1924 to 2022

Dad was born and raised in Beckenham, Kent, the youngest of five. His older brother was killed during the war; he had three older sisters. When he was 12 years old, he watched from his bedroom window as the Crystal Palace burned down.  From school he had a tool making apprenticeship, then was called up to the RAF during the second world war but demobbed before completing navigator training.  He then studied as an electronics engineer.  His background supported his interest in adapting and developing all the gadgets he needed for his beekeeping, and resulted in him collecting the ideas, tips and tricks together for his first book “Constructive Beekeeping” which I edited and published. He commented that it was the sort of book he wished he’d had when starting beekeeping.

After the end of the war, two of his sisters had a double wedding where he met his wife, Joan, my mother.  She and Connie, one of Dad’s sisters had been posted together during the war.

Many years later, while I was in my industrial year from college, at Department of Insecticides and Fungicides at Rothamsted Experimental Station, something sparked Dad’s interest in beekeeping. Although Rothamsted no longer had the bee department there was still a strong interest in bees. Dad couldn’t wait to get his first hives the following spring.

Not content with just ‘keeping’ the bees, Dad took a great interest in many aspects of the hobby. He joined the Wimbledon Beekeeping Association (WBKA), took part in their meetings and shows, supported by Mum making teas and coffees.  He edited the WBKA newsletter for some years. He attempted his own queen rearing, constructing bits and pieces to make beekeeping jobs easier.  He took an interest in the bees’ forage and particularly pollen.  Over many years Dad collected pollen from a wide variety of flowers, made his own microscope slides, and made drawings of the grains he viewed using a microscope, keeping meticulous records.  He made sets of pollen slides for the BBKA pollen identification exam. 

After some years, when Dad’s collection of pollen drawings had grown considerably, he and I collected them into a book “Pollen Microscopy”.  In this, he described his techniques, and we illustrated the pollen grains alongside photos of the flowers from which they originated. The book is now in its second edition. He joined the Quekett Microscopical Club and attended meetings both at The Natural History Museum and out and about looking at items of microscopical interest in the countryside. The Quekett Microscopical Club awarded him honorary membership for his contribution to microscopy, his slides and drawings of pollen, and for his willingness to share his techniques and knowledge.

Dad also took an interest in The National Honey Show.  He and other WBKA members used to club together to take entries to the show.  For some years Dad had a stand demonstrating making wax foundation, and offering rolled foundation candle making. After Mum died, he continued to steward at the show.  Then in 2014 he introduced Quekett to the show, and used to sit at their stand, showing his pollen drawings and chatting to show visitors about bees, pollen and microscopy.  The Quekett Microscopical Club have continued to support The National Honey Show each year since.

In all the fifteen or so years that I have also been involved with The National Honey Show, this year (2022) was the first when my Dad was not able to be present.  Although as busy as ever, it seemed strange without him there too, the more so from the number of people asking after him.  He obviously had a larger impact in the beekeeping world than he realised, and is remembered fondly by all who knew him.

Valerie Rhenius, Norman’s daughter

Photos provided by Valerie Rhenius