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"The telling of the bees is a traditional European custom in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper's lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household."

Here we remember our fellow Beekeepers.

Geoffrey Hopkinson BEM NDB  1928 – 2022

Geoff passed peacefully away on Sunday 1st May in Stoke Hospital after a short illness (Non-COVID) just a few weeks short of his 94th birthday.

The way Geoff got into beekeeping was an interesting anecdote. He was asked to help his uncle move some bees and in moving one of the hives on the back of a flatbed truck the hive came apart. The bees escaped and Geoff was badly stung all over his face and body. He went to bed and when he woke up the next morning, he was a folk hero in the village. The boy who had a hundred stings was alive. The rest, he used to say, was history. He was hooked and he was a beekeeper after that.

Geoff did his beekeeping training under the guidance of Ivy Jakes and progressed quickly. He was the youngest person to be awarded the National Diploma in Beekeeping in 1960 at the age of 32.

Being part of the beekeeping elite, the NDB, he was at the forefront of beekeeping education. He has been involved in training and examining the beekeeping greats of our time as he followed in the beekeeping greats of his time. His reach was much further than local beekeeping. He was teaching at a national level and at a very advanced level. He served for over forty years as an examiner for both the British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) and the National Diploma Board (NDB). This examination work often took place over weekends requiring time away from his family of five children and with little or no reward other than travel costs. He worked tirelessly for what he believed in.

Geoff had probably examined more beekeepers at National Diploma Level than any other Beekeeper in the UK, talked to hundreds of groups throughout the UK, written over 50 learned and scholarly articles on different aspects of beekeeping, attended nearly 100 high level policy meetings related to bees, agriculture and farming practices, inspired many people to take up beekeeping and influenced the training and practices of several hundreds of beekeepers from all walks of life.  He was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to beekeeping in 2012.
Stuart Roberts

Alan Seager

A keen beekeeper with a passion for learning is remembered for his easy going nature and lovely smile.

Peter Little 

Peter Little of Exmoor Bees and Beehives, a notable beekeeper,  moved on to the great apiary in the sky on 25th of July. He bred Buckfast Bees and sometimes used the old isolated mating station on Dartmoor that Brother Adam set up. He had many items of historical importance from the Buckfast heyday and handed some of those over to institutions he trusted. Peter was a very successful rearer of Queens and he was also involved in setting up the native Black Bee reserve on the Rame Peninsula. Read his full obit here 

Photo: Edward receiving long service beekeeping certificate at the BBKA ADM at Stoneleigh 

Edward Hill

A very quiet and private man, Edward started beekeeping as a schoolboy during the war in 1942.  Has been a member of Ormskirk & Croston for all of those 79 years.

He was the mainstay of Ormskirk & Croston Branch for many of those years. A committee member for most of the time being serving as Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer. He also spent many years as a member of the Lancashire and Northwest Central Council, being the Education Officer, he organised the convention & honey show, representing us nationally on various committees. Most recently, he was our County representative at Beecraft/Wax Chandlers forums.

During meetings Edward used to sit quietly and would usually end the discussion with a “pearl” of wisdom.

A very practical beekeeper, he never wore a bee suit, always with his famous bowler hat and veil!  In earlier times most of our bees were not so friendly, Edwards’s advice was “give the bees a good smoking through the entrance, leave for 5 minutes then open up”. After closing up the hive “don’t forget to put the brick back on the roof”

With much lower branch numbers meetings were held at member’s homes, usually a hive inspection followed by a guest speaker. Much more of a social event, Sunday afternoon, sitting on a bale of hay listening to a lecture with tea, cake and sandwiches.

Very much a gentleman he will be missed by all who knew him.

Ray Dowson



Memories of Scottie at the Southport Flower Show 

Scottie took over the mantle of Southport Flower Show / Honey Show supremo after the passing of another beekeeping stalwart, Barbara Roderick.

The three-day annual event was the culmination of a year’s hard slog for Scottie in making sure that every little detail was covered – which, of course,  they always were!

She relished meeting members of the general public explaining the nuances of beekeeping finishing by thrusting a membership form in their hands with a cheerful “see you soon” parting phrase.

