I know a man whose life long interest in bees is such that he places more reliance on bee behaviour as a means of weather forecasting than on the utterances of the weather forecasters on radio and television. If a bee flies back to it's hive on a sunny day this, he says, is a clear signal that rain is about. Thunder and lightning and heavy squalls can be expected if the bees become noisy. Unfortunately not many of us have the facilities for observing the behaviour of bees at close quarters and must rely on other sources for our weather information.
Beekeeping has always been a rural based activity and in South Kildare a Beekeepers Association has been functioning for over 60 years. On the 19th of March 1930 the South Kildare Beekeepers Association was founded. Some of the founding members were Fr. M.J. Kinnane C.C.; Brother P. Dolan Superior C.B.S.; Pat Guilfoyle, Fortbarrington; Charles Chambers, Farmhill; F.B. Youell; Anthony Reeves, Reevesmount; and W.A. Tyndall, Horticultural Instructor in Naas. In May 1930 Fintan Brennan joined and became Secretary of the Association.
Fr. Kinnane was the Associations first Chairman and he organised demonstrations and lectures in beekeeping. South Kildare was the first Beekeepers Association in Ireland to establish standards for bottled honey. The Policy of producing a high grade bottled honey rather than sectioned honey was adopted by the Association. Honey from the local hives was bottled with a label bearing the name of the Association and a map of Ireland with an individual number allocated to each honey producer. Honey from South Kildare was despatched to all parts of Ireland and Jacobs, the biscuit manufacturers and the Monument Creameries, both of Dublin, were buyers of substantial quantities of the product.
The Association Secretary, Fintan Brennan, carried out spot checks on honey supplied by members and honey of poor quality or appearance was required to be replaced. In this way high standards were set and maintained for honey produced in South Kildare.
In 1939 the Association won practically all the awards at the Ballsbridge Show against opposition from all over Ireland. That same year the Athy based group received the unique distinction of being chosen by the Irish Free State Commissioner in London to supply honey for shows in London, Manchester and Liverpool.
In 1936 Fintan Brennan and J.J. Bergin of Maybrook, Athy, gave a talk on Radio Eireann on the production of bottled honey as a cottage industry in Athy and South Kildare. The success of the early years was not maintained and in 1945, largely due to the low prices then prevalent for honey and the high cost of beekeeping equipment, the Kildare Beekeepers Association went into decline.
It was Michael Moore of Athy who was responsible for re-activating the Association following his attendance at week long Beekeepers Courses in Gormanstown in 1962 and 1963. With the encouragement of the Secretary of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers he reformed the Beekeepers Association in South Kildare. In this he received the active co-operation of the former Secretary Fintan Brennan and the Association was re-established with approximately ten members including Tom Maher of Kildangan, Mrs. Leigh, Burtown, her daughter Betty N.T. who was elected Secretary, Tom Donoghue, St. Joseph's Terrace and Paddy Cummins of Luggacurran. Fintan Brennan was elected Chairman.
In 1974 Michael Moore was appointed a National Judge of Honey and in 1979 Librarian to the Federation of Irish Beekeepers of Ireland. A member of their Executive Council for many years he was joined on the Executive Council by Brother C. O'Farrell, C.B.S., Athy, in 1975. It was Brother O'Farrell who in 1971 achieved the highest honour for South Kildare honey when he won the World Cup at the National Honey Show in London.
Prior to 1930 there was no tradition of beekeeping or honey production in South Kildare. In the years since the Association was founded a number of dedicated men and women have made a major contribution to the raising of honey production standards and today bottled honey bearing the South Kildare Association label is guaranteed to contain honey of a high standard and appearance.