Tayside pair dig deep to pay back for happy times

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Tayside couple Jean Black and John Johnson spent many a week sunbathing and golfing in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

Then one day the Perth pair decided it was time they gave something back.

Now Jean and John play a major role in the lives of 33 mentally and physically disabled children who attend a school in the town of Port Alfred.

Retired businesswoman Jean, a leading member of the Soroptimists, and John, a retired prison officer, set up a garden project which provides valuable nourishment for the youngsters.

Jean and John have been going to Port Alfred, which lies between the big cities of East London and Port Elizabeth, for some time.

“We wanted to put something back into the area,” said Jean. “John and I decided we wanted to do a hands on project and, through a nun, Sister Elizabeth McEvoy, the garden project evolved.”

The garden, measuring 36 by 26 metres, grows all sorts of vegetables, including spinach, carrots, beetroot, leeks and onions. The produce goes to feed the 33 children at the school who are aged 7-17.

“All the kids are disabled,” said Jean. “And we are delighted to help out in this way.”

When the duo are back in Scotland, the garden is looked after by people close to it in Port Alfred to ensure a regular supply of produce goes to the children.

“It was way back in 2006 that we started the garden project and it has been a great success,” Jean explained. “It gives John and I a lot of pleasure to know we are enriching the lives of those children.”

Soon a slice of Port Alfred will be coming to Perth.

Chris Terry, a bagpipe maker who teaches the pipes in Grahamstown, near Port Alfred, is bringing a band over to Scotland to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships. And, during their time here, they will compete at Perth Highland Games.

The Scottish theme is very prevalent in Port Alfred. When they are over there, Jean and John attend Burns Night. The last one attracted 175 guests with haggis prepared by Perthshire butcher Simon Howie among the items on the menu.