Although the show itself was hard work it never failed to conjure up some amusing moments too.  

On one such occasion an elderly gentleman and his daughter rocked up making enquiries about beekeeping and the suitability of keeping a number bee hives in their back garden. “Absolutely perfect!” Scottie replied, adding “though you need to make sure they won’t be troublesome for your neighbours”.

“How many hives were you thinking about”? she enquired.  

After a moment in deliberation with his daughter, “I reckon we could fit in at least 200” was his reply.

“200!!!.......................... Where do you live, in a castle?” Scottie asked.

It was only then did we realise that they had been sizing up a 12-inch-tall replica WBC hive that Scottie used as a money collection box! Somehow, we managed to contain our hysteria until they had left the marquee!

Every time I will see that money box, she will be fondly remembered by me.

RIP Scottie. (Sue Scott )

Photo - Paul Abbott

A tribute to Martin Buckle by Bill Fisher

The Bee Man of Newton Blossomville

The first time I came across Martin Buckle was at one of our monthly club meetings. If I am honest, I wasn’t going to go to the meeting – Making Beeswax Models didn’t really appeal, but Martin’s talk was enthralling. His enthusiasm for the subject and the wonderful way he presented the material had all of us rushing off to make sheets of wax to make something, however we could only aspire to make the wonderful train engine Martin had shown.

Martin was born in 1936 and was one of those people who tried his hand at just about anything and everything. He was a teacher, a keen rower, a talented musician having taught himself to play the French horn, a volunteer at the local theatre and a linguist – he could speak five languages. He loved making things, not only beeswax models but anything from canoes to kites to go-carts (complete with a sail).

Martin managed up to 45 hives and was known locally as the “Beeman of Newton Blossomville). As well as making models, Martin was a renowned skep maker  and he was a senior honey judge and it is in this capacity that I can across him again when learning to become a judge. My lasting memory is of Martin judging mead. He left it to the end of the show, set up a table, lined up his glasses (large ones!), sat down and got his steward to bring all of the bottles in a class to the table. He proceeded to pour a large measure from each bottle into the glasses – Martin would smile to himself and proceed to taste – he kept a completely straight face throughout the proceedings, no matter how terrible the mead was (and believe me, there was some dreadful exhibits) and then he pronounced his decision. He then let his stewards and trainee judges taste the meads - he had an absolute look of delight on his face as people grimaced and spat out the less than palatable meads !

Martin was a lovely, caring, family man and as a teacher inspired many student and beekeepers to on the bigger and better things. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

David Charles - President BBKA 1992 

A tribute from BBKA Chair, Anne Rowberry

"It was with great sadness I learnt of David’s death on the 31st Dec 2020.

"David had been suffering from poor health for several years and the final trip to hospital resulted in returning home with palliative care to ease the pain in his final phase of life. Incredibly, David remained cheerful, welcoming emails and phone calls and speaking frankly about arrangements he wanted to make and to ensure were in place for when he was no longer able to oversee them.

"David went to school in Altrincham, Cheshire, before studying Horticulture at RHS Wisley from where he gleaned his amazing knowledge about trees and their importance to bees. He spent many years teaching History and the last years were spent working in Cannington school and St Dunstan’s school in Street, Somerset.

"David worked hard to support beekeepers, he was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic beekeeper, He worked to establish a thriving branch within Somerset sharing and encouraging those around him. He served in many roles in Somerset including that as President and did much to mould the county into the vibrant model it is today. He was always willing to lecture, advise and demonstrate when approached and had a gentle, welcoming nature when meeting new beekeepers at various events.

"David became President of the BBKA in 1992 and applied his considerable skills in steering the development of the organisation. He was a teacher and great historian, writing a very informative book; ‘Somerset Beekeeping and Beekeeping Associations; A history 1875 - 2005’. He was an authority on the history of the BBKA and has described the journey from the organisation’s creation in great detail. If there were details that needed checking David was the person to consult. He was also very knowledgeable about the history of beekeeping in Britain.

