North coast-man John Clarke may not be well-known to the general public, but his impact on the world of potatoes is such that his work is to be celebrated in Ulster Bank’s new bank note designs. Born in Ballintoy in 1889, Clarke went on to become a world-recognised expert in the science of potato breeding, producing dozens of varieties, some of which are still widely grown. Indeed, the Maris Piper, the most popular of potatoes, owes much to Clarke, as it was a grandson of one of his varieties.
Potato expert, Paul Watt, explains: “The Ulster Glade [variety] 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 20-30 percent of potato varieties in western Europe will have genes from John Clarke’s potatoes in their background.”