By Alf Race

Many organisations of beekeepers ended with the 1914 war and the outbreak of the “Isle of Wight” disease, until beekeeping recovered about 10 years later. The New Earswick Association must have started during the latter part of these 10 years (1914-1924) and the York District Association started in 1921. By 1924/25 we had a membership of 21 and by 1946 York had 70 members, New Earswick had 76 and Ousedale (later taken over by York) had 120. With the end of sugar rationing and the decline in beekeeping after the Second World War, the New Earswick Association was invited to our functions and was taken over by York shortly afterwards.

In those days, such notable beekeepers as Mr J A Rowntree and Mr A R Minney kept New Earswick alive whilst Mr C P Wadworth did the same for Ousedale. Mr Minney and Mr Wadsworth were later to become prominent members of the York Association.

The first Secretary for York was, I believe, a lady who later left the district for the South of England, but continued to pay her annual subscription by bankers order for many years afterwards until her death. Mr J R Cass then took over her job for the next 10 years. He was a big friend of Mr W Hamilton and Mr J R Graham. The meeting were then held in the Rechabites Hall in Nessgate with Mr P C Neat as chairman and later in 1949 Mr G W Stephenson of Carr Lane. It is interesting to remember that about this time Mr W Lockwood, whom present members will know as our honey show judge, was giving us talks occasionally, one being “Semi-Commercial Beekeeping”. Also, Mr Austin Hyde, school master of Lady Lumley’s School, Pickering, and a nationally famous beekeeper was a frequent visitor to our association meetings.

Mr E W Wright succeeded Mr J R Cass with Rev C H S Million of Skirpenbeck as President, and by this time the membership had dropped considerably, mainly due to the end of sugar rationing.

The financial position was also deteriorating during these years, with subscriptions amounting to about £15 and the expenditure sometimes exceeding this. The balance was also in the region of £15.

Miss A Thornton of the Bide-a-Wee Cafe, Malton Road (now Tanglewood) was an enthusiastic member and was helped by Mr Lockwood. She provided demonstrations and hospitality on numerous occasions. During the 1939/45 war, when rationing was severe, some of her hives not occupied by bees were vary useful hiding places for hams, etc, which made it possible for her to provide meals for favoured customers just a bit better than usual in those wartime days. It is easily understood why the membership of the Association increased during rationing periods when empty hives provided such safe hiding places and also, in many cases, enabled the owner to apply for an extra ration of sugar. I believe it was about 20 pounds of sugar per hive per year, and I remember bringing my ration home in barrow loads.

After about 8 years as Secretary and Treasurer, Mr E W Wright resigned and Mr Goodall was elected in his place and it was about this time (1952) our Foul Brood Fund, later Bee Disease Fund, was started and the venue for our meetings was changed to the Cross Keys Hotel in Goodramgate. The rates of Foul Brood on the Foul Brood Insurance scheme were 4 shillings up to 4 hives and onwards in multiples of 2 at one shilling. “Bankers” or members who volunteered to supply bees under the scheme were Messrs Child (Knapton), Cecil Etherington and G Potter (farmers at Wilberfoss), Bernard Leaf (well known Honey Show cup winner), J Howard (Ouseburn Avenue) and Brigadier MacPherson. The frames and hives were covered by the fund. For quite a few years the capital of this insurance fund was only £30.40, and it is interesting to know that it eventually rose to £354 even though subscriptions have not been made for many years, as there have been no claimants. There was an outbreak of foul brood about 20 years ago, and the committee noted. certain member who was not very popular and 20/30 hives, would ruin the fund under its existing rules, if he got the disease. After a hastily convened committee meeting the rules were altered safeguarding the funds against such occurrence.

Mr Goodall’s work necessitated him moving to Leeds and it was at this time in 1952 that I took over as Secretary and Treasurer with Mr Boatfield as Chairman. Mr Boatfield and I spent quite some time straightening out the affairs of the Association. These were very lean times and I remember meetings at the Bay Horse Hotel in Gillygate and later at St. William’s College when the attendance at the meetings as low as five or six, including Messrs Leafe, Cass, Graham, Boatfield and myself when apologies had to be made to the lecturer and when perhaps the first three mentioned attenders knew more about beekeeping than the lecturer.