"David decided to give up keeping his own bees about two years ago but was still willing to share his knowledge. He gave a very interesting demonstration of driving bees at Quantock Apiary during the Summer of 2019 and patiently explained the process to everyone present.

"I have received many tributes and they all mention what a kind, knowledgeable and helpful man he was, David will be sadly missed by so many and is a great loss to beekeeping. There are many tributes on Facebook and below are a few of the comments I have received."

Anne Rowberry, BBKA Chair

A few extracts from messages sent:

‘I am so extremely sorry to hear this sad news. I only got to know and speak with
David on a small number of occasions in particular at the National Honey Show and
at all times found him to be a warm and friendly person, who would put himself out to
assist you in any way he could.’
Phil McAnespie Scottish BKA

‘David was a leading light in British beekeeping for many years and served  as
President of the BBKA. He was instrumental  in the establishment of Somerton
Division of Somerset Beekeepers Association, after the demise of the Glastonbury
association. He was an active beekeeper until 2018, when he parted with his bees
and moved from West Pennard, into more convenient housing in Glastonbury’
Stewart Gould , Chair Somerset BKA

‘He was a lovely man and an excellent example to us all’ 
Margaret Wilson President BBKA

"Certainly the passing of a vital personality in the beekeeping world and very few
could match him for history of British beekeeping or his superb communication skills
in writing and orally. He certainly set very high standards for us to aim for.  David
was 85 and a half, he insisted on the half! Lots of fun in his nature."
Glynn Davies Past President BBKA

"David was a gentleman. He was also a friend and a generous, knowledgeable,
beekeeper. He was BBKA through and through and was especially interested in the
Exam Board. He used to collect historical papers and had a wealth of knowledge
about our history. I have lost a friend. The BBKA has lost a Past President. We have
all lost a great beekeeper."
Margaret Murdin Past President BBKA

"David Charles was one of Somerset BKA's most illustrious members and he will be
sorely missed by his many friends in the beekeeping community here and across the
UK. His list of achievements is long and distinguished and included serving as
President of the BBKA. His beekeeping friendships over the last 60 plus years
spanned a who's who of latter day beekeeping giants including LE Snelgrove and
Rex Sawyer. He was a passionate beekeeper, communicator and teacher; he wrote
for beekeeping publications including BeeCraft and BBKA News and produced an
excellent history of Somerset beekeeping. But he wasn't at all stuffy; he was a lively
contributor on Facebook, a great raconteur and very good company."
Anne Pike Somerset Past Chair

John Annett - photograph taken at a presentation made to John when he retired as HRBKA Association president in 2016.

John Annett, a beekeeper who had a huge impact on the Harrogate and Ripon Beekeepers Association’s development over the last 50 years has just died, aged 98.

He joined the HRBKA in 1970, and at various times held most of the posts within the Association.  In 1988 HRBKA affiliated directly with the BBKA, and John will be remembered best from then on as the champion of beekeeping education, both practical and theoretical. Weekly public beekeeping demonstrations in the Harlow Carr and Harewood Gardens were established by John and presented beekeeping to hundreds of visitors every year.  He was strongly in favour of promoting beekeeping to non-beekeepers and as a result, HRBKA has an award-winning stand at 6 multi-day shows in and around Harrogate every year.

He was an enthusiastic promoter of the BBKA exams. At one time over 40% percent of HRBKA members were Basic Exam Certificate holders, and Association members accounted for over 50% of all the BBKA Microscopy Certificate holders.

Education in HRBKA went from strength to strength, especially from 2004 onwards when it seemed everyone wanted keep bees! John had given the Association the organisation and well-trained tutors to provide the required education and support for all applicants.

John was a founder of the Association’s beekeeping supplies shop which is still trading successfully.  He was a permanent presence at Association meetings and always first to wash up after them.  . 

John was a man of exceptional energy and enthusiasm and was tirelessly patient and kind to his rookie beekeepers, many of whom are still active beekeepers today.  Of course he will be missed, but the benefits of his work will live on for us.

Mike Rowbottom, HRBKA

Terry Clare 18 September 1937 to 6 September 2020

Terry Clare from Rainham in north Kent passed away on 6th September a short illness.

