I am secretly hoping that Marion from Culross Palace who I spoke to today passed-on this information about an old-time beekeeper from Kincardine circa 1905. You see, when I find these little gems like the photograph above, I have a real need to pass it onto someone whose heritage it is; hopefully they in turn can put it to a better use than I can.
Mr Scott hung onto skeps whilst his contemporaries had turned to the frame-hive, which brings me to a point about history that Dorothy Hartley made in her book, ‘The Land of England’, that the course of history doesn’t change all at once and at a flick of a switch. Although she puts more eloquently:
To divide history into periods is misleading. The river of history flows fast, or slow, in different places, and always it is the surface that moves most swiftly. In the hills the turbulent waters of history either foam in spate, or run dry; where a river passes over lowland it becomes clogged and slow. In places, where the land curves, the current circles round and round upon itself, or where the current is held behind a boulder, in that deep pool the dead water stays, unstirred. There the slow slugs slide through the slime, and blind fish sleep; there mud-dwellers move, in water so thick it does not even stir the trailing feelers of the tench floating above. Thus, in a backwater of history, man may exist unmoved for centuries.
As you see from my earlier blog posts, there are still beekeepers who actively use skeps today.
I leave you with the article from the 1905 British Beekeepers Journal about David Scott; please enjoy:
HOMES OF THE HONEY BEE
THE APIARIES OF OUR READERS.
We were very pleased to receive the photograph which enables us to illustrate on next page so life-like and characteristic a picture of the two opposite sides of bee-keeping as that depicted. The writer of the following “notes” is not owner of the apiary shown, but a friend, who is also a B.B.J, reader and an amateur photographer, and, being interested in our bee-garden pictures, kindly took the photograph, and sent it on along with a report of his own bee experiences this season.
He says: —
“The above photograph (taken September, 1904, the day on which the hives were brought back from the heather) shows an ancient and a modern bee-keeper, and their methods, side by side. It is the apiary of Mr. David Scott, Kincardine on Forth, situated in the extreme west of Fifeshire, and on the eastern fringe of that great fertile ‘bean-growing plain’, the Carse of Stirling and Falkirk. Bees have been kept by the family of the old man for many generations. His memory can carry him back three-score years and ten, and in all that time, bees have stood at the ‘back door’. I was induced to take this photo, being struck with the similarity between it and the one shown in the ‘B.B.K. Guide Book’ of the old-fashioned apiary in Kent.
“The old man seen on the left is the owner of the bees, but advancing years have compelled him to hand over the management to his nephew, the younger man on the right. He, being a joiner by trade, and becoming possessed of a ‘Guide Book’, speedily saw that the day of the straw skep was fast passing away, and, after a great amount of argument, he at length obtained the consent of the old man to transfer half of the bees to frame-hives. This was done last year, according to instructions given in the ‘Guide Book’, and proved such a success that the remaining skeps, with the exception of one (which the old man insisted should be left for him), were transferred to frame-hives this summer with very gratifying results.
“The season of 1905 has proved the best for a number, of years. We had the advantage of an early and abundant supply of honey-yielding, tree blossom, after which came the bean bloom. Then about the middle of August, we transported our hives to the moors, the heather being earlier in bloom than usual this year. Owing, however, to adverse weather during August and part of September being very wet, the results were by no means up to expectations, very little surplus being; found in the supers; but an examination of the frames, when the hives returned, showed that a large supply had found its way into the body-boxes, which made very little feeding necessary before packing up for the winter.
“My own apiary is situated a short distance from that shown above. I only started bee-keeping two years ago, and, as a believer in the adage, ‘make haste slowly’. I have, as yet, only four hives; not only so, but as there has been no bee-keepers in the family since the days of my grandfather, all my appliances are modern, and a contrast to the state of things recently seen in the apiary of my friend”.
[ https://archive.org/stream/britishbeejourna1905lond#page/445/mode/1up p444 9 November 1905]