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W.W. (Willie) Smith

Designer of the Smith Hive

Willie Smith of Innerleithen in Peebles is credited with being Scotland's first commercial beekeeper, some sources stating he was Scotland's greatest ever beekeeper. He designed the Smith hive, but apart from that I have not been able to find much information about him. What little I have here has been gleaned from a few sources, or what I was told by beekeepers who knew him.

I remember in the 1960s seeing a film he had been involved in making. He was asked quite a complicated question to which his answer was simply "yes"! I gather from that he was a quiet man, so that is probably the reason there is little recorded about him. He obviously made a great contribution to beekeeping and I can remember Scottish beekeepers in my earlier years speaking about him with great affection. One old Scottish beekeeper by the name of Norman Stewart told me that Willie Smith attended a local BKA meeting at someone's apiary. They said they didn't get such big crops as Willie, to which his reply was apparently something like "if you move them further up that hill they will do better". Apparently they did.

Apparently Willie Smith took up beekeeping to help him to get over what he witnessed in WW1 at the Battle of the Somme. I have no knowledge of when he became commercial, but it seems the Smith hive was designed about 1928.

I was told that Willie Smith wanted a small inexpensive hive that would suit his non-prolific bees, yet had the benefits of some of the American designs. This was not available, so he set about designing a hive around the British Standard frame, but with short lugs and top bee space. The result was a very simple hive with brood boxes and supers that are easily made from four boards. Apparently Willie Smith made most, if not all his own hives. I have no idea how many colonies he ran.

I understand that Willie Smith was born in 1890 and I have come across one reference of him passing away in 1969. He was apparently a chauffeur before taking up full time beekeeping in about 1933.

If anyone can add to or correct any of the above I would appreciate it if they could Email me.

Roger Patterson.