David Kemp Has Died

With David Kemp in Nottinghamshire
With David Kemp in Nottinghamshire

I spent a lovely afternoon with David in the summer of 2017 at one of his favourite pubs in Kelham, Nottinghamshire. He was an incredible character with an endless supply of stories, laughter and enthusiasm for life and wildlife. Sadly he has left us now. I’m so grateful that he helped me out by agreeing to be a chapter in my book, Interviews with Beekeepers. Commiserations to his family and friends.

Rest In Peace

Andy Wattam, who knew David far better than I, has kindly written a few words:

David Kemp was born in December 1937 in the Nottinghamshire Mining Village of Rainworth.

David kept bees from an early age, encouraged by the caretaker of the local primary school, who kept bees near to where David lived. He left school aged 15 to start working for the Forestry Commission. Each morning, he was collected from Rainworth in a canvas-backed truck and taken to the workplace for the day, along with other foresters.

Royal Air Force then Gamekeeper

Three years later, David went into the RAF to do his National Service, based at RAF Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire as part of the catering squadron. He often joked in later life that there was nothing like 2 or 3 dustbins full of potatoes to peel straight after breakfast to focus the mind for the day.

David returned to his native Nottinghamshire to start work as the gamekeeper on the Welbeck Estate, working for the Duke of Portland. Thus began a life-long connection with gamekeeping which ignited his interest in firearms.

Assistant to Brother Adam

In 1964 David applied for an apiary assistant role at Buckfast Abbey, working with Brother Adam. He was successful and started on a standard agricultural workers wage. David was involved in all aspects of the work of the bee department, including queen rearing and working at the famous Sherberton mating station on Dartmoor.

In 1974 David left Buckfast Abbey, having decided to move closer to home, and became a Seasonal Bee Inspector. He covered Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, working out of the MAFF Office at Chalfont Drive in Nottingham. Seasonal Bee Inspectors were offered clerical work in the winter months. David worked on Hill Farm Subsidy Payments, serving many farmers in the less favourable areas in Derbyshire.

Bee Inspector

When MAFF set up the system of Bee Inspection Regions in the early 1990’s David applied for and was appointed Regional Bee Inspector for the Midlands Region. He covered Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire with a team of Seasonal Bee Inspectors. Later, David’s area became the North Eastern Region, and he gained all of Yorkshire but lost Northamptonshire.

Davids stint with the National Bee Unit at Luddington and then at Sand Hutton near York continued until 2008, working with MAFF and Central Science Laboratory. He was well known for his involvement in the training and education part of the Bee Inspectorate. His slide shows of his time at Buckfast Abbey were famous and toured far and wide. David’s time saw him involved in many major disease outbreaks and the original varroa searches when it first arrived in the UK.

Bees, Guns and Antiques

His retirement gave him time to tend his bees, firearms and antiques. He kept in touch with his wide circle of rural friends and continued with his Buckfast Abbey slide shows.

David passed away peacefully at his brother’s home at Whitwell in Derbyshire on the 4th of February 2022.

Here are some places to find out more about the incomparable David K:


2 thoughts on “David Kemp Has Died

  1. […] recent passing of David Kemp prompted me to review some of my notes from when I interviewed him. Mike Palmer often says that he […]

  2. […] I interviewed David Kemp about how Brother Adam raised queens, he told me that June was when they did it. Adam kept […]

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