Plots and Potatoes
The Merrylee Allotments were laid out in 1917 on land belonging to Pollok Estates. There were 80 plots of 200 square yards each. All of them were taken up immediately for an annual rent of four shillings and three pence.
Everyone was encouraged to grow plenty of potatoes – about 35 tons of potatoes were produced at Merrylee in 1917 and 1,766 tons across the whole of Glasgow! In January 1918, the Glasgow Corporation recorded that demand for allotments had been ‘intensified by the scarcity of potatoes, caused by the partial failure of the crop of that important vegetable throughout Scotland in 1916.’
A Busy Community
During the Second World War, plotholders continued to pull together. The association cashbook records that in 1943, a show, dance and concert were held which raised £105 for the Scottish Red Cross.
The association instigated an annual show in 1946, and throughout the 1950s held dances every two months in the Couper Institute. Nancy Bomphray, whose father was a plotholder in the 1950s, remembers a competition at the annual show in which children had to identify which trees produced leaves that were displayed on a board.
In 1951, Glasgow Corporation became Merrylee’s landlord. Shortly after this, Our Lady of the Annunciation Primary School was built on part of the site and the affected allotments were relocated to the north over a former football ground. This boundary remains the same today. In 1942 there were109 plots, but following the boundary change there were only 65.
Now Merrylee has a mixture of half-plots and full-plots to suit different plotholders’ wants and needs. There remains a strong community on the site, joined by two local primary schools and the group Carr Gomm. A new area of raised beds has made gardening accessible for plotholders with physical disabilities.
The open day has been going strong since 1992, selling vegetables, jam, home-baking and flowers. For the past 10 years monthly coffee mornings have encouraged plotholders to gather for a chat.
To find out more about Merrylee visit the Glasgow Allotments History website – http://gah.org.uk/Allotments/Merrylee.aspx