Sunday, 25 October 2015

Onion Johnnies

If you think of a Frenchman what image immediately comes to mind? Could it be something like this? 

Brittany onion johnny
via pinterest

This was a familiar site in Britain prior to the 1970's and for many, the only time they came across a Frenchman. These French onion sellers were known as "Onion Johnnies" and would sell their famous pink onions from door to door. Does anyone remember seeing this? I remember my mother in law telling me about them. There is a wonderful 4 minute video told in English and French here


This week a boat sailed into West Bay from Roscoff in France, it was full of Frenchmen and onions!


They were taking part in a 4 day festival to remember this old tradition.The Frenchmen would arrive in this country in July or August and return to France around Christmas. The peak of the trade was in the 1920's when 1,400 Johnnies managed to sell 9,000 tons of onions.



It was lovely to see and also to buy a string of onions, unfortunately we didn't have enough time to see them cycling away together from the harbour - hopefully they will return again next year.


We forgot that the clocks were turning back one hour this weekend, so with the sun shining it was good to get out early for a walk down by the sea. Even the sheep looked at bit startled to see us up so early!




It was beautiful on the beach and a moment to treasure, as the nights start drawing in. I'm not looking forward to driving home from work in the dark tomorrow and for the next few months.

Wishing you a good week, until next time.
Sarah x

39 comments:

  1. Gorgeous photos. Love the onion guys. I didn't grow any this year and just today, bought some pearl onions to pickle. They are good for you.

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  2. I remember the onion sellers on their bikes, and had forgotten all about them. I suppose they stopped coming once importers and exporters began operating on such a large scale, not only in Europe but all around the world.
    They look as if they came with some of their fabulous artichokes too, they really are whoppers.

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  3. Our time does not change until next weekend. I do not look forward to it getting dark an hour earlier! I love the tradition they are keeping up. Your photos are beautiful!

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  4. Ah, this is just brilliant!! What a wonderful sight to see all those men!!! Thank you for sharing. And please remind me again,where is that beach? I MUST visit!x

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    1. This is the beach at Burton Bradstock, the cliffs in the distance in the first picture belong to West Bay. Sarah x

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  5. I can remember seeing Onion Johnnies in the New Forest as a kid in the 60's. What a memory you have brought back :-)

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  6. Dear Sarah,

    I enjoyed hearing about the Onion Johnnies and have not heard about this before. The pink onions look so good and must have been nice getting a string of onions to take home. My Father used to always plait up with string his onions and garlic and a good way to store and keep them in the garage.
    the sheep and the sea photos are lovely.
    Enjoy the new week
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  7. We once saw an 'Onion Johnny' who had got onto the motorway by mistake and was pedalling like mad, onions swinging out.....love your early morning photographs.

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    1. Oh dear that's a sight you are unlikely to forget! Sarah x

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  8. I love that term,"Onion Johnnies".

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  9. I grew up in mid Wales, our onion Johnnies were Breton and came over every year

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  10. This is what I love to see: a bit of a fairytale (at least for us Americans who buy their onions from a cold supermarket!). I admire Europeans - you still live close enough to the land, the roughness of the sea and earth, and the fruit of the soil. What a gorgeous post, Sarah!

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  11. So interesting to read about ´Onion Johnnies´ Nice they were there again to celebrate the old tradition. In The Netherlands I never saw French onion sellers, I think because we also grow lots of those onions here in the clay.
    Favorite photos are the sheep and sea views, I get never bored of looking at these scenes.

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  12. Oh wow, my granddad used to buy onions from them way back when!! I'd forgotten all about them until I read your post, great photos too x

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  13. I've never heard of that before - how quaint! Your early morning walk looks lovely... xo

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  14. This was wonderful to read! Since I have never been to your part of the world it's fascinating to see and read the customs, both past and present. Loving your blog and am going back to read older posts: thank you!

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  15. So interesting really, I have never heard about them.Traditions are under threat and keeping them alive is important I think. Love all your photos, lovely captures.
    Olympia

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  16. I sometimes work next to the St.Katharine docks in London. Once while I was there a French onion ship came into the dock, showcasing the Breton onions like those in your post. It was much bigger than the one in your photo, but still a sailing ship. You could go on board and look round. The cargo was (unsurprisingly) loads of onions! P.S. All this reminds me of the TV series 'Allo!, 'Allo!