Terry was a dedicated beekeeper starting in the 1970’s and managing hives up to two months before his death. He was an active member of his local club, Medway Beekeepers Association and he was a member of the Bee Farmers Association. Terry was the Chair of BIBBA and committee member for a number of years. He also attended some of the European Black Bee conferences (SICAMM).

Except for one occasion in the last twenty years Terry attended the annual FIBKA conference at Gormanston and we spent many happy evenings in the Huntsman putting the world to rights. Terry was so popular in Ireland, the year he missed Gormanston, the proprietor of the Huntsman asked where Terry was! So Terry was missed at the local hostelry as well as by the local beekeepers.

Terry enjoyed travelling and attended Apimondia in Dublin in 2005. BIBBA had a stand at this event managed by Terry who was the BIBBA Chair at that time. The team enjoyed talking about black bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and bee breeding to delegates from around the world.

The following year he travelled to Egersund in Norway with David Loo, Claire Wilkinson and John Hendrie to spend a week beekeeping with a Norwegian family. This gave an opportunity to see how bees can survive in a climate harsher than the UK.

Many people across the UK remember Terry as the person who started their beekeeping interest either from one of his beginners’ courses run for many years in Kent or his interesting lectures held nationally. He really did promote beekeeping to a wide audience.

Terry was well known by members of the BBKA because he ran queen rearing courses at the Spring Convention for many years, he also lectured some years. Perhaps he will be best remembered at Harper Adams as the person collecting tickets for entry to the evening banquets.

Terry was always supportive at the Medway BKA and would always ask searching questions at meetings if things were not clear, but his interest was always for the clubs wellbeing. He always stewarded at the Kent County Show at Detling near Maidstone, usually providing an observation hive and managing bee demonstrations for the public.

He will be missed by all his friends in the UK, Ireland and worldwide.

Our sincere sympathy to his wife Pat, his children and grandchildren.

Terry RIP

John Hendrie

Bill & Mary Dartnall, Southampton & District Beekeepers Association 

Sadly Mary and Bill Dartnall passed away, beside each other, on Easter Sunday, 12th April, 2020 in Southampton General Hospital. They had both tested positive coronavirus. 

Mary was a Past President of BBKA from 1996 – 97 and an Honorary Member of the BBKA. During her presidency she campaigned for farmers to limit spraying of chemicals to protect bees. Both Mary and Bill were Joint Presidents of Southampton & District Beekeeping Association, a role they thoroughly enjoyed. They had been married for 63 years and their daughter, Rosemary, said "They came as a pair - they were a team. Life wasn't always a bed of roses but they got through it together and they left us together." There will be a Memorial Service for them later in the year.

Dinah Sweet, Cardiff Beekeepers Association

"As an experienced  Master beekeeper, Dinah willingly passed on her skills and wrote many articles helping beekeepers advance their knowledge. She was a well known and appreciated Seasonal Bee Inspector in South Wales where she lived with her husband, John.

"Dinah ran workshops at the Spring Convention encouraging exhibitors at all levels and giving helpful tips on how to improve. As a Honey Judge she gave willingly of her time at the National Honey Show and inspired others with her exhibits. Dinah also worked with Bees for Development delivering workshops in Trinidad for Honey Judges and was the author of many articles in BBKA News and of the Special Edition on Mead. Dinah will be warmly remembered by so many beekeepers as a positive person always willing to share her knowledge and encourage others. She was lovely person who will be sadly missed."

Anne Rowberry BBKA Chair

Dinah Sweet died at home on 30th March 2020.

She did not want a funeral and that was going to be difficult anyway with the Covid pandemic restrictions that had just been announced. John, her husband planned a celebration, an idea that Dinah was happy with; it was to be garden party for when the pandemic would be over. A year later and a meeting together to celebrate Dinah’s life is still not possible.

So, John has decided to go with a Celebratory Website and has just set up   John would be delighted if those of you who knew Dinah, could post any photos or comments on this website.     

