"A-Z" INDEX
  &   SEARCH
SUBJECT
INDEX
David A. Cushman logo
Claire Chavasse - An Appreciation
by Tom Barrett

There are links at upper left to a couple of articles, one about Claire as GBBG 'editor in chief' and the other written by her about Gormanston, which she loved as much many others do.

There is nothing that would describe the brilliance with which Claire Chavasse shone in her pursuit of beekeeping. Tom Barrett's text below was published on the Irish List, itself one of Tom's creations, I have dressed it up with a few images, but the rest of the words on this page are his. I am sure these words are echoed by many that knew her.

Claire Chavasse March 2006, Photo... Norman Walsh I first met Claire shortly after I started beekeeping in 1997 in those glorious beekeeping times pre varroa and Colony Collapse Syndrome.

When I first heard Claire lecture, I immediately recognised a different type of Lecturer. Claire Chavasse possessed in great measure the qualities of knowing her subject inside out and being able to teach it to an audience in a very assured manner. She was a teacher and a beekeeper all rolled into one.

This first meeting with her I believe was when she gave a Lecture to the Dublin Beekeepers on the subject of Temperature in a Bee hive. The lecture lasted over an hour and was the most detailed lecture I heard before or since. The amount of detailed and absolutely correct information which she laid before us was astounding and when I checked on some of it afterwards I found it to be correct. I say checked on some of it because when I found out that what I had checked was correct I stopped checking. I thought to myself that someday I would love to be able to lecture like that, but it has still eluded me and perhaps always will.

Claire was one of the presenters during the lectures given on varroa throughout the country, to get beekeepers up to speed on how to handle the mite. Her presentations were always accompanied by the exhortation 'Know your enemy' and she proceeded to give clear direct instructions on how to handle the mite.

I never visited Claire's Apiary in her home County of Waterford, but I daresay it must have been as neat as a new pin with everything in place and everything up to date if it was anything like her lectures.

For many years Claire was the Editor of the Newsletter of the Galtee Bee Breeding Group of which she was a long time member.

But it was at Gormanston, where Claire lectured for many years, where Claire really shone, facing as she did some of the finest beekeepers in the world who rarely if ever took any prisoners during question and answer sessions. Her documentation was of the highest order and that was in the pre Power Point days. Claire's handling of bees was a sight to behold. She was always so careful not to harm a bee yet she handled the hive quickly, but always with great care.

Claire Chavasse at Gormanston, Photo... Norman Walsh And this attitude of caring was not confined to bees - Claire dealt on the same basis with her fellow man.

I remember during Apimondia 2003 in Slovenia, my wife Brigid lost a ticket for her clothing at a swimming pool. Claire and her husband Hal noticed her distress whereupon both of them assisted Brigid in her difficulty and both stayed with her until the difficulty was cleared up. What a lovely couple - Brigid never forgot that kindness, and it was the first thing that Brigid reminded me of when I told her the sad news.

I placed my money on Claire - in a manner of speaking - in Gormanston when I was facing my Final Exam in Beekeeping. It happened like this.

Varroa had been found and was making its way around Ireland. It was virtually certain that there would be a question on varroa and a good chance that the much feared first obligatory question would be on varroa. It was thus essential to have as good a knowledge on varroa as possible. Two lectures on varroa were being given at the same time, one by the Guest Lecturer for Advanced beekeepers and the other by Claire for beginners. I thought about which lecture I should attend and decided to attend Claire's.

When I sat down to await the lecture, Claire came to me and said "What are you doing here Tom? - you should be at the Senior Lecture". No Claire, I replied, I should be here and I will tell you why. The Senior Lecturer has considerable practical experience on varroa and you thankfully at present have none. Therefore you will be concentrating on the theoretical aspect of varroa, and best practices in handling it, and that is what the Examiner wants to see on my paper. She was slightly embarrassed by this but agreed. That lecture on varroa contributed greatly to my passing the Exam.

Claire was a contributor to this List over the years and when she wrote in, her posts were well worth reading. She will be greatly missed by Irish Beekeepers for her enthusiasm for, and for her untiring energy in, promoting the Craft.

I am a better beekeeper for having had the honour of meeting her, listening to her lectures and of having the opportunity of discoursing with her. I am diminished by her passing.

I wish to extend to Hal and her family and extended family my sincere condolences on their great loss.

Claire Chavasse, a great lady and a great beekeeper passed away on 9th August 2007 (note the date in figures 9/8/7).

Tom Barrett
Dublin
Ireland