02 December 2021
Posthumous award for Perth potato stalwart
A PERTH potato operator has been honoured posthumously by the UK industry, after receiving the British Potato Award 2021 for lifetime achievement.
Gordon Smillie has been described as one of the most prominent and influential operators in the Scottish potato industry in recent decades. He died in February, aged 69.
Having attended Edinburgh University, where he gained a BSc in agriculture in 1973, Gordon joined the family business which had been established by his mother and father, Enid and James, in 1959 to produce and marketing seed and ware potatoes. By the mid-1970s, growers J and E Smillie were growing around 700 acres of seed potatoes in Perthshire, Angus and Kincardineshire, with stores and grading lines at Ruthvenfield, Perth, and at Letham Grange, Arbroath.
He was also responsible for the management, grading and marketing of around 400 acres of seed potatoes produced by the farmers’ group, Montrose Potatoes, at Fettercairn.
Caithness Potatoes (CPL), which subsequently became Caledonia Potatoes, was jointly established in 1984 by Gordon, the Doig family, Ron MacArthur, Haggarts and Marcel Guindi, marketing varieties bred by Dr Jack Dunnett.
He worked in Eastern Europe and travelled to other international markets in his work with CPL. He and his wife, Fiona, also inspected potato fields while travelling around New Zealand.
Gordon has four children - Rosalind, Lesley, Ian and Sandie as well as grandchildren. Fiona and Sandie attended the National Potato Awards 2021 recently, which were held in Harrogate, where they received the posthumous award on his behalf.
Organisers of the British Potato Award teamed up with Warners Group Publications, organiser of the NPIA2021 so the lifetime achievement award could be presented at the same time the industry had gathered together for the bi-annual NPI awards.
Fiona shared some amusing anecdotes with those present and paid tribute to her late husband and his beloved 'tatties'.
The British Potato Industry Award is for outstanding contribution to the potato sector, in effect a lifetime’s achievement. It was inaugurated in 1997 and has been awarded annually. It was originally administered by the British Potato Council and subsequently by the Potato sector of AHDB.
Professor Ian Toth of Scotland’s Plant Heath Centre was awarded the British Potato Industry Award 2020 in recognition of his "invaluable contribution" to the potato industry over the past 25 years, and the previous year's award was made to Dr David Firman, formerly of NIAB-CUF.