It was in the late 1940’s that our membership declined rapidly and in 1952 it was down to 27 with a cash balance of £9. With an annual subscription of three shillings and sixpence and a capitation fee paid to the Yorkshire Beekeepers Association of two shillings, it will be seen that the balance left for the York Association of one shilling and sixpence (equivalent to seven and a half pence in present day money)did not give much scope for adventurous programmes. All pour lectures were obtained free through the Education Authorities and films where these could be hired free of charge. We also got a cheap rate for posting of circular in those days (less than half a penny present day money) but with only 27 members our annual income after paying capitation fees was about £2 and things were really tight. I remember quite a lot of time being spent wondering what we got from the County Association for our two shillings per member capitation fee and whether we should cease being members of the Yorkshire Beekeepers Association.

This continued to be a very sore point right through the 1950’s. We did however arrange some interesting demonstrations and lectures, but it was essential that no cost be incurred. All typing and duplicating work was done free to the Association but I’m afraid at British Railways cost. Such people as Mr G Potter of Wilberfoss, and Mr C Etherington also of Wilberfoss, Mr G L Graham of Bishopthorpe, Miss A Thornton of Bide-a-Wee Cafe, Mr W Hamilton and Mr W Sling of Alne being persons I remember who were very generous in their hospitality at demonstrations and lectures. Mr W Hamilton, writer of the well known book on beekeeping, took his aunt’s bees to the Moors as a boy, loading four hives on the back of a donkey. On one occasion, one hive became loose and all four hives dropped off the donkey’s back. The bees stung the donkey, which bolted and caused Hamilton quite a bit of trouble. I attended a demonstration by Hamilton at Lady Starmer’s apiary at Washington in 1939 when he dealt with a hive about to swarm. Later it was found his efforts had not been successful and I remember  Lady Starmer saying “Never let that man come near my bees again!”. All the same he was a very successful beekeeper, held in high esteem. He consulted Mr Cass of Bishopthorpe in writing his chapter on “Queen Rearing”.

At this time the New Earswick member were being invited to our functions, which eventually led to our taking over that Association in 1959. Also about this time we learned from Mr C P Wadworth of Goole that the Ousedale Association had deteriorated and Messrs Cass, Graham and Myself paid a visit to Goole one wintry evening in 1959 and made arrangements for that Association to be amalgamated with York Association (perhaps not wholly in accordance with the County’s rules) and we were able to transfer their capital of £60 to our York funds, which was a considerable boost to our meagre assets in those days. We thought it only right to present Mr Wadsworth with a pen and thank him for his services as secretary of the Ousedale Association.

I think, probably from this point in time, we gradually prospered. Frequently raising the membership fee till it is now £3, 40 times the original fee, and even so it compares favourably with the £8 fee in the Yorkshire District. Also the interest in beekeeping increased to the extent that from a balance of about £9 forty years ago we now nearly have 100 times this figure.

I only remember one note of unpleasantness and that was unfortunately in connection with a great friend of mine Mr Bernard Leafe. It was on the retirement of Mr A G Higgins, Secretary of Yorkshire Beekeepers Association for many years. We were deciding on the amount we should give towards a presentation to Mr Higgins and an amount was voted on and carried almost unanimously. But this amount was not in accordance to Mr Leafe’s ideas and he left the Association and joined Scarborough. This was a sad loss to York and although I often visited him and begged him to come back, he was adamant.

After 27 years as Secretary and Treasurer, I resigned and Mrs Sonia Rose took over as Secretary and Mr Peter Rhodes as Treasurer, the latter being very son succeeded by Mr Dick Gardner, who took over at a very difficult time. I had spent two years trying to get the Association classed as a charity. The first approach to the Income Tax people resulted in being informed there was no chance of being successful. However, after numerous visits to the tax Office, a letter of application to the Charity Commissioners and we were accepted. This broadly meant we were able to claim a refund of one third of our members subscriptions who paid income tax and this was a big financial help, but gave our new treasurer quite a formidable task in claiming the refund each year. However, thanks to Mr Gardner, this was put on a sound basis and his post has now been taken over by Miss Joanna Bradshaw and our new Secretaries are Mrs Hilary Baul and MrsJudith Gaynor.

It is a pity to end on a sad note, but we have lost two stalwarts in 1984 in Mr John Barton, our Vice- president, and one of the originals, and Mr W SLinger of Alne, a dear friend of the York Beekeepers.

From the editor:

  • Mr Alf Race died on 13th September 1986
  • YDBKA left Yorkshire Beekeepers Association on 15th April 1987, subsequently returning.
  • Alf Race Memorial Cup (awarded at the Honey Show) was bought in October 1987, also the Alf Race memorial seat at the pavilion at Murton.