On August 7 and in his 80th year, Somerset Beekeepers’ Association lost an outstanding member and vice-president who had kept bees and been involved with the beekeeping scene, man and boy. David’s name first appears in the yearbook for 1959 as a member of Somerton and District Division but he commenced beekeeping prior to this. He was probably the last surviving member to have met the renowned L. E. Snelgrove.
The family lived in Charlton Mackrell and David’s father, George, was divisional secretary. David became a very skilled beekeeper and teacher who was always willing to share his knowledge and experience with others. He learnt the craft not only from his father but also from Fred Sparks, who lived and operated from the Quarry apiary at Charlton Mackrell and where David, as a youth, spent much of his time.
David became a primary school teacher in Taunton and was keen to interest his pupils in beekeeping too. He was proud of the fact that one of his pupils was William Kirk, now Professor of Applied Biology at Keele University. It was at junior school that William Kirk, so keen on butterflies added bees and other insects to his list of interests. Later in his professional life David became a deputy headmaster but eventually he was seconded and became the regional executive officer for the National Union of Teachers.
In adult life, David, with his family, lived in Taunton and later at Halse, a few miles west of Taunton. I first met David through exhibiting honey. There were many shows in those days, nearly fifty years ago. David was a leading showman and took many prizes for honey and other products. He ceased showing when he had accumulated one thousand prize cards.
The highlight of David’s showing was in 1971 and 1972 when he won the prestigious “Bristol Silver Queen” which is one of the finest and most valuable trophies in this country.
He also wrote articles on various beekeeping topics for the now defunct British Bee Journal.
Over time David became a prominent member of the Taunton and District Division, playing a major role in teaching, demonstrating and generally being involved in helping other beekeepers. He was President of the division between 2011 and 2014. For many years he was editor of the divisional newsletter called Beelines and edited one hundred editions before passing on the role. As archivist he ensured that the Division’s past was guarded and that documents were deposited with the South West Heritage Trust, Norton Fitzwarren, where many of the Association’s records are held. With his background knowledge of the association and particularly with regard to the Heatherton Park apiary he provided me with information that helped me compile a complete history of our association for its centenary. He was also on the team that assembled our centenary exhibition at the Somerset Rural Life Museum.
David was one of Taunton Division’s delegates to Somerset BKA Council and made valuable contributions particularly on matters of procedure and played a major part in the revision of our constitution. David was one of a small team, who with Gerald Fisher created the Association’s first website. It was entered in the website competition at Apimondia, held in Dublin in 2005. It took first prize and David received the medal on the association’s behalf.
David, at one time, ran a large number of hives and worked closely with his old friend Milns Priscott, another lifelong beekeeper, and with Jeff Tinson. They co-operated in their beekeeping, especially on such tasks as taking their bees to the heather and with the extracting. I was once with a party who visited their impressive heather site at Weir Water Valley, near Oare on Exmoor.
In 2017 David received a certificate from the British Beekeepers’ Association in recognition of sixty years of beekeeping and contribution to the craft. It was presented by the then chairman of BBKA, Margaret Murdin at our spring lecture day.
Over all this time David’s input and achievements were vast.
Members of Somerset Beekeepers’ Association extend their condolences to David’s wife, Ann, and to Jonathan and Sandra, their son and daughter.
David Charles, Past President of SBKA