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    1. I was surprised to see the French boat arriving here was so modern. There were elements that reminded me too of 'Allo!,'Allo!' Sarah x,

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  17. I saw the adverts for this, but after a 41/2hr journey down on Friday (usually 2hrs!!) we had clearing and packing up to do with the caravan!!! Popped down to West Bay on Saturday evening to say Cheerio, until next March!! Beautiful sunny drive home on Sunday grrrrrr!!! Roll on springtime!! X

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    1. Your journey down must have been awful. it can't have helped with it being half term. You won't want to know that it was beautiful here all day Sunday! Sarah x

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  18. How interesting. I've not heard about this onion tradition before now. I always wondered where the stereotype came from! Gorgeous beach photos. Having an 'extra' hour was a treat.

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  19. I had never heard of onion johnnies. The photo of your sea wave reminds me of the waves that I have recently painting. It is not easy to capture sea waves but I will keep practicing with your wave to inspire me.

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  20. There is a French man with a bicycle & strings of onions & garlic at a local market sometimes. We often buy from him.

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  21. What fun to have seen the French onion men, and to be able to buy a string of the onions!

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  22. Once again, you entertain me with new experiences and lovely photos. Over here, I've never heard that term Onion Johnnies - would love to see this event in person. Thanks for sharing. Our time changes here, this weekend. It is always an adjustment to the earlier darkness.

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  23. So enjoyed learning something new. I also enjoyed the video. If you get two comments from me, sorry. I'm having trouble getting comment to post.

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  24. What a great event to catch on camera Sarah-looks fantastic. Not a fan of the darker nights, but I'm lucky as I work from home now, so no longer have to put up with travelling in the dark and the long queues of traffic.
    West Bay looks stunning in the very early morning.

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  25. Hi Sarah

    What a lovely selection of photo's, and how lovely that this tradition is around!
    I enjoy cooking with onions and there are so many different varieties to choose from.

    I like the sheep ... but those beach scenes are glorious.

    Do hope your week is going well.

    All the best Jan

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  26. Hi Sarah, I am really enjoying your posts lately, learning something new each time and it did make me smile! Wishing you a lovely week. Sharon

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  27. What a great post. I thought they were gone for good. It's particularly spectacular when they come in by boat.
    We still buy onions on strings when we can, but it's not the same as seeing the sellers on their bikes.
    Not so many decades ago I remember them selling outside Cardiff 's Central Library.
    We called them "Johnny Onions", not the other way around...
    All the best :)

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  28. Your "French" photos are wonderful! What time exactly did you go for your early morning walk? ;-)

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    1. Our early morning walk wasn't that early , it was about 9am. Sarah x

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  29. What lovely Pictures! I am glad I found your blog trough Hillside-Garden :-)

    My Fantasy French-People don't carry onions, they carry a Baguette under their arms and sit on an old bike *hihi

    Grüess Pascale
    www.gartenkraut.blogspot.com

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    1. Hello Pascale, Welcome thank you for the comment and introducing me to your lovely blog too! Sarah x

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  30. Over in Jersey we are spoilt with traditional French markets. Just before Christmas they come over with their traditional stalls. Theses often include onions, obviously cheeses and great big bunches of mistletoe . B x

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  31. Love the onion johnnies! You always share such great images, both new and old. So many things from ordinary life are gone, or going. I was just thinking of the rag and bone men the other day .....

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  32. I have been following your Blog for a while now and enjoy your accounts of walks in the Dorset countryside , an area I have only passed through, and all your flower photos.
    I remember the French Onion sellers very well riding their bicycles around the suburbs of Newcastle upon Tyne. For some reason my mother would never buy the onions. I expect she didn't want such a large quantity as a whole string
    Hilary

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    1. Hi Hilary, Thank you for sharing your memories of the French onion sellers, it will be interesting to see how long our string lasts! I'm glad you have been enjoying the blog! Sarah x

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