I’m just back from a long day, the important feature of which was the funeral of my friend and fellow beekeeper, David Loo at Newton St Cyres, a village to the west of Exeter, well over an hour’s drive from home. Much of the time I was driving through light rain or drizzle but at my destination the roads were dry. I had planned to be there early but it was one of those days when everything goes wrong so I was 10 minutes late. I wasn’t the only one as there was a lady in the porch awaiting an opportunity to slide in unobtrusively. I gently opened the door and we went in together and were handed the service booklets with a photo of David in Police uniform on the front.
The Church was packed! At first I couldn’t see a vacant seat anywhere but, after standing for a while, I saw one at the side near the front and headed for it. I found I was directly opposite the coffin. I had missed the opening prayers and first hymn: Love Divine, all loves excelling; and also the Reading from Revelation 21, verses 1 – 5, but was in time for The Call from Five Mystical Songs, words by George Herbert set by Ralph Vaughan Williams and sung most impressively by Charles Hughes.
A tribute by his widow, Pauline, was read to us by Christopher Lee. Then came a hymn, new to me: Brother, sister, let me serve you by Richard Gillard, followed by David’s sister, Margaret reading well composed reminiscences about him.
A quartet: Peter Morton, Patrick Hughes, Mark Perry and Charles Hughes sang the traditional song: This Little Light of Mine arranged by Geraint Roberts. Then came the address by the Venerable David Gunn-Johnson. He told us that, although David had not been in the habit of attending services at the Church, he frequently helped in practical ways such as attending to woodwork and the clock and also in supplying beeswax candles.
After prayers and a commendation the last hymn was Guide me O thou great Redeemer to the tune of Cwm Rhondda, during the last verse of which the undertakers started to move David in his coffin down the aisle and out to the graveyard, followed by the congregation. Some people followed the coffin up the hill of the cemetery for the interment but most of us stayed near the door and talked.
After a while the burial party came back, including Pauline, David’s widow, who is nowadays confined to a wheelchair. We made our way the short distance down the hill to the Village Hall where a splendid buffet was awaiting us Having lunched on a packet of crisps whilst driving I was glad of the fare.
It was noticeable that the beekeepers present gathered together almost as a drone congregation with one queen: Jan Stuart, who had driven David and I to Gormanston (via the ferry) in 2014. The current BBKA President, John Hendrie, was there and also a number of former holders of that office. David had been prominent in beekeeping for many years, mainly through DARG and he and Pauline attended many conferences distributing DARG literature.
Eventually people started to leave and I followed suit. Instead of heading for home, I headed further west to Okehampton where I bought some brood frames in National Bee Supplies. From there I carried on further west to Tremaine in Cornwall to do a little gardening on my friend, Steve’s, plot ‘Forty’, so called because it is 40 leagues from his home. He’s disabled nowadays and can’t drive so I try to help prevent the nettles swamping the orchids. I also baited a couple of empty hives.
Then came the long drive home through occasional light drizzle. I diverted to the Luppitt Inn, a few miles north of Honiton towards the Blackdown Hills. Mary, now 94, was still there and served me a pint of Otter straight from the barrel for £2.50. The first time she served me, 54 years ago, it was a half of cider costing sixpence! I stayed for about half an hour and we had a good chat.
I was the only customer and there had been only one yesterday. I do urge people to visit it while they can to help keep this unique hostelry open. Google it to find out more about it and how to find it.
Now, I wonder who has told David’s bees that they’ve lost their Master?