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William Hessel Hall, Pioneer Blue Mountains Beekeeper, Lapstone Apiary, Emu Plains, 1895

Hessel’s first born son, Duncan, recalled in his unpublished memoirs, c1976 “William Hessel Hall married
on 21 September 1887 at Corowa to Jeannie Duncan (both born in 1861) 1 of Scottish parents who
emigrated to Australia in 1852. Both she and William were first generation Australians. He had graduated
from Sydney University in 1884, well trained in the classics, awaiting a call to a Methodist parish. As
expected the early years of his marriage were spent in various parsonages. He spent terms as a Methodist
minister in Adelong, Glen Innes and Queanbeyan. Frequently visited Cooma and Bombala doing long
trips on horseback. The first child, Elvie, was born in 1889 in Adelong; I (was born) in 1891 in Glen
Innes; 2 Lincoln in 1892 in Queanbeyan. By the time the youngest child was born in 1894 the parson had
left the church and Machin was born at Lapstone.” 3
Duncan wrote of his father’s bee farm “My impression that the first recollection at the old home to which
we gave the name Lapstone was when I arrived in a horse drawn buggy at the site of the old home and
spent my first night there in a tent with my grandfather, John Duncan, who was a first class architect and
good worker, trained in Dundee before his family decided to migrate to newly opened goldfields in
Ballarat in Victoria. The site of our tent was also the site on which the house would be put which ever
after until the termites demolished it was to be our home and bore the date 1895. Boyhood spent on our
tiny four acre plot which my father had purchased as a bee farm. He was quick to realize that dependence
on bee keeping needed wider study, and he found that knowledge in A. I. Roots The ABC of Beekeeping.”
Duncan recalled 4 that by 1905 his father had made the surrounds of Lapstone into “a beauty spot with
trees and flowering shrubs.” On beekeeping activities “The photo of Father in his apiary shows about 130
hand-made hives. Flows were now so great that there was no time to do anything else at harvest time - the
taking off of the “supers”, loaded with honey, was done at night by Father. He wheeled them to the honey
room in a special hand-made hive barrow.
In times of extreme pressure in the honey flow, all hands were put to work, uncapping and extracting the
honey in the hand-operated extractor and returning the empty supers to the hives late at night. The work
could last to midnight, with Mother usually staying to the end. The last time I saw my father was in 1939.
At 78 his mind was as lucid as ever. I persuaded him to write an account of his work on bees which,
because of its scientific interest, I annex to this book. 5 The text is just as he wrote it in his scholarly hand
without pause with scarcely a change of word: How he got first swarms from the bush, re-queened the
black bees (the original honey bee brought from England early in our history) converting them with
leather coloured Italians.

Hessel was born at Waverley, Sydney on 4 August 1861
Born 8 March 1891, died at the age of 85 on 5 July 1976 at Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A.
Machin recalled that he was born at Glenmore
His papers are held at the Australian National Library, catalogue MS 5547, this item is Box 59 Folder 2
as at April 2001, Alan Hall, grandson, has not been able to locate either Hessel’s hand written twelve page article
on his beekeeping records nor the 6” by 9” record book itself. It may yet come to light, although c1976, Duncan
noted “Did it survive ?”
caricature of Hessel Hall at age 33
Daily Telegraph, 10 July 1894
His trouble about swarming and how he created over 20 years by selection and breeding of queens those
with a good non-swarming record until he had an apiary of non-swarming bees. His records meticulously
written up, hive by hive, were kept in a black book 6” by 9”. (He) bred a strain of Italian bees noted for
their honey quality, docile temper, non-swarming.
(My father’s) conviction (was) that men needed to get back to a simpler life closer to nature. He wanted to
be his own master - bees was one of his many interests, just a tiny foothold in honey rich mountain land.
This view finds its best expression in his comments in the article he wrote, titled “Not for Hire” 6 in The
Guide for Immigrants and Settlers prepared by the Agricultural Department of the NSW Government.”
Duncan shared the role of beekeeper with his father “Bees were the means whereby my father and I
learned to speak a limited common language and to understand each other at least in this limited field. In
the very early days when the wild black bees emerged from their winter torpor, my father would take me
with him every day into the bush to hunt for bee trees. I was soon adept at finding them. The black
English bees had taken over the forests. They could be dangerous. I witnessed the dreadful death agonies
of a fine young horse, plowing (sic) very early in the day to be safe, stung to death when a swarm settled
on him. From the bee trees we felled, the bees 7 and honey were saved if possible, and a new hive would
take its place by the others in my father’s apiary.
By that time they had been transformed into docile Italians, which was done by killing the old Queen and
replacing her with a gentle caged Italian Queen which the bees would accept when she had eaten her way
through the plug of candy protecting her until the bees were used to her. To find a swarm of bees no one
else had seen, my routine is still, essentially, that of the old bushman: look carefully twelve feet ahead to
see that the path is safe – no rocks or snakes in the way – and then glance up at the trees to look for birds
or even a swarm of bees, escaped perhaps from my own hive.”
As a boy, Machin attended Emu Primary School. The building still stands beside the old Great Western
Highway on the western side of the Nepean River. Machin recounted “The school would have been
pulled down … but for my intervention. I had heard that the building was threatened and I asked Mr.
Heffron if he would look into it. As he had been driving past he noticed the school and decided that it

