Archive pour January 2009

Onion Johnnies from Roscoff

Saturday 31 January 2009

An Englishman’s testimony: Colin Dowse wrote this account in his blog in 2005. Our students will write much more about them in articles to come. They will tell you their story.

“A village on the coast of Brittany was in mourning last week at the death of London’s last Onion Johnny.
Roscoff paid its respects to Jean Le Roux, a farmer who had been crossing the Channel to sell his onions door-to-door in London for more than half a century. He died in August 2005 aged 73.

Selling oinions


Mr Le Roux was the last Onion Johnny in London, where he lived up to eight months of the year selling strings of Roscoff’s highly-prized onion rosé and shallots to households and the city’s best restaurants.
Mr Le Roux was part of a tradition that dates back to 1828, when the first onion sellers arrived in Plymouth before spreading east. They were mostly very young and many were called Jean, hence the Johnny nickname.
By 1930, more than 1,500 peddled their wares in Britain, helping to create a national stereotype of the Frenchman with onion or garlic breath that leaves most French baffled. Today, with Mr Le Roux gone, their number has fallen to 15. Mr Le Roux started his trips to London with his father shortly after the Second World War.
Sir Winston Churchill was among his customers.

When I was a kid growing up in London I well remember the Onion Men (not sure if I called them Johnnies) wearing berets, and often a blue and white ribbed jersey with a red neckerchief, selling onions door-to-door from their bicycles loaded up with strings of onions - my mother always bought when they called”

Seaweed collectors on Breton Shore

Saturday 31 January 2009

Just a few pics about the hard work of seaweed collectors. We will come back on the theme later on.