Down Memory Lane

Houses in Woodburn for the workers at Newbattle Tomato Farm
Houses in Woodburn for the workers at Newbattle Tomato Farm

My father, George Connelly, was the manager of the SCWS Newbattle Tomato Farm in Woodburn from 1953 until its closure in 1968.

He and his family – wife Anne, son Owen and myself – came across from West Kilbride, Ayrshire where he had been the assistant manager of Springside Nursery.

My father was a very good tomato farmer and employed a group of local people to help him run the farm. I was four years old when we moved to Dalkeith and started school at St David’s Primary.

During the years when I enjoyed growing up on the tomato farm, it is the girls who worked in the tomato houses and in the shed that I remember the most clearly.

I was allowed occasionally to go into the Leith Fruit Market in the lorry with Bob driving. The journey was to take all the punnets of the best tomatoes into the fruit market for sale. These were the best of the crop, sorted by the girls – lovely, freshly picked, homegrown Scottish tomatoes!

I liked being in the shed when the tomatoes were being sorted during the summer months, the noise of the grading machine and the smell of fresh tomatoes and green stems. I loved that and the great company. The staff worked hard but were always so cheerful and fun. Sometimes Lydia had her rollers in, preparing for a night out!

Read more of Patricia Barclay’s feature in this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.