This title was not adopted by the publisher, Intelligence Department, N.S.W. Govt. The Preface by its Director H. C.
Anderson “We are indebted for the valuable article on Bee-keeping, the result of his own practical and successful labours
at the Lapstone Apiary, on the slopes of the Blue Mountains, near Emu Plains.”
Duncan noted, these were “The wild black bees, descended from the savage black English bees imported in 1822.”
should be kept. The little annex at the western end was built about 1902 or 1903.” Machin subsequently
became a teacher at Sydney Boys High School. Many locations within the area known as the Blue
Labyrinth in the adjacent National Park were named after the brothers, including Machin’s Crater,
Lincoln Creek, Mt. Hall, Hall Spur.

“Transferring a Swarm of Bees from a Log” from Albert Gale’s 1912 Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture. As a bee
expert and lecturer on apiculture for the N.S.W. Government, Gale was contemporary of, and known to Hessel Hall.
Cameron says of Lincoln “After the War (he) returned shell shocked and injured. He attempted to carry
on his love of bushwalking, visiting the Labyrinth on his return, but the horror of war injuries and pain
limited his walking days. He died in the late 30s.”
Duncan “used to return from the League of Nations in Geneva each year to have his camping holiday in
the Lower Blue Mountains.” Later he “became an aide to Britain’s World War II Cabinet and went on to
help compile the British Government’s official history of the war.”
Talking Politics causes Trouble with his Church
Machin recounted, that as a parson, his father’s political views did not sit well with his church. “He was
excommunicated for talking politics, and then he was reinstated. He took part in the campaign for
Federation. That would have been in 1901. He stumped around the Riverina opposing the Senate
representatives. He wanted the voting in the Senate to follow a pattern of voting in the Representatives. 8
It showed him to be a pretty wise man in those days. He got into loggerheads with the Church over that
and, although he was out of commission for many years he still remained in the church and preached for
many years as a local preacher.”
Duncan recalled “He did not hide his light under a bushel. While he was still in the ministry he was ready
to take on Goliaths to demolish them in public debate. He was an excellent public speaker and debater.
O’Sullivan, a local politician with much influence, was one unwary victim. The topic under debate was

