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W.W. (Willie) Smith (1890-1969)

Designer of the Smith Hive

Willie Smith of Innerleithen in Peeblesshire is widely credited with being Scotland's first commercial beekeeper, some authoritative sources stating he was Scotland's greatest ever beekeeper. After reading this, I had an email from Hugh Hood, who wrote "Not sure of the information on Willie Smith being the first Commercial Beekeeper in Scotland - I am sure there are a few that were before his time." He pointed me to the British Bee Journal 1887, pages 322-323, where there was a short article about William McNally, known at the "Wigtownshire Bee Farmer", who made a living from 140 colonies of bees. Willie Smith was a chauffeur, whose employer encouraged him to keep bees when he wasn't needed as a driver. He became a successful commercial beekeeper for around 40 years, making a living off no more than 150 colonies of bees.

Willie Smith wanted a small inexpensive hive that would suit his conditions and native bees, yet had the benefits of the American Langstroth hive. This was not available, so in about 1928 he set about designing a hive using 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. He also designed other items including the Smith Comb Cutter/Scraper.

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.

Willie Smith was obviously a very good beekeeper, one of the old school who understood his bees. In the hope of him influencing present day beekeepers and not forgotten there is a PDF available by clicking the button top left. This is an article that was first published in "The Scottish Beekeeper" in 1963, with a later addition by Willie Robson. Sadly in the modern day Willie Smith would probably be disregarded because he didn't have any beekeeping qualifications.

Willie Smith tutored George Hood (no relation to Hugh), who took over when Willie retired. Hoods Honey is still in existence today, using the same strain of bee and equipment that Willie Smith had in the 1930s.

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

Roger Patterson.

Page created 11/12/2017

Page updated 17/11/2020