Tomato guide returned to library almost 50 years after original due date

'Tomatoes for Everyone' was meant to be handed back to Orkney Library in Kirkwall in January 1974, but only turned up last week.

Orkney Library tomato growing guide returned almost 50 years after original due date Orkney Library

Residents in Orkney can breathe a sigh of relief after the islands’ guide to growing tomatoes was handed back to the local library – almost 50 years late.

Tomatoes for Everyone by Frank W. Allerton was due to return to librarians in Kirkwall on January 21, 1974.

But the 124-page manual – described as an “excellent book on tomato culture” – was only handed back last week, leaving staff stunned.

Orkney Library book returned 50 years late.Orkney Library

The library confirmed they did not charge a late fee and that the book, which remains in “good condition” had been in a box that had moved from house to house before being returned.

It spent more than 18,000 days out of the library’s collection, but librarians said if they charged just 1p per day on overdue feeds, then the fine on the book would have been £181.55.

To read it cover to cover in that time, the green-fingered local would have had to flicked through at a rate of around two-and-a-half pages a year.

Library and archive assistant John Peterson said: “It had been missing so long that we no longer had it on our catalogue but because it’s in such good condition and because there has been so much interest in it we’re considering making it available again.

“We’ll probably tweet once it’s available again.”

First published in 1956, the 1968 edition was borrowed from the library for the first time in August 1969.

Records show it was checked out a further eight times before disappearing for nearly half a century.

When it was last borrowed, Ted Heath was Prime Minister, the White House was months away from the Watergate scandal and Willie Ormond’s Scotland were preparing for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.

Author Allerton wrote extensively on horticulture, particularly around the growing of tomatoes, during a 20-year literary career spanning from 1951 to 1972.

He also published two editions of the book “Chrysanthemums for all”.

Tomatoes for Everyone currently retails for over £25 on Amazon, while a paperback version will set readers back £85.99.

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