Sweet smell of success at Sprouston

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MORE than a thousand people converged on Sprouston on Saturday to view the hundreds of entries in the village’s sweetpea festival competition, writes Mark Entwistle.

The event was part of three days of activities to mark the centenary of local minister Denholm Fraser’s famous win in the Dail Mail’s inaugural sweetpea competition of 1911. The original event had attracted a staggering 38,000 entries of bunches of sweetpeas for the competition which was staged in London’s Crystal Palace.

While not garnering quite that many entries, Sprouston’s sweetpea festival proved a resounding success, according to organisers.

One of those, Peter Neilson, said the weekend was a wonderful event.

Mr Neilson explained: “The concert on Friday night was great. We then had over a 1,000 people round on Saturday, with queues to get into the church where folk were stunned by the floral decorations.

“They were also amazed by the manse garden, while the memorabilia on Sprouston in the church and in the hall provided by the grandchildren of the Reverend Fraser caused much interest.”

He added: “We had fantastic entries for the competition – far more than the National Sweet Pea Society get – in the marquee with Tom Atherton, from Chorley in Lancashire, winning the Sprouston Vase as overall champion. Oxnam church school won the children’s championship, while the BBC’s ‘Beechgrove Garden’ programme was filming all Saturday, and that goes out next Monday.”

To underline the success of the festival, local MSP John Lamont lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament to highlight the festival and congratulate those involved in organising it.

Speaking after attending the festival, Mr Lamont said organisers had gone to great lengths to set up a memorable weekend of activities and events for local residents and visitors alike. “It is hard today to imagine the sheer scale of the competition in 1911 and just how much interest it generated throughout the whole of the UK.” said Mr Lamont, adding: “The competition provided a major logistical challenge to Royal Mail in terms of transporting the 38,000 entries to the Crystal Palace in London. This was no doubt partly due to the competition’s first prize of a staggering £,1000 – or nearly £90,000 in today’s money.”

The MSP went on: “Although there were not quite the 38,000 entries that the 1911 competition in London attracted, it was good to see some healthy competition between entrants in the competition.

“Congratulations to the winners of the various competitions and also to the organisers who put in so much work to ensure the weekend’s celebrations were so successful.”