From the North

From Bee Craft: July 2009

Colin Weightman, MBE

We catch, up with news of bees and beekeepers in the north oj England


Members of the South of Scotland Beekeepers’ Association on a visit to the author’s apiary in the Tyne valley

Older beekeepers may recall that, when writing for the British Bee Journal (BBJ) 50 years ago, I was in touch with I Khalifman, who sent me copies of his books on Russian beekeeping. In 1958 I was invited to contribute an illustrated article on heather honey production in Northumberland for their publication, Pchelovodstvo. Some months later, I was surprised to receive a handsome cheque from the Russian Embassy in London!

Other visitors in 2008 with beekeeping interests have come from China and Germany.


The popular North Yorkshire beekeeper, Peter Schollick, from Richmond, gave a fascinating account of his success as an exhibitor of honey at national events. He gave practical advice too on how to over-winter colonies in the North of England without unnecessary losses. He said you do not open up the brood nests of colonies to expose combs containing unsealed larvae before May.

Peter spoke to Hexham Beekeepers’ Association (BKA) in the spring. In June, members of the South of Scotland BKA visited my apiary in the Tyne valley. It was a joy for me to renew acquaintances with former Scottish Beekeepers’ Association (SBA) President, Bob Brown, and former Editor of the Scottish Beekeeper, Archie Ferguson. As octogenarians, both are keen fishermen in their retirement. Beekeepers from Alnwick, Durham, Hexham and Newcastle were present at this event.


Colin Weightman (left) in conversation with Revd Brian Hopkinson, Honorary Secretary of the Alnwick BKA

Trevor Green, from the Houghall Farm School, Durham, and the Tynemouth schoolmaster, David Pearce, carried on the sixty-year-old tradition here of handling the bees with bare hands, under the watchful eyes of northern notables Willie Robson (of Chainbridge) and the three Georges: George Batey, George White and George Eames.

British Beekeepers’ Association and Yorkshire BKA leader, Michael Badger, made a welcome return visit to the Hexham BKA to give the Rachel Lowther Memorial Lecture.


Weatherwise, July was a mixed packet. There were occasional fine days and then torrential rain which continued throughout August and September, making it one of the most disappointing heather times for years. At some stances on the moors, bees ignored the supers altogether. However, in general, bee colonies appeared to have stored well in the brood chambers.

Older beekeepers knowingly remind us that years with an eight have usually been poor seasons while years with a nine have been good ones. That is certainly something to look forward to.


Jim Wadey demonstrates at Merrist Wood in July 1958

We are reminded, too, that Bee Craft has been around for 90 years. My own first memories of this enduring publication go back to attending the National Honey Show in Wimbledon in 1947. This was staged in tents. For those who still had bees following the ferocious 1946/47 winter, it turned out to be a golden summer and one of the best heather times for years.

At Wimbledon, I met Bee Craft’s editor, Jim Wadey, for the first time, along with Annie Betts, Editor of Bee World, and Leonard lllingworth of the Apis Club. I also met Drs Barnes and Gooding who were to become good friends in the years to come. Under Jim Wadey’s stewardship, Bee Craft’s circulation exceeded 15,000 copies.

Ten years later, Jim and myself were invited to give talks at the Merrist Wood Farm School in Surrey. I recall flying to Heathrow from Newcastle in a small aircraft where the propellers were swung! At that time, the airport buildings were wooden sheds and the return fare was £10!

At Merrist Wood, I met follow BBJ contributors, Bob Hammond and Mrs Clark, Peter Shepherd, a BBJ contributor from Wales, and Tom and Pat Bradford. In 1958, the Farm Manager at Merrist Wood told me that in his early years he had been a student on our family farm in the north of England.


Bob Brown (left), Past President of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, and Archie Ferguson, former editor of the Scottish Beekeeper

Apart from the social aspects, 1958 was a disappointing season for beekeepers. Little did we know that one of the all time great seasons, 1959, awaited us. I hope history repeats itself.


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