BYGONE DAYS: Ulster honey is ‘the best in the world’ meeting told

The Reverend Thomas McDermott, MA, chairman of the Ulster Beekeepers’ Association, has presided at the first annual meeting of the association which had been held in Belfast in May 1944, reported the News Letter.

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 11:00 am
Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, in April 1980 are: Mr S G Saint, right, with, from left, Mr F R Alexander, president, GAFTA, Mr J G Keeling, UKASTA, Mr W E Stitt, GTA chairman, and Dr James Young, head of Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture. Picture: Farming Life archives
Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, in April 1980 are: Mr S G Saint, right, with, from left, Mr F R Alexander, president, GAFTA, Mr J G Keeling, UKASTA, Mr W E Stitt, GTA chairman, and Dr James Young, head of Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture. Picture: Farming Life archives

The meeting has been attended by large audience which had been “representative of the whole province”.

The report of the honorary secretary-treasurer recorded a year of activity, “the association having been inaugurated in May, 1943”.

There were 24 associations federated with the organisation, and the spread was from “all over the province”.

Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, in April 1980 are: Sir Robin Kinahan, Mr Harry Jordan and Mr Walter Smyth. Picture: Farming Life archives

The honorary secretary-treasurer noted that the latest figures showed that 1,079 individual beekeepers were members of the Ulster Beekeepers’ Association, and that “the organisation was in a sound financial position”.

They added: “The association stands in need of improvement, and it is members alone who can raise the standard of the organisation.”

The report and financial statement were adopted.

The chairman, emphasising the importance of bees, not only from the point of view of honey production but from the fruit growers’ viewpoint, said he would not be surprised if, by the end of that present year, there were between 4,000 and 5,000 beekeepers in Northern Ireland.

Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, in April 1980 are: Mr S G Saint, president, third from right, with guests, from left, Mr John Dilworth, Pigs Marketing Board chairman, Mr John Lynn, Milk Marketing Board chairman, Mr John Laughlin, UFU president, Mr W H Gilliland, UFU general secretary, and Dr George Chambers, Milk Marketing Board. Picture: Farming Life archives

The election of office bearers resulted as follows: Presidents, the Reverend William Martin and Lady Wickham; vice-presidents, Colonel H R Charley, CBE, and Mr Edmond Warnock. KC, MP; chairman, the Reverend T McDermott, MA (Antrim); vice chairman, Mr T Davison (Down); hononary secretary, Mr E RB McCluggage (Antrim); honorary treasurer, Mr M D McCombe (Belfast).

A committee of 12 members was also elected.

The vice-chancellor of Queen’s University, Mr D Lindsay Keir, MA, identified himself with the aspirations of the association, and wished it every success in all their interests.

Lady Wickham, who also addressed the meeting, said that Ulster produced the best honey in the world, “but that they must produce it in much larger quantities”.

Pictured at the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, in April 1980 are: Mr Jim Wilson, Mr Robert Layburn, Mr William McCance, Mr Richard McClure and Mr Fred Walker. Picture: Farming Life archives

VISIT TO FLAX GROWING AREAS

Meanwhile the News Letter’s agricultural correspondent had visited a number of flax growing areas in Northern Ireland and he had been left dismayed by how the crop was being cultivated by some farmers.

They wrote of their visit: “Generally speaking I saw only about two really good fields of this crop. The majority of the crops I looked at were affected either by mistaken cultivation, or by some sort of pest – mainly leather-jacket.

“In some cases I saw flax being grown on land that had been no better prepared for it than by simple ploughing. It is true, of course, that there are men growing flax today who have never grown the crop before; but they should at least have taken steps to make better seed-bed.

Mrs Linda Currie added another honour to her list of distinctions in April 1980 when she was the first lady guest of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association at their annual dinner at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood - as president she was representing the Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster. She is pictured with NIGTA president Mr S G Saint. Picture: Farming Life archives

“One cannot expect to grow flax on the ploughed furrow. I also noted that many of the fields I visited needed rolling very badly.”

Leather-jacket, he noted, had hit some of the flax crop.

They wrote: “As indicated above, I also saw some very bad cases of leather-jacket attack.

“In one case it had practically wiped the crop out. It is regrettable that were badly supplied with Paris Green this season. I do not know who was to blame; but there is not the slightest doubt that this pest will have cost the country a few thousand tons of oats and flax this season.”

THE FLAX BEETLE

The News Letter correspondent added: “Then, again, I saw much damage due to a pest that is not commonly recognised - in fact, I was told that the damage thus caused was usually blamed on frost. The flax flea beetle is a very small black insect, like a flea, that you will usually find feeding on the top shoots the flax. If it ‘gets going’ when the flax in the young two-leaf stage, it can play havoc in the best of fields. It seems to work in patches, and can be readily recognised if the young plants are carefully examined. It will be found that the leaves have been eaten in very much the same way that rabbits attack cabbages. But it usually attacks the softest leaves, or new growths.”