Not everyone will know who John Clarke is, but soon people will be confronted with his potatoes whenever they go shopping. His impact on the world of potatoes is to be celebrated in Ulster Bank’s new bank note designs.
Clarke, who died in 1980, was respected by contemporaries and specialists alike, with experts from Cambridge University visiting him on the north coast to learn from his work. He also won many awards, including the Lord Derby Gold Medal in 1948, the John Snell Medal from the National Institute of Agriculture Botany, Cambridge, in the 1950s, and the Belfast Telegraph Cup for outstanding achievements in agriculture.
His first potato, the Ulster Monarch, was certified by the Ministry for Agriculture in 1936, and over the next 51 years, he had 33 varieties certified, of which the first 30 had the prefix Ulster. It is the ground-breaking Ulster Glade which features in Ulster Bank’s new £10 note, alongside the Irish hare, the Cryptic Wood white butterfly, the Guelder-Rose, and Clydesdale horses.
Potato expert, Paul Watt, explains: “The Ulster Glade was the first commercial potato variety in the world to have a resistance to a particular kind of pest in the soil. Clarke was the potato equivalent of Harry Ferguson due to his impact and what he brought to Northern Ireland in terms of potato varieties. His legacy lives on as 20 to 30 per cent of potato varieties in western Europe will have genes from John Clarke’s potatoes in their background.”
The new bank notes, which will come into circulation in early 2019, showcase some of Northern Ireland’s most prevalent flora, as well as key loughs in a clear window at the top, with Strangford featuring on the £5 note and Lower Lough Erne featuring on the £10 note.
The first mainline vertical bank notes in the UK and Ireland, they were designed through a collaboration between the bank, a team of local creatives, graphic designers O Street, the printer De La Rue, and people from Northern Ireland. The designs were revealed at an event in Belfast before the summer and the bank is getting ready to bring them into circulation in around six months.