ie., He was against equal number of Senate representatives for each State
“Single Tax”. 9 In a carefully prepared debate my father wiped the floor with him to the delight of a large
To the leaders of the Methodist Conference this threatened to carry freedom of speech on social issues
into the field of politics. To my father, this was where it belonged, and he believed the church could not
ignore the field. After long debates on the issues, in which he held out stubbornly, the church fathers cut
the ground from under his feet by offering him pastoral charges in areas in climates which they knew
would be impossible for him to accept because of my mother’s asthma. They then moved to expel him
from the ministry.
That still left him a member of the church, and no man was a more faithful worker for the poor and
lonely. I remember his accounts of all day rides each Sunday in the sometimes bitterly cold Monaro
plateau with its icy blasts, to a few shearers waiting all day for him to come. He did not show resentment
at the mean and vindictive action of the Methodist Conference in denying him a living and expelling him
from the ministry. He continued his membership in the church and it had no more devoted and self-
sacrificing member. He never missed a service. His sermons were simple homilies given to his simple
folk-audiences without a trace of the outworn dogmas of theology.
Hessel said of himself 10 “(This) life is one that he has lived, and is living still. He sought it rather than
have his freedom of speech on political and social questions curtailed as in his former calling, and for the
sake of the moral and physical health of his family.”
(Alison) Machin Hall was born at Glenmore 11, Mulgoa. Like his father and brother (Hessel) Duncan, he
preferred use of his middle name over his first given name “He had the name of Hessel – it’s on that road,
Hessel Place, and he was always known throughout the district as Hessel Hall. My father learnt to swim
when he was 56 years of age, in his own dam. He used floats at first but we kept on explaining to him that
these floats were dangerous. He built an under-the-surface track around the dam so that he could walk
around it.” Hessel Place remains and the dam too, not far from the rear of the old Hall home.
“He also didn’t approve of smoking but he smoked regularly at night in his office! My father had a clay
pipe he used to smoke. They were supposed to be cooler, that was the theory. Very cheap too.”
A House at Mulgoa and Two at Lapstone
“The house 12 is no longer there. Mother didn’t have very much affection for it but she did for this home.
My mother was the victim of asthma and she chose this site for the house because it fell away in front and
that was better for an asthma patient, so it was said. It is a beautiful site and my father maintained that he
picked the best site in the valley. In those early days there were only three or four houses on this northern
side of the (railway) line.
… My father did the work of building the house - the piers were cut in the bush. They were
turpentine. Supposed to be white ant-proof which they were except for the core. The core got eaten
away and the rest disintegrated. This isn’t the original house. This was built in 1930. There is a sign
built into the bit of stucco somewhere with the date.” 13

Henry George’s fertile ideas of doing away with taxation by confining it to a single tax levied on the unearned
increment of land values. In later years the Australian Government adopted it for the Federal Capital city in
Canberra. (Alan Hall’s note of 2001: Duncan is in error here. What was adopted in Canberra, perhaps a residual
effect of George’s views, was 100 year leasehold land tenure.]
for more autobiographical detail, refer page 12
now the site of a popular golf course
at Glenmore
According to a Heritage Study for the City of Penrith, dated July 1986, the gable inscription of “1895-30”
suggested erroneously “that there is an earlier core”.
Spouse Jeannie, (William) Hessel, daughter Elvie and grand-daughter, taken in front of the original timber home,
around 1916.
Some Early Family History
From Machin “My grandparents were married in Victoria - at Swan Hill I think - in 1887 14. Grandfather
came out to Australia as a carpenter and he went to Bendigo and specialised in making barrels. My
grandfather told me that he learnt to read in the Franco-Prussian War - he couldn’t read as a kid but he got
on to a paper in the Franco-Prussian War. I don’t know much about my grandmother’s side of the family.
She had a sister. There are some documents somewhere. Two brothers married two sisters, name of
McKenzie - Scots.”
Duncan “Even in Emu Plains, when living at Lapstone, the routine was never broken. Every Sunday he
would drive in a sulky long distances - up to ten miles - to minister to a small group of churchgoers. I was
always his companion. We both had the seeing eye and could enjoy the countryside. The trips I remember
best were winter trips, often in a bitter wind, crossing the ford over the swollen Nepean River when the
icy water would almost submerge the vehicle and the small pony would hardly make it against the surging
All through the winter, no service in a village at any point of the compass within a day’s driving distance
was ever missed. But of all the many experiences, the one that touched me most was his visits of comfort
to lonely old age pensioners, living in tents on the plains, with leaky roofs above and no heat of any kind
to warm their frozen bones. Here was a gentleman pursuing his calling without thought of self, bringing a
glow of radiance to a lonely man. Gone were days of political battles.”
Machin “My father was very concerned about the morals of the itinerant workers and he used to preach to
them. He had a very peculiar voice; he trained it that way. On a clear day you could hear him at least half
a mile away.”

