The inaugural meeting of the Cambridge and Isle of Ely Beekeepers Association was held on November the 28th 1881 in St John’s College.
Many Vicars were already a large part of beekeeping. In fact much of the beekeeping equipment that we use today had already been invented or improved by them; and as it was they that were most in touch with the ‘Cottagers and Agricultural Labourers’ – who were still using straw skeps, old boxes and even hollow logs, to keep their bees in, and still killing the bees when they wanted to get at the honey – it is no surprise that no less that seven ‘Reverends’ made up much of that first Committee!
The Association hit the stumbling blocks once or twice, usually because of difficulties in getting a good Chairman or Secretary – one or the other often doing the bulk of the work! But they still put on some excellent ‘Honey Shows’ in the ‘1920s’ and ‘30s’, and others after the war. Through the 50s they were also at the forefront of beekeeping science in queen breeding. After which another lull occurred until in the mid 70s it was decided to start a ‘ Beginners Course’. Four separate lectures in Feb 1975 by four different beekeepers.
However, by the 1980s it was again becoming difficult to find folk to provide the commitment and at the last moment Bob Lemon stepped into the breach, when for many years he fronted much, and sometimes all, of the now six lectures, followed on by three or four apiary meetings. The Honey Show, also heavily fronted by Bob Lemon, went from strength to strength, visited by folk from all over East Anglia at the Fenland Show.
All this brought the CBKA back into being an active Association again, helped by it could be argued, the advent of – new diseases – more powerful agricultural chemicals – the rise in environmental awareness and people-power. We still retain at least one link with that first meeting – a Bishop of Ely has been one of the Vice Presidents all through the years.
William A Clark – President
The picture above is from my 1958 signed copy of Joseph Tinsley’s ‘Beekeeping Up-To-Date’