(Originally Compiled for the Centenary Convention)
The actual circumstances of the founding of Ayr and District Beekeepers are lost in the mists of time, but The Scottish Beekeepers' Association has its first reference to the Association in 1917.
One of the first references to activities of the association was in the 1918-19 session with this lecture advertisement in the Ayrshire Post of 24th January 1919 - close to an advertisement for a grand victory ball in aid of Ayr County Hospital in Ayr Town Hall.
The first records that we have are the accounts from 1919 onwards - all written in various different, but beautiful, copperplate hands. The president, later called the honorary president, was the Marquess of Ailsa and the Marchioness of Ai Isa was also a member. The (honorary) vice-president was Mr. Kennedy of Doonholm House. There are 97 members recorded in the first account and the committee was rather larger than our committees in recent times. The subscription at this time was one shilling although "this was not sufficient to meet the expense of lectures”, so members were asked to give voluntarily a larger amount! Four members of committee represented the Association at the SBA meetings
There were four winter lectures, summer visits to various apiaries and to hives at the heather at the end of the season. The teas at the apiary visits were often commented upon! Often there were more social visits to gardens and stately homes. There were also teas and dinners with singing and music. This pattern continued for many years.
Notable lectures included:
- 1928 A talk by P. J. Baldensperger (a French beekeeper 1856 - 1948- "one of the greatest beekeepers in the world") president of Apis Club after whom a Moroccan bee (Apis mellifera sahariensis baldensperger) is named
- 1948 "My system of beekeeping" - William Smith (lnnerleithen) Inventor of the Smith hive
- 1950 Margaret Logan of Northern College (Author of Beekeeping Craft and Hobby) talking on her experiences
- 1950 Eva Crane - Editor of Beeworld (Founder of IBRA and author of many books including The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting) gave a lecture on her research work
- 1963 W. Robson "Single vs. Double brood chambers"
Examples of lecture topics are:
- Queen Rearing
- My experiences as a beekeeper (Various beekeepers!)
- Non-swarming systems
- The value of the honeybee to the nation
- Health in the apiary
- Producing and preparing honey for the show bench
- Heather honey production
- Beekeeping problems
- Multiple queen hives
- Field treatment of bee diseases
There were regular Brains Trusts. (In recent years these have become Hat or question and answer nights!). Beginners' lectures were started in the 20's but in 1946 they were taken over by the local education authority
The first apiary of the season was, traditionally, for beginner's and was to the President's apiary. Some apiary visits were quite far afield:
William Smith's apiary at lnnerleithen (1948), Arran, Newton Stewart, Dunblane, Physgill nr Whithorn, East of Scotland Agricultural College.... In 1977 there was a visit to C. Anderson's apiary in Kirkintilloch and it was commented that " Mrs. Anderson in action was an education".
The visits often read like a catalogue of the stately homes of Ayrshire: Coodham, Hillhouse, Culzean, Auchendrane, Ballochmyle, Hazeldene, Cassillis, Dalquaharran Castle, Physgill nr Whithorn, Doonholm, Monktonmiln (Now under a runway at Prestwick Airport).
There was an apiary visit in 1949 to see a "skyscraper hive" and a visit in 1960 to " an octagonal brick bee house at Gadgirth near Coylton".
There were annual visits to the heather with frequent reports of no honey in supers (and vicious midges).
Transcription of a minute about a visit to heather at Leadhills 5th Sept 1972:
"Another very cold day but not to be deterred the hardy idiots of Ayr and District Beekeepers' Association ran up and down the hills like a load of school kids. There must have been something in the tea.
They had a look in every hive belonging to the association even though the temperature was 5 below zero. There wasn't much honey but everyone had a glow on their cheeks and a drip at their nose and they went home happy"
We tend to look at the beekeeping past with rose tinted spectacles thinking it was much easier with regular large honey crops and little problems with disease but this seems to be untrue. In the 20's there are references to Isle of Wight disease still occurring and in 1947, several members were volunteer inspectors for foul brood. Regularly the minutes refer to poor seasons for bees. In 1929 and in 1 932 the honey show was abandoned because of lack of honey and these were not the only years this happened, bad years being recorded right through the forties and fifties up to current times. However, 1933 was a bumper year with an average of 801b per hive and in 1934 one lady member obtained 7.5 cwts. of honey, an average of 1.5 cwts. per hive! For those not old enough to remember cwts 1= 1121b!
There are mentions of a junior section meeting at Glaisnock House but no details. There was also a Ladies Committee mentioned. Peak membership was after the Second World War when it was about 175 (membership was 3 shillings per annum). In 1938, ADBKA subscribed to the honey pavilion at the Empire Exhibition, Bellahouston. The SBA had several conferences in Ayr, the national honey show and the Highland Show also took place in Ayr on several occasions.
The club had a close relationship with the Ayr Chrysanthemum Society, which was disbanded in 1970. For many years the honey show was held in conjunction with the Chrysanthemum Society show. There was sometimes friction with the Chrysanthemum Society complaining of the number of free beekeeper entries to the show and to the sale of honey
Two Notable Members
Andrew Limond (1878 - 1961) was involved in Ayr Beekeepers for many years in various posts but was secretary for 30 years. He was president of the SBA from 1935-1937 and was the secretary for a long time. In 1919 he started writing topical notes for The Scottish Beekeeper, which he wrote for many years. He attended Apimondia regularly and was an official at the Highland Show, demonstrating the handling of bees. On 5th December 1959 sixty friends and family gathered at Belleisle to recognise his long service to beekeeping
James McKay (1911- 2008) was a long time committee member of ADBKA. He first joined ADBKA in 1941. He was vice-president from 1946 - 1948 and president from
1949 - 1951,he was then secretary/treasurer until 1978. He was a horticulturist most of his life specialising in growing carnations. He was secretary of the National Honey Show and contributed to The Scottish Beekeeper as Sou'wester. In 1980 he received the Dr John Anderson Award for services to beekeeping.
Ayr & District Beekeepers in Recent Years
Started in 2005, the club apiary, plays a pivotal role in the association activities today. It has proved invaluable in helping train beginners and more experienced beekeepers in caring for bees. An intermediate area was recently added and has already been used for a queen rearing course. All members appreciate the teas and cakes provided by Elizabeth after our apiary visits.
Annual shows we attend include Neilston, Ayr Agricultural Show, Belleisle Conservatory, Gardening Scotland, Dean Castle and Ayr Flower Show. We have a long association with the Ayr Flower Show and in the past entered the Golden Rose Competition. This is where, until recently, we held our annual Honey Show that includes honey, wax, mead, baking and photography.
As far as we know we are the only association in Scotland that provides open hive demonstrations. This is done twice a year at Ayr Flower Show and Gardening Scotland. Our youngest participant has been 4 years old. During the course of the year we also provide many talks to schools, youth and community groups.
A group of two school pupils Sophie Wagner (15), Mhairi Davidson (15) (the third pupil, Liam McNair (15), was taken ill just before leaving) accompanied by Lindsay went to the 3rd year of the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers held in Prague in the Czech Republic.
Move to a Registered Charity
With a view to acquiring an apiary site of our own, the committee made plans to change legal entity and become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). This served 2 purposes, giving the association a legal entity which can hold leases or purchase land and gives the entity charitable status, which our aims and objectives have always fulfilled.
The original 10 committee members were appointed trustees of the charity and all assets and liabilities were transferred to the new entity at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 31st October 2018.