The rivalry between local leek growers was so intense that some went so far as to vandalise their rivals' entries. This was usually done a day or two before the leeks were due to be dug up for showing. The unsuspecting leek grower might arrive at his allotment one day to find a trespasser had been there before him and slashed his leeks, or poured acid on them. To protect their leeks in those final crucial days, some growers even camped out at their allotment, as Josh does in the story. His leeks, however, are slashed at the show venue itself. The story is based on a real-life incident which is recounted below in an article from a local newspaper of the time.
From the Ashington and District Advertiser Friday 30 September 1960
(reproduced by permission)
Prize leek slashed in local show
Two ‘incidents’ marred Ashington’s otherwise very smoothly run week-end leek shows when ten were held in Ashington and others at Newbiggin and Lynemouth. Mr. Dick Freeman, of 5, Castle Terrace, Ashington, found that one of his winning leeks at the Linton and Woodhorn show had been slashed while on exhibition. The leek, adjudged the best in the show, was slit in several places with a sharp instrument, the cuts being several inches long. It is thought that a razor blade was used. Several other leeks in the show also received small cuts.
Mr. Freeman, with his brother Harry, have been doing well in recent shows, this week-end they were first and second at the Linton and Woodhorn, and gained a first at the Northern Club next door. As his brother Harry carried away the leeks on Monday morning he said: “It has just been spite on someone’s part. The judge said the leek could not have burst, and was good for at least another month. Whoever did it caused minor damage to others to make it look good, but it was my brother’s leeks they made sure of.”
At Lynemouth, 83 years old Bill Woolage, of 22 Boland Road, entered 18 leeks on Friday evening in the Inn Show, and on Saturday morning nine of them were missing from his garden. He still managed to win third place and a handsome wall stand went with it.
A father and son team won first and second at Hirst East End Club, and incidentally a number of prizes this year showed distinct imagination. There were bathroom weighing machines, hair dryers, carpet cleaning appliances to shampoo your rugs, sets of travelling suitcases, and a coffee table complete with cocktail sets. One show gave a pair of sheets, pillowcases and a wheelbarrow for a prize in the eighties.
Over £3,000 worth of goods were on display at Ashington for the biggest week-end of the leek show season. At the White House Club three colliery managers were among the first twelve prizewinners.
They were Mr. T. L. Smith, manager of Woodhorn Colliery (5th), Mr. J. Dobson, manager of the Duke Pit, and Mr. W. Riches, Ashington Collieries Group manager.