One of Dinah’s last pieces of work was completing the BBKA Special issue Practical Mead Making, available here.

Sylvia Chamberlain

Obituary written by Sylvia's son, Stephen, with the help of Ed West.

Sylvia Chamberlin died on 11th November 2018, after a rich and varied life, at the age of 84 following a long battle with vascular dementia.  Sylvia was known in the beekeeping world for her work on a scheme for introducing bees and beekeeping into schools through the “Bees in the Curriculum” project that she developed from scratch. For this work she was awarded an Honorary Life Membership of BBKA.

 Sylvia was born to John and Edith Greenwood in 1934 in Denton, at that time a small Lancashire town on the Cheshire border, east of Manchester. Her mother had a career as a grammar school teacher and her father was a Dyestuffs scientist.  She went to the local County primary school until 9 years old when her parents transferred her to the Preparatory Department of Manchester High School for Girls. There she met her life-long friend Mary Peers; the two of them were academically the top two in the top stream.  The school had been bombed out of its new, unfinished buildings in 1940 and had moved to temporary accommodation in a Victorian house in Didsbury. These were exciting times according to Sylvia. The family moved to Didsbury, a southern suburb of Manchester around this time.

Sylvia was by now already showing the characteristics that guided her life. She joined the Girl Guides and through her parents’ help and encouragement developed interest in plant taxonomy, wild flowers and natural geography and landscape. At senior school she studied science and continued her outside interests. She went on what must have been one of the first Outward Bound Courses for Females prior to going up to Manchester University, which reinforced her love of outdoors and adventure and is probably where she first started rock climbing. When she went up to Manchester in 1952 one of the first things she did was found the Womens Mountaineering Club where she was responsible for organising trips all over the country. (Her friends commented on her ability to find and organise holidays in interesting places.) Immediately after graduating in 1955 she organised trips with her fellow graduands to Skye and Ben Nevis. Amongst many other expeditions, in 1960 she organised a trip by plane to the Pyrenees. It is very likely that on another holiday she climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. It was on a skiing trip to Norway in 1961 that she met her husband-to-be Raymond and they were married in 1963 and spent their honeymoon camping in the Outer Hebrides.

Sylvia’s first job after graduating was teaching physics at Millhouses  Grammar School in Sheffield where she shared a flat with her sister Celia who was studying medicine at the University. She moved to London after marriage to Raymond, living in Neasden where she taught science at a local school and Raymond worked at the then Post Office Research Establishment at Dollis Hill. Their three sons were born in London and Sylvia was initially fully occupied with their care. In 1971 the family moved to what would be their permanent family home in High Wycombe. Raymond continued at Dollis Hill and Sylvia initially taught science at Cressex Secondary School in High Wycombe and then for the rest of her career at Beaconsfield High school for Girls. She retired from teaching in 1992.

Sylvia and Raymond started beekeeping in the early 1980’s, well before retirement, taking the BBKA preliminary exams in 1986. She soon became an active member of High Wycombe Beekeepers Association, becoming Honey Show Secretary in 1993 and Speakers Secretary in 2003. She was elected President of HWBKA in 2006. She ran the Honey Show tent at the Wycombe Show for several years and had an educational section as an important part. She played a major part in establishing contact with children, schools visits and development of material for introducing children to and educating them about bees and beekeeping. This seeded a National Honey Show essay on the subject of bees in schools that was the incentive for the Bees in the Curriculum project which was later transferred to BBKA and introduced nationally. During her time as Speakers Secretary she and Raymond used the opportunity go off around the country to “audition” speakers to see if they were worth inviting to Association meetings.

Sylvia was also active at County level, becoming Secretary of Bucks County Beekeepers Association. She and Raymond were long term members of the Central Association of Beekeepers and the International Bee Research Association. She was involved with Bees Abroad, Bees for Development and the Transrural Trust. One project she was particularly proud of was undertaken during a visit to Kosovo after the civil war of 1998-99 where she was shocked by the levels of poverty and the horrors left behind by the conflict. She worked with local beekeepers teaching them how to diversify from honey to other hive products such as soaps, creams, lotions, tinctures and other wax products to increase their income.

