Bringing in the potato harvest

Dunseverick PS pupils at the potato digging
Dunseverick PS pupils at the potato digging

The National Trust welcomed pupils from Ballytober Primary School, Dunseverick Primary School and Straidbilly Primary School recently for the annual potato harvesting project.

The local school children supported the conservation charity as part of the community involvement initiative which aims to teach young people the importance of protecting the local environment.

Dunseverick PS pupils digging potatoes at the Giants Causeway

Dunseverick PS pupils digging potatoes at the Giants Causeway

The potatoes were dug at Innisfree Farm under the supervision of the National Trust rangers Dr Cliff Henry and Christie Greer.

The project also commemorates the work of John Clarke who was considered a local hero and exceptional potato “wizard”.

Dr Cliff Henry, Area Ranger who coordinates this event commented: “We are delighted to be working with pupils from the local community again and together we have harvested a good crop of Maris Piper potatoes, which the children can now take home for their tea tonight.

“John Clarke, who lived on the site for a period was an award-winning potato breeder and the man we have to thank for this very popular potato variety, approximately 80 percent of the potatoes in the UK come from the Maris Piper.”

Dr Cliff Henry with Maddie Creith

Dr Cliff Henry with Maddie Creith

John Clarke was born in Ballintoy in 1889 and was considered a local hero and exceptional potato “wizard”.

He left school when he was only 12 years old and was completely self-taught on potato breeding having read books from his local library in Ballycastle.

He then went on to dedicate his life to experimenting with breeding the popular vegetable, winning an OBE for his dedication and contribution in 1969.

By the time John passed away on May 28, 1980, he had overseen the development of 33 different types of potato, 30 of which carried the name prefix of “Ulster”, and was considered a very highly regarded scientist amongst his peers.

Christie Greer with pupils from Straidbilly

Christie Greer with pupils from Straidbilly