JOHN FAIRFAX-BLAKEBOROUGH was a columnist for the D&S Times for 54 years and during his lifetime wrote 112 books on horseracing and Yorkshire folklore. In his column of 100 years ago, he told of the custom of “telling the bees” which we touched on early in the year when we were delving into bee boles.

It was desperately feared that when someone in a house died, particularly if it were the master who looked after the hive or the bole, if the bees weren’t informed immediately, they would either desert the place or die themselves.

In fact, says Mr Fairfax-Blakeborough, when the news was broken to them, they were often given a party of attractive things hanging up around the hive. On one occasion at Egton on the moors, this party culminated with the bees being given a pipe of tobacco.

How they smoked it is not recorded, but Mr Fairfax-Blakeborough did print the traditional Yorkshire rhyme that needed to be used to break the news to the bees:

Bees! Bees! Death hath been,

This dowly news tell to your queen,

Tell her of the arvel feast –

From the greatest to the least,

Nothing shall be missed I swear,

Every one shall have its share,

Ask her not to swarm today.

Sore at heart, say this I pray,

We bid you join us at the grave,

Give this last boon I humbly crave.