Throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the 20th century, young men from Britanny came across the channel from Roscoff to Plymouth and other ports, and fanned out across the country selling onions.
Often wearing traditional berets and striped tops, they carried their rose-pink onions on bicycles, and sold them door-to-door. They were known as ‘Onion Johnnies’.
Read a fascinating article on the Exeter memories website from somebody who remembers them in the 1960s.
This article from Brittany tells us more about the Johnnies. Scroll down for the English language version. It says that 1929 was the peak year, with 1,400 Johnnies importing over 9,000 tonnes.
There is a museum in Roscoff dedicated to the Onion Johnnies.