Late honour for Majestic hero

A PLAQUE is to be unveiled to commemorate a local unsung hero who helped to saved millions of lives.

The Markinch Heritage Society will unveil the plaque on 27 May to commemorate Archibald Findlay 1841-1921, a former resident of the village.

He was the landlord of the Portland Bar on Commercial Street, which is now a chinese restaurant.

Archibald Findlay was a potato breeder extraordinaire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

It was the Markinch man who produced the first blight-resistant potato, making the food safe from disease, and his varieties fed the troops and nation through two world wars, helping Britain become self-sufficient in basic food requirements during those times.

Gavin Brown, 68, from Markinch, is a member of the Markinch Heritage Society, the organisation behind this tribute. He is happy that one of the village's most famous sons will finally be recognised.

He said: ''His potatoes saved this country from starvation during the war, as Britain had to rely on home grown food due to the German U-boats constant patrols of the waters surrounding our island. Food couldn't get in, so we turned to Archibald Findlay's Majestic Potato. He is a hero and this plaque will be long overdue.''

As Europe became industrialised in the nineteenth century, the potato became vital as a source of cheap, nutritious food.

The devastation caused by the Irish potato famine at that time inspired Archibald to develop a potato variety resistant to blight.

When the publican left the Portland Bar behind him to become a potato breeder, he moved on to Mairsland Farm in Auchtermuchty. From then on he bred dozens of varieties at both Mairsland farm and his second farm in Lincolnshire.

Potato expert and buyer for WCF Phoenix in Perth, John Marshall, 59, hailed Archibald as one of the most important men in potato histroy.

He said: "In 1904 Archibald sold one of his Eldorado potatoes for 30, which in today's terms is about 15,000 - for one potato! However his finest moment is the Majestic potato, which got this country through two world wars and was the market leader for 50, 60 years.

"I'm glad he's got the plaque -I've been pushing for this for years, yet I would still like to see a statue of him erected.''

kevin.quinn@fifetoday.co.uk