the transcription (ISBN 0 85923 021 X) gives 1861, however this was Hessel’s birth year at Sydney, his father
being Reuben Hall. Information from Alan Hall gives place of marriage as Corowa, NSW.
Lapstone, probably taken in the early 1930s

Rev. William Hessel Hall’s house, built 1930 on the site of the original 1895 home, as seen in 1999

Contemporary gable of Hall’s house, the date of 1895 heralding the original timber house and its brick built replacement
of 1930
Duncan “In speech and writing he was a classicist. Nothing pained him more than misuse of language.
When, as university students, we persuaded him to join us in the famous great overhanging rock shelter
called the “Word” at the junction of the Nepean River and Erskine Creek, we were already using four
letter words. “Would it not be possible,” he remarked, “to keep the English language pure?” He was living
in a new world and the prospects for a return to simple classical English were dim.”
Family photograph c1906. Back row: Jeannie, Elvie (daughter), Hessel.
Front row: Lincoln, unknown, Machin, Duncan.
Hall’s Guide to Settlers on the Mountains
In 1905 Hall contributed a sizeable chapter to a book intended as a guide for immigrants and settlers to
New South Wales, the Mother State. As part of his introduction, Hall painted a colourful picture of the
mountains’ environment as a honey-producing region “Those not familiar with this region can form no
conception of the enormous quantities of honey produced by the native forest trees and flowering shrubs
every year. Occasionally the yield takes the form of “manna,” 15 the honey or sweet sap exuding from
small punctures made in the bark of the trees by the sap-feeding cicada, or dripping from the leaves till
the ground is covered as with a light fall of snow with small white lumps of granulated manna honey.
This form of honey production however, is the exception, and not the rule. The usual thing is for the
honey to be secreted in the form of nectar in the flowers. The members of the eucalyptus family have a
little cap in the centre of the flower in which the honey is formed. Under favourable weather conditions,
especially in close thundery weather, the secretion is very abundant, and the honey can be distinctly seen
shining in the bottom of the flower-cups. Before the introduction of the honey-bee much of the honey
secreted must have gone to waste. Some was gathered by the native bee (Trigona carbonaria), a little
creature about the size of the house-fly, building a resinous comb in which it stores the honey. Many of
the native birds are honey-eaters – especially parrots and parakeets, whom Nature has furnished with a
brush at the end of the tongue with which they brush the honey out of the flower-cups. When the
mountain forests are white with bloom, enormous flocks of shrieking parakeets fly from tree to tree,
reveling in the liberal supply of nectar, and deafening the ears of the passer-by with their din.
English bees that have gone wild in the bush are now plentiful, and from their nests in hollow trees the
settler may obtain a good deal of the stock necessary to start an apiary. But during the great honey flows
which come almost every year, and sometimes many times in one year, the honey supply is so abundant,
that much of it, even now, must needs go to waste for want of bees to gather it. In one of these flows
about 130 colonies in the writer’s apiary, last season, brought in two tons of surplus honey in a little over
a week, while for a short time many more colonies might have done equally well. To take advantage of

