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A Brief History in Time

The earliest Minutes we have for the Galway Beekeepers’ Association (GBA) are for 1967 but it is clear from those minutes that the GBA was in existence earlier. From 1967 – 1971 the meetings were held at the Franciscan Abbey, Francis St., Galway under the Chairmen: Michael Madden, Mr K Moran and Dr O Farrell; the Secretary was Br Evangelist OFM. The annual subscription then was ten shillings (approx 60 euro cents). Mr Dan Deasy, Sec of FIBKA was a regular annual lecturer and films on beekeeping were regularly shown. Average attendance was about 25 beekeepers.

There are no records between 1971 and 1973. Minutes for 1973 show that GBA meetings moved to the Railway Hotel, Athenry. To mention just a few names, hard working officers of the GBA for the next ten years were Sec: Sr Celsus, Michael McGrath, Gráinne Mac Loingsigh; Chairmen: John Dillon, Fr Liam Power, Fr James Carter; Treas: Tom Prendergast. This period saw the establishment of a GBA apiary at the Agricultural College in Athenry, annual Open Days (JJ Higgins, John Dillon, Gerry Beggan gave great demonstrations of practical beekeeping), regular lectures by FIBKA lecturers, several prizes won at the National Honey Show by Mr and Mrs Pat Flanagan, annual Arbour Days, demonstrations of honey extraction and casting of foundation, scholarships to Gormanston were secured and many beekeeping films were shown.

From 1983 – 2011 Dr Breandán Ó Cochláin was Sec of the GBA. He passed all the FIBKA examinations including the Diploma in Apiculture which he introduced with the cooperation of Cork Institute of Technology and lectured at all levels at the Gormanston Summer School. He was Education Officer of the FIBKA for 17 years, represented the GBA at Congress and Executive Council for approx 20 years, chaired a BBKA Congress in Stoneleigh, gave all the lectures at an early Greenmount Conference and was the only person west of the Shannon to be elected President of the FIBKA. During this period the annual membership of the GBA increased to over 50 and all the meetings were held at the Teagasc Centre in Athenry. Annual Beginners’ Courses were established and held in the Ballybane Enterprise Centre both before and after Christmas in recent years (see website for Syllabus)

Chairmen and Treasurers of the GBA during this period were Chairmen: John Dillon, Chris McGrath, Tim Ruane, Marty O’Malley, Mícheál Breathnach, John Bartley, Conor Morris; Treasurers: Gerry Beggan, Frank Lynott, Pádraic Murphy.

At the end of the 90’s the GBA had several difficulties. It was likely that the Agricultural College was using many types of insecticides on its lands and the survival rate of our bees in the Association apiary become worse each year. We did not know it at the time but we were probably experiencing our very own CCD. Eventually it became uneconomic to continue the Association apiary at the Teagasc Centre. Also, as with other beekeeping associations the arrival of Varroa in 1998 had a very bad effect: as there were virtually no swarms, it became very difficult for beginners to get bees and nucs, bees had to be purchased from other parts of the country. This brought a new problem – very frequent supersedure of queens was observed, often with hives going into the winter queenless. Hopefully these problems are now behind us and that we can forge ahead.

Due to the increase in beekeeper numbers and the large size of the county a second beekeeping association was recently founded in Co Galway, Cumann Beachairí Chonamara.

Over the years the GBA has done its utmost to support all aspects of apiculture for the benefit of beekeepers and the environment in Co Galway and help with any aspect of beekeeping is always available from the current officers: Secretary Michael Hughes, Chairman Dr Breandán Ó Cochláin, Treasurer Pádraic Murphy.

I am sure that the expert beekeeper and RDS medal winner for beekeeping Brother Joseph O’Shea of the Carmelite Order who died in 1891 and lies at rest at the Abbey in Loughrea and who was a founder member of the FIBKA in 1881 would be pleased that the GBA continues his pioneering work.

BÓC Jan 16th 2012.