Allotment tales with Jenny Mollison
WHEN the late Chris Wilkinson and his wife Judy started delving into the history of allotmenteering in Glasgow they knew there were some fascinating stories waiting to be discovered, and some in danger of being lost for ever if they weren’t recorded now.
They knew, too, that an understanding of the past is an essential prerequisite to making sure that future allotments are fit for purpose.
Chris set the ball rolling with all the thoroughness and rigour of his academic background when he instigated the Glasgow Allotments Heritage Project. Groups of Glasgow plotholders researched the history of their sites. They trawled through minute books in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library and scrutinised old maps. They chatted to anyone with memories of particular sites, recording conversations with retired plotholders. They discovered old photographs and took new ones.
Allotments have always been about much more than just growing your own food. This is as true today as it was in years gone by, although the extra-curricular activities have changed. Kennyhill Allotments followed their 1919 AGM with a dance, noting that piano hire cost 15 shillings and its delivery was 2 shillings! Barbecues and open days are today’s more familiar get-togethers. Changing fortunes are reflected in prizes for best kept plots. In the immediate postwar years, the prize was a pair of gentleman’s socks or ladies stockings. In less austere times, the prize ran to a bottle of whisky.
For anyone who believes that long allotment waiting lists could be solved by giving everyone a temporary raised bed on an unused gap site, I urge them to have a look at the results of this project to get a real picture of what an allotment means.
I’m sure there are more long-established sites whose history could vanish. I hope people will be inspired by the project and make sure that their history is written down. Even some of Scotland’s newest sites have tales to tell. There are few sites whose establishment has been plain-sailing and if the highs and lows sometimes seem best forgotten, they are the history of the future.
The project was signed off with a celebratory gathering in the Pearce Institute, Govan. Emily Chappell’s gorgeous leaflets with information about 12 of the participating sites, together with a roving display of some of the project’s material, is going on show around Scotland, including at the Scottish Parliament. More details of the work are contained in a dedicated website (www.gah.org.uk) where additional information can be added, as it is unearthed.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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