Today, I went to Plouescat to visit two brothers, François and René Bastard, who were among the very last Onion Johnnies in London in the mid-70s, when they finally stopped their yearly trips across the Channel after over twenty "onion seasons" in the English capital.
While away from home, they worked as a team with their father Paul, who had been coming to England since the early 20s. They lived successively in Lambeth, Kennington and Barnes, but peddled their wares in the "posh" (quote) areas of Chelsea, Hampstead or Kew, where customers were well-informed and sensitive to the quality of Breton onions, which François praised as being "as sweet as apples."
At the start of a day's rounds, bicycles would be hung with as much as 100 kilos of onion bundles.
In his shed, François still keeps a well-worn dartboard, which he brought back from London.
René now lives in his father's home in Plouescat...
... where a beautiful oil portrait of Paul Bastard, offered by an English customer, is hanging in the front room.
René also showed me a page from an English fashion magazine, in which he takes part in a rather surreal staging in the company of a Hitchcockian blonde...