60th Anniversary of North Kildare Beekeepers Association
North Kildare Beekeepers Association (NKBKA) was proved in 1961 with a membership of 8. In 2021 – 60 years later, that membership has risen to 350.
Michael Sloane and Peter O’Reilly were key members of the Association’s Founding group. They were both Horticultural Instructors and through their great vision, energy, and commitment, they established a very solid foundation for the future.
Two key elements of this were (1) the establishment of an association apiary for hands-on training of members and (2) the provision of an annual beginners’ course, which would cover all the main activities of the beekeeping year. NKBKA still retain these elements as being central to our activities. The beginners’ courses in 2020 and 2021 were conducted via Zoom with participation over 9 weeks averaging 120 per session.
Our third Association apiary – the Peter O’Reilly Training Apiary – was opened in 2021 in the grounds of Russborough House near Blessington. Our two other apiaries are located in Leixlip and the Curragh.
Peter O’Reilly is President of the NKBKA and has been an inspiration for decades, not just for our Association but for beekeepers throughout the country. He served as Hon. Sec. of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations (FIBKA) on two occasions from 1975 to1977 and 1989 to 2019. He was President from 1971 to 1974 and a life Vice President from 1978 until his resignation in 2014. In his position as County Agricultural Officer for Kildare, he promoted beekeeping by giving talks to various groups at every opportunity. He also emphasised very strongly to beekeepers that they had a responsibility to ensure that the perfect hive product – honey – reached the consumer in as near a perfect state as possible. Peter became Ireland’s first Honey Judge in 1980.
The Association’s numbers were in the 50-70 bracket during the 1980s and 90s. Towards the end of the last millennium the interest in bees and beekeeping grew due to the highlighting of the plight of honey bees and other pollinators. This interest was reflected in the numbers attending the Beginners’ Course annually (100 to 140) and also our membership numbers. Many people were motivated by ecological concerns and their interest broadened to include all pollinators. Many embarked on planting their gardens with pollinator-friendly species.
Some other activities of NBKA are the annual Honey Show; a monthly newsletter to members; a ‘Bee Buddies’ WhatsApp platform for exchanging information; annual tree planting; educational visits to school; a queen rearing group; monthly talks on bee related topics by our own members and national and international figures; exhibitions during Heritage Week in Carton House and Russborough; apiary management.
To provide all of this requires a huge effort and the contribution of consecutive officers and committees cannot be overstated. What has helped in this management was the decision that our officers may hold office for three years only but may then be voted into a different position if they so wish. This prevents them from feeling ‘saddled’ with a job as well as extending the administrative knowledge base. The use of sub-committees is also very helpful.
I have omitted naming people because the list would be so long. However, it would be remiss not to mention Colm O’Neill for his lifelong commitment to the Association. His generosity in sharing his abundant knowledge and skills and his boundless energy and enthusiasm have been central to NKBKA’s success and development. His home apiary has been hosting beekeepers for decades with all activities ending with Imelda’s cakes and buns!
The spirit and energy in NKBKA are very strong and we look forward to the continued promotion of beekeeping and to serving beekeepers for many years to come.