Hall also described a gully behind his house where he had “seen the ground under the grey gum covered with the
little white lumps of crystallised manna … Things hum along pretty fast in the apiary when grey gum is in bloom.”
these abundant flows the art of the bee-keeper must be directed to having his colonies full of bees ready
for work just at the right time.” 16
Honey Producing Trees
“Among the honey-producing trees of Australia the eucalyptus family easily takes first place, both in
respect to the number of species and to the quality of the honey produced. The somewhat prevalent
opinion in the Old World that honey from the eucalypti is inferior and always has a eucalyptus taste is
purely a popular fallacy – the eucalyptus flavour residing in the leaves and bark, but never in the honey
secreted from the flowers, nor in the manna secretions. And if ever detected in commercial honeys, it is
because it has been deliberately added in the form of eucalyptus extract … It is quite true that some
Australian honeys are rank and unpalatable in flavour, but these are derived from the apple or angophora
family, from grass-tree (Xanthoraea), from blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa), and other non-eucalypts. The
most objectionable of all comes from a member of the laurel family (Tristania laurina), fortunately it is
very seldom obtained in quantity, as the bees avoid it, except in time of scarcity. From the numerous
members of the eucalyptus family the flavours and types of honey are almost as numerous as the trees
that produce them, but the writer, in a somewhat extended experience has found them all palatable and
good, provided that they are properly ripened.
The presence of so many sources of supply would lead the uninitiated to suppose that the honey obtained
would he a hopeless mixture of all sorts; this, however, is not the case. The various trees have their set
times for coming into bloom, different varieties blooming at intervals right throughout the year. The
honey from those that bloom in the winter and spring is mainly consumed by the bees themselves in the
rearing of the spring broods, before swarming time. The great bulk of the surplus honey obtained comes
from a comparatively small number of varieties. During the big summer and autumn honey-flows, with a
little care on the part of the bee-keeper, the main yields can he extracted separately at the conclusion of
each flow, and kept apart. 17 In the case where two or more varieties are in bloom at the same time, if the
honeys are of the same colour and type, they may be taken together. In the case where a flow from an
inferior and a superior variety is on at the same time it will be found that the bees themselves do not mix
the honeys, but that separate colonies gather from separate sources. If the bee-keeper will take the trouble
to extract from the hives working on each kind separately he may still keep the good quality apart,
otherwise the whole extraction must be graded as second class honey. To prevent confusion each class of
honey should he marketed under the name of the tree or trees from which it is produced.
Where the sources of honey supply are so numerous, it would he out of the question to attempt to describe
every honey-producing tree in the mountain area, but a description of a few, the most widely-distributed
and typical trees, and their honey product, may be attempted. Among the most important are the box
family, found chiefly on the western slopes and plains. Of these the white and yellow box are the most
important, though strictly speaking, they scarcely belong to the mountain timbers.” 18
Some Typical Honey-producing Trees
Like any successful commercial beekeeper, Hall had to be observant regarding the suitable types of nectar
producing trees, the quality and quantity of honey produced from each, their flowering and nectar


