, and mentions a book recording the history of the Johnnies by Ian MacDougall, a secretary and researcher for the Scottish Working People's History Trust. In late 2002 the British TV company Meridian aired a program in the 'Last of…' series entitled The French Onion Sellers, which one may hope they will repeat.



On This Day In 2002: Vlad the Impaler - Sun, 29 Sep 2002

Whitby Harbour © Tony RichardsWeblog favorite Tony Richards has been on vacation all last week in Whitby, said to be the place that inspired Bram Stoker's 'Count Dracula'. Tony's picture of Whitby Harbour just makes us wonder what Stoker had been taking to conjure up such warped nonsense. The historical 15th century figure who was the inspiration behind the Gothic novels main character must have been a far more frightening prospect for those around him at the time.

Author Benjamin H. Leblanc has a concise biography of the life of Vlad Tepes Dracula. He was also known as 'Vlad the Impaler' for reasons that will become apparent if you read his story. Maybe not a good way to make friends, but certainly an effective way to influence people. His rule was so firm that it is said that he placed a golden drinking goblet in the central square of Tirgoviste so that travellers might refresh themselves. It was never stolen. His answer to poverty in his kingdom will probably appeal to you if you have extreme right wing views.

Tony is now back in Lakeland, well away from such dark fantasies. Although come to think of it, Croglin village in the nearby Eden Valley did once have an outbreak of vampirism, and heaven alone knows what stories Col. Lacey and Long Meg and Her Daughters might have to tell.

  
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)