Sylvia’s keen interest in travel was greatly indulged in retirement. There were visits to Apimondia in Vancouver, Canada in 1999; Lubljana in Slovenia in 2003; Dublin in 2005; Melbourne in Australia in 2007. For the Dublin meeting they travelled in their VW Campervan!  There were also visits to meet beekeepers in Nepal, India and Africa, and nearer to home in Europe.

In between all this activity Sylvia and Raymond continued their own beekeeping, having 3-4 apiaries with a total 30-40 hives at their peak. They were great fans of the Smith Hive (Raymond made all their hives himself in their garage workshop). They were keen on all aspects of the science and practice of beekeeping: using microscopy for disease identification and study, swarm control techniques, queen rearing etc. and teaching beginners and more advanced students at HWBKA. Sylvia was also keen on showing, and they were members of the National Honey Show where they exhibited successfully in honey, mead, wax and wax products, winning prizes. Her beekeeping activities scaled down in later years and she retired from beekeeping in about 2010.  The last thing to go was the indoor observation hive in about 2011.

Sylvia and Raymond were also members of the High Wycombe Society; Raymond being a keen supporter in the restoration of Pan Mill on the Rye, an old corn grinding watermill.

Sylvia managed all this activity and still did the most important thing to her in her life – raising her family. Her sons remember a wonderful mother - for boys, (a great cook!),  a mother who brought home the school computer during the holidays (which gave them the opportunity to learn to program in BASIC and machine code at an early age), and provided a loving home environment. She is survived by her husband Raymond, her three sons and a grandson. Her sister predeceased her.


Peter Tomkins, Rothamstead

"I am very sad to report that my friend and mentor, Peter Tomkins, passed away on Friday at the age of 87.

"Peter was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, and left school at the tender age of 14. His father noticed in the local paper that somewhere called Rothamsted Experimental Station, which was nearby in Harpenden, had a vacancy. Peter sat speechless through an interview with the redoubtable Dr Colin Butler, and much to his surprise, was offered a job in what he understood to be the “B” Department.

"When he arrived for work on the Monday, he was horrified to discover that he would be working with bees. He was promptly stung on the face, which swelled up, and he was sent home. But this started a lifelong fascination with bees. He was Dr Butler’s “boy assistant”, working at the cutting edge in the studies on Queen Substance.

"After a few years, he left for another adventure, working with the eccentric Col. Gare down in Cornwall on the commercial beekeeping operation to supply honey for the Mead Makers enterprise. He was then called up for National Service in the RAF, and then returned to Rothamsted for the rest of his career.

"Initially he was technician in the Bee Department, working on many different projects and making much experimental equipment. On the retirement of Head Apiarist Norman Ellement in 1972, Peter took on this role until his retirement in 1991. I was fortunate to have a year overlapping with him, and I learned a vast amount. Although I had been an amateur beekeeper for over ten years, it was a revelation to work with large numbers of colonies, and to marvel at the simplified system of beekeeping aimed solely for research purposes, which he had developed over the years. This involved total standardisation of equipment, strict hygiene, and minimum intervention. I have followed many of his ideas ever since.

"After retirement, Peter began writing articles in the bee press, most notably in the Beekeepers Quarterly and Bee Craft, often on controversial topics such as the misrepresentation of evidence about pesticides and GM crops. He was persuaded to work part time doing beekeeping for the Rothamsted spin-off company Inscentinel (the “sniffing bees”), and then after the mass cull of bee researchers in 2006, he returned to Rothamsted Research as part time apiarist helping with the much reduced number of colonies.

"He was delighted that the new Rothamsted bee field laboratory was named the “Tomkins Field Laboratory” in recognition of his major contribution to bee research. I last saw him at the National Honey Show at Sandown Park in November. I was sitting next to him settling down for the quiz evening, but then I was called away home to deal with a cat related crisis. I hoped that I would catch up with him at Harper Adams, but it was not to be...

"Farewell Peter..."

Norman Carreck, 
Carreck Consultancy Ltd 
Main photo on page:Daria Rom on Unsplash