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Gormanston Summer School 2003

NOTE:- There are many pictures of high resolution on this page that may slow down loading.

This is my personal view of a annual convention organised by the Federation Of Irish Beekeeper's Associations, that I have had the privilege to attend every year for the last four years. This year was again outstanding and my enjoyment of it topped all previous years. You do not have to be Irish to attend, although many of the attendees are FIBKA or UBKA members there are about fifty from the UK mainland and a few from even wider afield.

The event is held in the Franciscan college at Gormanston in Ireland. During term time this is a school and boarding school. The college staff are welcoming, hard working and friendly, they go out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one. They respond quickly to the unusual requests that we beekeepers may sometimes make and on occasions have been known to borrow a suit and visit the hives for a look inside.

Frontage of Gormanston College

Sunday 20th July... was my starting point and my travel was uneventful apart from being 'ripped off' by a taxi.

The Monday afternoon saw me in company with John Pollard in the 'Beekeeper's Lounge' (room 14) where we 'brain stormed' the design of a special pair of tweezers for use in instrumental insemination.

In honour of the place and occasion we named it the "Gormanston Tweezer".

  The Beekeeper's Lounge
BIBBA and GBBG information and photographs in the Beekeeper's Lounge  

Both BIBBA and GBBG are well represented at Gormanston, this picture shows their respective displays of photographs and information in the beekeeper's lounge.

Beekeeping videos are played on a machine in the beekeeper's lounge... FIBKA has an extensive video collection organised by Redmond Williams.

The beekeeper's lounge is used on the Thursday evening for what is termed a 'social evening' in the brochure, but in reality is a 'sing along' and 'party piece' occasion.

As I have described previous Gormanston conferences, this years page is a little different and shows various aspects of the occasion that you might not see in the 'official' brochures.

The guest lecturer this year was
Professor Mark L. Winston
B.A., M.A. Boston University
PhD University of Kansas
Room B8276, (604) 291-4459
Biological Sciences
Simon Fraser University

He is pictured here relaxing in the Cock Tavern with a beer.

  Mark Winston at the Cock Tavern

Mark Winston's lectures were so well attended that many people were sitting on the lecture theatre floor when seating ran out.

groups chatting in the main foyer  

Discussion and talk among visitors and lecturers is a big feature of this gathering of beekeepers. Here are some chatting in the main foyer, but you will see small groups like this in all the corridors and on the landings of the main staircase, as well as outside the front of the building on the main stone steps of the entrance.

There is a floor below the foyer where there are drinks machines, vending machines and a 'tuck shop'.

The dinner queue is another place that many conversations take place. The queue forms in a very large corridor shown at right.

The meals are not lavish, but they are always tasty and wholesome. The queues form early so that is a good indication that they are well thought of.

Mealtimes are rigid with breakfast at 8.00 am, lunch at 12.30 pm and the evening meal is served at 17.00 hrs.

  Dinner queue corridor

Dinner queue starting to form in the corridor

The cafeteria style meals themselves are taken in a large dining hall and offer yet another conversation facility.

Gormanston College dining hall

In the above picture you will notice that there is a screened off area at the left, this is the salad bar at mealtimes and is also used to serve coffee, tea and biscuits during the mid morning and mid afternoon breaks in the lecture streams.

To keep everyone informed there is a notice board in one of the main corridors. All lectures, workshops and examination schedules are listed along with any schedule changes or notices.

There is a coach tour that runs on the Thursday afternoon, the details of this can be found on the notice board.

Just visible on the notice board is a copy of the group photograph that is normally taken before Wednesday lunch, but this year there was a downpour of rain at the critical time, several attempts were made to get everyone together, but only a few were present when the picture was finally taken.

  Notice board in the main corridor

A better indication of what the group photo normally looks like, can be seen on Last Year's Page.

Observation hive in the main corridor  

This main corridor is always bustling with activity as it has the Federation Office, Treasurer's office, the beekeeper's lounge and a room at the end where Ben Harden will sell you some beekeeping equipment.

These offices are multi function... Michael Woulfe is the course convener and is aided by his wife Kathleen. Eddie O'Sullivan is the course manager (who is always kept busy). Dr Brendan Coughlan is the education officer and Graham Hall will sort out your subscription to 'An Beachaire' (The Irish Beekeeper) magazine.

