A friend, Peter Bazeley, had a conversation with his friend, Hamish McGregor, who told him about a bronze medal he had in his possession, awarded by the Caledonian Society (of Scotland) to the raiser of the Dirleton Apple. Dirleton is in East Lothian. Peter put Hamish in touch with us, in 2020, to see what we might know, because we already had connections with Dirleton, through the Dirleton Red apple, and he thought it might be of interest to us. Of course, it was.

Hamish, living in Kent, said that he had found among his family possessions this medal, presented to Mr James Henderson, Schoolmaster, for raising the Dirleton Apple, awarded the 2nd March 1843. Hamish added that his grandmother was married to a Captain Tom Henderson in the RAF, who died in the 1930s. Hamish assumed that he must have been the son or grandson of James, the medal winner. Peter Bazeley sent us a photo of the medal. Hamish also contacted the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society for any information, but they had none to offer.

Over many years, we have been in touch with Bill Anderson, who lives opposite the Walled Garden at Dirleton and who has had a keen interest in fruit trees and particularly in the large orchard within the Walled Garden. Bill has occasionally sent us cuttings from trees in the area to graft here, notably Dirleton Red. In September 2020, he made his own enquiry about the Dirleton Apple and received an email back from Leonie Paterson of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who said they had been able to check the minute books of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and had found – “Specimens of a seedling apple called ‘Henderson’s Keeper’ were sent by Mr Henderson, schoolmaster, Dirleton, in whose garden the seedling was raised. The fruit was of fine appearance, and regarded as well adapted for culinary uses and the tree was reported as being ‘very productive’. The Committee voted the bronze medal to Mr Henderson…” (The Gold and Silver medals went to plants, not fruit trees. – our note) The date of the Minutes were the same as the medal date – the 2nd March 1843– so the apple is the same but obviously had an earlier name, swiftly changed to Dirleton Apple in time for the medal. The reason for the change is unknown.






Bill had observed with dismay the neglect within the walled garden where several apple and pear trees still existed, but it was so overgrown that passage through a WW2 Malayan jungle would have been easier. The owners, then and now, did not value this orchard, but Bill investigated and was able to obtain a map and key of plantings in the orchard from the nephew of the then current owner, dated 1856.

Bill explained that the 18th century Walled Garden and House are to the east of the Church, with a common boundary wall and that at the entrance to the Church is the Church Hall, which was formerly the Village School with the adjoining house, Auburn House, which was the School House, where schoolmaster James Henderson lived and where he had a convenient orchard for planting his various fruits.




Our exchanges with Bill had continued over the years and in 2018 we returned to this old walled garden at Dirleton. In July of that year he wrote “Several years ago I got a replacement apple tree for an 88 year old "gardener. He has now gone off to the great garden in the sky leaving a totally overgrown walled garden with trees of all shapes, sizes and varieties.” He asked for our help in saving and identifying what was there. Over July and August 2018 events moved on. It seemed that the Walled Garden was abandoned by the owner, little by little, over the previous few years. The nephew of the widow owner was trying to get the place cleared up a bit, with a view to a sale. The north end was untouched but several trees had been lost. Bill said in August, “I have just come from there and the place is a scene of devastation so not sure if it is still possible that there is anything of interest left, BUT from the contents of the house the nephew managed to salvage a very interesting garden layout with individual trees numbered. The legend is also attached, recording varieties and dates when planted. The hand writing is old school copperplate script with some dates as early as 1856. The paper is yellowed and brittle with some parts missing and I suggested getting it professionally conserved as part of the house/local area history. Any existing trees can, in theory be identified from the legend.” The owner’s nephew, Mr Sandy Profit, lived in Wales but while in Dirleton he loaned Bill the map and he sent us copies. “To keep the original safe and intact I made a copy and stuck it to a bit of ply”.




On seeing the map and legend we were immediately drawn to trees 75 and 92, both of which were Dirleton Apple, and tree 78 which was Luffness Pippin. Both of these trees had been feared extinct. Luffness is next door to Dirleton. Along with Luffness Matchless, Luffness Pippin might still exist locally but there has not been any knowledge of either after the 19th century. Perhaps James Henderson bred these too. He certainly knew and owned Luffness Pippin. Bill then had to track down which remaining tree in the Walled garden was which of the numbers. With gaps and the wild terrain it was not easy.

Bill had already sent us apples and cuttings from 8 trees there and from 3 more at other places in Dirleton. We had them DNA profiled and all came back with matches to currently known varieties. The results suggested that they were possibly planted later than the 1856 date of the map and legend.

In September 2020, the owner’s nephew, Sandy Profit, sent Bill an email. “I remembered that I attempted to photo the plan, in parts. I’ve attached the relevant photo for 75 and 92. The big But is that that bit of the garden was empty of trees being cultivated or grassed by John.” We confirmed that the sites for both Dirleton Apples and the one Luffness Pippin were empty.

Also in September 2020, some significant thoughts came to Bill and were emailed to us. “This was after another copy of the plan was sent by the owner of position 92.”



Bill said “That is the exact location of the old cooker which you grafted a few years ago. Looks like it was in the nick of time!!!!!......After a bit of thought and a talk with my brother, we are of the same idea that area with 74 and 75 was where the owners favourite apple tree was located……This was a large yellow cooker which ties in with the handwritten notes from the Caledonian Society i.e. a culinary apple……. This was the tree at his back door and it was on its last legs with only one branch just hanging on to life. The branch being propped up with a scaffold batten and the rotten trunk filled with concrete…… NOW--- Cast your mind back Derek---I sent some twigs to you and you supplied a new tree ---I remember saying the guy was an optimist wanting a new tree planted when he was 88 years old. (this was the gardener at the Walled Garden referred to earlier – our note) ….The new tree was planted but nobody remembers where-- it could have survived but probably and more likely got trashed in the slash and burn clear up…..I know it's a long shot Derek but did you get any more trees of the same variety from the twigs I sent to you?”






We did – one which we planted out. It is a healthy tree labelled ‘Bill Anderson Yellow’. Bill and his brother were overjoyed! We had not multiplied from it for lack of a name, but three years ago we submitted it to a DNA test, which returned a match with an apple known in Ireland called Greasy Pippin. The Irish Seed Savers have a different apple also called Greasy Pippin, which appears to be the historic and correct Irish apple. The one that has the DNA match with Dirleton Apple (assuming the test was correct) does not match the old descriptions of Greasy Pippin and it rather looks as if Dirleton Apple made its way to Ireland by means and for reasons unknown. Dirleton Apple is not greasy. It is a medium to large sized apple with green skin, turning yellow, with a warm blush, slightly ribbed, a little flattened and ripe in late September with us, but probably October in Dirleton. The apples will store for a month or two. Pollination Group 4


Thanks to the heroic efforts of Bill Anderson and the initial curiosity of Hamish McGregor and Peter Bazeley, plus a little assistance from ourselves, we now have Dirleton Apple back, by the most curious of circumstances. New trees have been grafted!