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Gormanston - How was it for you?

A report by Chris Slade on the 2008 Summer beekeeping course. Published on the Irish List and in the September 2008 edition of 'An Beachaire' (The Irish Beekeeper) magazine. Chris' text is within the white panel.


Gormanston - How was it for you?

I've just got back, having taken a detour to catch up on sleep, and thought I'd give my personal perspective on the week.

Eddie and the team are to be congratulated on having acted positively to the feedback from last year by re-organising the timetable so one could go from one lecture to another without rush or missing lectures because of overlaps. It worked most of the time except that on the last day I had to ease myself out of Jim Ryan's beeswax workshop in order to get to Sue Cobey's last lecture. Sorry Jim. I think that as a result of the more efficient use of time I got to far more lectures and workshops than usual.

It is remarkable that there were 2 guest (paid!) lecturers from earlier years who were there this year because they wanted to be (paying!) on the receiving end. This is an indication of the quality of the Gormanston experience in general and this year's lecturer in particular.

The downside was that I had less time to chill or to explore or to search for the village of Gormanston which, according to Google, has a population (out of term time) of 400, but which I haven't yet found. Maybe it's one of those magical places that appears for brief periods every 200 years or so. The map shows a Holy Well and an ancient burial mound close by but I haven't been able to find them. I was intending to look again this year but was unable to find the time.

The prize for the funniest lecture of the week has to go to Sister Catherine with the assistance of Joy x from the audience. I joined in myself with a bit of cake decorating. Somebody else might like to give their version. We were all in stitches. Perhaps somebody else (prompt Sister Dolores!) can provide a version.

The principal lecturer was the delectable Professor Sue Cobey with the long blonde hair and soft American accent. I could watch her voice for hours (and did!). She is very approachable and was easily enticed to the traditional evening seminars in the Cock tavern where she would genteelly nurse a bottle (ok, 2) of Guinness from the cold shelf rather than expose her delicate taste buds to the full effects of one from the warm shelf.

A personal highlight for me was the World Premier of my hymn, 'The Lord's my Beekeeper' sung as a duet by Claire and Miriam Kehoe who individually have enchanting voices but collectively are deeply thrilling. For those that missed it - hard luck - you should have been in the Cock at about 2.45am on Friday! I had been hoping that they would be able to sing it at Mass on Wednesday but we, as a whole choir, did the original, ovine, version instead. I am sure that nowadays there are more beekeepers than shepherds so mine will supersede the other eventually.

Just to get my defence in first before John Burgess, whose eyebrows I saw disappearing beneath his hairline on Friday, writes anything defamatory; I have a perfectly innocent explanation for Sister Dolores and I sitting on the sofa in the lounge and holding hands on Friday morning. She had read my hymn (unfortunately she hadn't been able to get to the sung premier) and was enchanted by it. She writes poetry herself and has asked me to review hers and add polish. She related to me her version of the 10 Commandments and it was succinct, original, thought provoking, entertaining and rhymed. I very much doubt whether she needs any help from me but encouragement to write enough to be worth publishing. We agreed to exchange poems, so that'll be good.

I have discovered why Ireland is so badly drained and full of bogs! I was sat at a meal in the Refectory one day when a nearby lass exclaimed, unprompted. 'I'm so happy!' . I ventured that this was a sentiment not often expressed. She explained that she had, pre-prandially, opened a hive and taken out a frame herself for the very first time and had been thrilled to the core! Sensible woman! She explained her plan to site her beehives on the coastal western fringe of Ireland in her Father's field and described how the ditches would provide shelter from the constant winds. Thinking myself perhaps to be a little tired and emotional from the previous evening's seminar I forebore from comment at first and turned the conversation to the merits of sallys as a windbreak and early forage. Eventually the conversation got back to the subject of ditches. It was then that I made an amazing discovery: the Irish (being, of course, Irish) make their ditches upside-down! My interlocutor, whose name, regrettably I can't recall, explained that, in Ireland, ditches are embankments or walls! No wonder it's so soggy!

I had arrived in Ireland a little early and spent a few days in deep countryside 'twixt bog and forest about a quarter of the way up the middle of the country. It was a couple of miles by road from the nearest village and truly rural. I was sleeping in a caravan on the smallholding. I don't know whether or not this is an original observation, but in Ireland at least, at the night of the full moon, wolves howl at midnight by God's Mean Time and not by clock adjusted summer time.

I saw a snake in Dublin!



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