The origins of our association date back to the late 19th century when there was increased interest in national organisation and the improvement of all things rural, people, communities, agricultural practices, the Lowlands, Highlands and Islands. Many intellectual societies had formed previously during the 'Scottish Enlightenment' of the 18th century patronised by some of Scotland's most famous sons: Adam Smith, Francis Hutcheson, James Watt, John Playfair, James Hutton, Robert Adam, Robert Burns, James Anderson, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Reid and more. Many of these continued contributing greatly to British science well into the 19th century, their achievements influencing the next generations and shape of the countryside we see today.
The Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, (founded in Edinburgh 1784) encouraged improvement of land and the development of machinery and implements and agricultural skills encompassing livestock breeding, produce production, ploughing and other rural practices. In a letter to the Society Feb 1891, Thomas David Gibson-Carmichael (1859-1926), landowner and up and coming MP for Midlothian with a keen interest in improving the land and well being of both rural inhabitants and livestock, requested that the Society should also encourage beekeeping, which had seen dramatic improvements in practice and technique. At the same time he was playing a key role in setting up the first form of the Scottish Beekeepers' Association and later its first and then only local association - Midlothian. In the same year he succeeded his father as 11th Baronet and his career advanced taking him eventually to Governorship of Victoria, Madras, Bengal, then Lord Lieutenant of Peeblesshire, among a host of other prominent positions. As the great driving force behind the early organisations became more distant, interest dwindled and although the infant national organisation disappeared, the Midlothian Association founded in 1894 continued. Some 30 years later the Midlothian organisation joined forces with a Edinburgh BKA (which had been founded in 1918) and the EMBA was born. The SBA revived c.1912 and continues today.
In 2018 we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh association.
EMBA Meeting Places
Meetings in the mid 20th century were held in Edinburgh in a building above Victoria Street. In the late sixties meetings moved to the 17th century Cannonball House at the top of the Royal Mile where they remained for several years. Other known locations were St James Square, Lawn Market Buildings, and the Village Hall in Juniper Green. Paul Miller, an EMBA member and employee of an Animal Breeding Organisation at Kings Buildings, later obtained permission to hold the meetings at the West Mains Road Campus and enjoy the use of the more modern facilities on offer there. This proved satisfactory for some considerable time until a more central location with good facilities and parking became available in the shape of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Today, we use the Eric Liddell centre in Bruntsfield for our winter talks and annual honey show, with our training sessions being held at the Strathbrock Partnership Centre, Broxburn, within easy reach of the teaching apiaries.
The Royal Highland Show
Minutes of the Highland Society record: 4th February 1891 - a letter from Thomas Gibson-Carmichael asking the Highland Society to encourage bee-keeping; 1st April 1914 - a letter sent on behalf of the Scottish Bee-Keepers' Association for six medals to be awarded for honey at the Highland Show at Hawick; 8th January 1919 -'That classes for bee-keeping and honey be instituted' at the Highland Shows; 1st March 1922 - South of Scotland Beekeepers' Association unable to fund prizes at the 1922 Dumfries Show, but that the Scottish Beekeepers' Association had agreed to contribute one-fourth of the prize-money.
The Royal Highland Show is the flagship enterprise of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, and is Scotland's premier agricultural event. The Shows, held since 1822, moved around locations for over a century before gaining a permanent residence at Ingliston in 1960. At that time East of Scotland Beekeeping Advisor George Smith, with the assistance of EMBA members, was responsible for organising the beekeeping stall which shared premisses with butter and cheese exhibitors and, although small, managed to display and sell beekeeping products and supplies and to advertise and recruit SBA members. Over the next half century this would develop into a large and immensely popular international show venue.
John Moir - Library
John Moir, born in Edinburgh 1851, was a beekeeper and a founder member of the Scottish Beekeepers' Association in 1912, and its first Vice Chairman. The Moir Library, his collection of books, is housed in Fountainbridge Library and the National Library of Scotland ( his collection of rare books), and is a classic example of how one man's enthusiasm eventually led to the establishment of a world class resource which is now available to benefit others.