I’ve been keeping bees since 2003 and like all beekeepers, there is a scéal as to how I ended up with bee venom in my blood. My story begins with my grandfather Jerry Kevane who lived in Reenbee, just east of Dingle, Co. Kerry. My father told me that in the 1930s Jerry received two hives through the Congested Districts Board. Jerry was a meticulous man and in the weeks before the arrival of the hives, he acquired some old white flour bags from a local mill and fashioned himself a bee suit. My father recalled watching him sew the suit by candlelight. The bees arrived and, the very next day, Jerry set about “examining” the new arrivals. My dad sat on the ditch watching, with a mixture of excitement and awe, as his dad set to work. Of course, Jerry had no training whatsoever in the art of beekeeping and the bees, very quickly, gained access and proceeded to sting the poor man. My dad had an indelible memory of his dad running across the field, screaming, and ripping his “bee suit” to pieces in an effort to escape “na beacha ar buile”! (the crazy bees). Needless to say, Jerry never bothered the bees again and the bees returned the favour.
However, my dad’s interest in beekeeping was aroused and he read as much as he could and had the occasional peep at the CDB hives. Years rolled on and my dad ended up teaching in Monamolin, Co. Wexford. In the late 60’s he purchased two hives and a true love story began. Over the years he built up a fine apiary with over 30 hives. The apiary was situated less than 100m from our back door, which was ideal for dad. Not so great for my mother who, most inconsiderately, developed a severe allergy to bee stings. Over the years my sister, brothers and I helped out with the various beekeeping activities and, by osmosis and dad’s enthusiasm, developed an understanding and appreciation of bees. The honey was nice too!
In 2003 my dad decided to downscale and planned to sell about 16 hives. We were asked if we knew of anyone who might be interested in buying some hives and I approached Brendan, a friend of mine, as I knew that bees were his “sort of thing”. (I had no plans myself of becoming a beekeeper as we live in town and have limited space) Brendan was interested as his dad had also kept bees and he had plenty of space adjacent to his home. Unfortunately, Brendan had limited experience in bees and, after a brief discussion, it was decided that we would, jointly, purchase four hives from dad and install them on Brendan’s land and with that I was a beekeeper. Míle buíochas, Brandán!