The main corridor also houses an observation hive that has a tubular entrance set in a wooden plate that temporarily replaces the window that would normally be present.

Ben Harden's room is partly illustrated at right, where yet more discussion is taking place. Ben has a range of beekeeping equipment available, but as his customer base is relatively small, this range is not quite as wide as many suppliers in mainland Britain. He is always willing to give advice on any aspect of beekeeping equipment or management methods.

You may gather that much discussion and occasionally argument goes on among beekeepers, but any disagreements are usually friendly.

On a day to day basis we keep in touch by using the 'Irish List' which is one of the Email discussion groups for beekeepers and is most appropriate to UK and Irish beekeeping.

  Discussion in Ben Harden's room

One feature of the Gormanston week is that many will take their families, it does not matter that they may not be interested in beekeeping as there are many facilities available. There is a golf course, a large swimming pool, extensive gardens and grounds and many places that can be visited by bicycle. Some families meet up every year and their children have grown up knowing each other.

Here is a picture of Dody Dineen (who organises the honey show) and her family, who have been going to Gormanston for many years.

  Dody Dineen and Family

As much discussion occurs in the pub as in the college itself, not that we are drunkards (I have only ever seen one man drunk), but I drink more in the one week of the conference than I drink in the remaining 51 weeks of the year. The group of photographs that follow, that were taken in the Cock Tavern, do not tell any tales, but I hope that they purvey the atmosphere of enjoyment of beekeepers immersed in their subject.

deep in conversation   listening intently
Norman and Ethel What did they say?
Expounding   Listening

Chris and myself were the only people drinking the bottled variety of Guinness
I told you that we drank the pub out of bottled Guinness last Year!

two beekeepers sorry about the picture quality
happily contemplating tomorow's exam It was this high!
I do not know what he is describing with his hands more beekeepers
Chris Slade Claire Sally

You cannot go very far in Ireland without encountering nuns or monks. Beekeeping is no exception and the three ladies depicted at right are well know at Gormanston. They are from left to right Sr. Catherine, Sr. Paul and Sr. Monica. They are from the Convent of Mercy, Hale Street, Ardee, Co. Louth.

more details of Sr. Catherine's work are available on this link (as well as a larger version of the photograph).

  Sr. Catherine, Sr. Paul and Sr. Monica

On the Friday I departed from my normal course of action in order to attend a lecture given by Claire Chavasse... It had an unusual title (Banana Skins, Procedures that can go horribly wrong), but this was not my reason... My reason was that although I met her for the first time in 2000, I had never seen her do any lecturing before. I enjoyed her lecture and had intended to take a more formal photograph, but I was unable to corner her to do so.

The rest of Friday morning was taken up by some measuring on some sample combs provided by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda. Some measurements and photographs were taken (and they will be written up on a web page in due course), but the measurements were not as complete as I would have liked as Chris Slade's plaster of Paris failed to cure properly and the plugs disintegrated as I dissected them out.

Practical examinations are part of the courses. The view below is of some of the beginners taking their 'preliminary' practical examination on the Friday afternoon.

practical examinations taking place

Saturday 28th July... the winding down session including the presentation of certificates, awards and golf prizes.

people gathering for the presentation of prizes and certificates

The presentation and the midday meal that follows it marks the end of the official proceedings, but a few of us stay on for a day or two just to enjoy the surroundings. So it was Axel Jorgensen, David Allen and myself that spent a couple of hours of Saturday evening in the Huntsman pub (just by way of a change).

Sunday 29th July...
After breakfast, I was given a lift to the airport by David Allen where I rested and had a couple of meals, then finally flew from Dublin to East Midlands in the late evening.

The 2004 summer school starts on July 26th and runs to July 31st... I recommend it strongly to any beekeeper of any degree of experience or age.

For details and booking write to:-

Michael Woulfe,
Railway House, Midleton,
Co. Cork. Eire.
or phone 00353-(0)21-631011.

Email Contact can be made via...
Eddie O'Sullivan

I have pledged to be there myself. I hope the page above has whetted your appetite as I believe that this event, although heard about by many, is not understood to be the magnificent event that it really is. No matter what continent you live on... This meeting is worth the effort.