I’ve taken full frames of honey from my hives at Emu Plains at the foot of the mountains, their location about two
kilometers in a straight line from Hall’s house: held up to the sun, the honey within each frame was easily identified
as either dark (most likely red Bloodwood) or light (a mix of clover and lucerne from the dairy acres of the prison
farm). Having segregated the two lots of honey, I extracted them one after the other, producing two honey varieties
from the one stand of hives.
producing cycles. He correctly classed the Red Bloodwood (E. corymbosa) as one of the most widely
distributed and valuable of the mountain honey producing trees, which blooms in the autumn, in February
and March, usually every third year. Even with the numerous widespread housing developments on the
ridge tops the mountains carry today, when the bloodwood bloom is in full riot throughout the
surrounding National Park, one could be forgiven for believing a freak snowstorm had dusted the almost
uncountable acres of trees that stretch either side of the western highway. When I took up beekeeping
some 15 years ago it was this tree variety that produced my first and most abundant crop, an amazing 75
kilograms per hive. It’s my favourite of all honeys, dark and rich in flavour.
As well as relatively short descriptions of White Box, Yellow Box, Grey Gum, Sydney Peppermint, Grey
Ironbark, White Stringybark, White Bloodwood, Red and White Apple, I’m appreciative that Hall had
most to say of the Red Bloodwood “Its habit is a general bloom one year, then a year of rest to mature its
seed, then a year of light bloom, followed by the year of general bloom again. The large white flowers are
carried in thick bunches on the tops of the branches. In the year of general bloom the trees are a beautiful
sight, the mountains for miles appearing one mass of white-topped trees, while the air is laden with the
rich honey perfume, and full of the din of the parrots and the steady roar of millions of excited bees
tumbling over each other in their eagerness to gather the rich stores. When the weather conditions are
favourable to honey secretion the honey flow becomes a honey flood.
The bee-keeper, with every nerve a-quiver, must take up the pace set by the bees; must tier up the hives
three and four and five storeys high, till four strong men could barely lift a single hive even a few inches
for weight of honey; must work feverishly at the extractor to empty the combs and get them back to the
hives for a further supply, till the roar of the bees and the whirl of the extractor get on his nerves and he
longs for the comparative silence of night. But even at night the apiary is filled with a roar like that of a
train rushing through a mountain cutting - the sound of millions of fanning wings driving the air currents
through the hives to evaporate the surplus moisture from the nectar and turn it into rich ripe honey.
The honey from the bloodwood is of a clear rich golden colour, thick, rich, and of excellent flavour. If
touched it will string out in long threads that will support the weight of a bee to the ground. Unlike the
“box” honey it granulates almost at once after extraction into a creamy white crystal, nicer than the nicest
of lollies, and can he eaten by the handful. If melted for bottling it will keep liquid for about six weeks
and then granulate again. In districts where the “Angophora intermedia” is not present the bloodwood
honey is obtained uncontaminated by inferior sorts, and is suitable for export as its flavour appears to suit
the English palate. Owing to its hard candying habit it is also particularly suitable for sale (candied) in the
paper-bag trade, while as a wholesome sweet for children it is unrivalled.
The wax produced by the bees from bloodwood honey is also characteristic, being bright yellow in
colour, and unusually pliable, tough, and tenacious. As a wax for the finer grades of foundation comb it is
without rival, and a great contrast to the brittle wax obtained from some other sources.”
Among the various varieties of harvested, I was particularly interested in his words on orange honey
together with his description of the “Grey Ironbark (E. paniculata). This is a widely distributed tree very
valuable for its bark and timber. It blooms every other year in the spring, and the honey it yields is
invaluable in building up the colonies just before swarming time, besides giving considerable surplus. In
colour the honey is a brilliant golden hue. It candies speedily into firm bright yellow crystals; the flavour
is excellent. In appearance the honey resembles that from the orange blossom, but it is not so rich in
flavour. In the writer’s apiary, which overlooks an orange-growing district, the two honeys often come in
at the same time, and as they go very well together, the milder ironbark honey toning down the excessive
richness of the orange blossom flavour, it is his practice to harvest them together.” 19
The orange orchards of his time no longer grace the floodplain below Hall’s apiary site. Housing and
industry have gradually encroached upon this former agricultural land. Only the prison farm beside the

Nepean River carries on the agricultural tradition. Even there, the former vegetable paddocks, piggery and
fowl yards disappeared some five years ago, swallowed by the dairy and its now larger lucerne paddocks.
Half an acre of orange trees, planted some ten years ago, provide a sweet bonus for the browsing dairy
herd, cropped as high as the cows can reach.
Hall defined the ideal environment for a mountain beekeeper, and in doing so gave insight into his way of
life. As well, he revealed that today’s issues, eg., loss of honey producing forests, differ little from those
of his time “It is to the man with small capital, who wants land for a permanent home, that bee-keeping
offers a helping hand at; it requires but little capital, and brings in an immediate money return from the
honey gathered from the native forests. The ordinary farmer, finding the native timber in his way, must
laboriously clear, fence, and plough, before he can put in his crop, but the bee-keeper finds the forest his
storehouse and treasury before putting axe to tree; while the small area he needs for cultivation round his
home can be cleared and improved at leisure. The settlement of the mountain lands and bee-keeping must
go hand-in-hand. In open country the industry is precarious, but in the mountains the broken nature of the
country, and the need for the extensive timber reserves which State policy requires, prevent the danger of
the bees being deprived of their food by the extensive clearing and ringbarking that takes place on the
open country that is suitable for extensive farming and grazing pursuits.
The writer, with limited capital to start with, has made a modest living for the past ten years on as rough
and poor a patch of land as can be found in the mountain area; by the help of his bees gradually
improving the land, and preparing the way for fruit-growing, so that he knows from experience both the
difficulties and the advantages of this class of settlement, and after ten years of experience he would not
change the free wholesome life for one on the richest land on the plains - much less would he care to
return to that of the city.” 20
On the Location for an Apiary
“The common practice is to choose a home and then try to keep bees upon it. Such a plan often
results in failure owing to the locality being unsuitable. The sensible man who intends to succeed will
choose the spot that suits the bees, and then establish his home there. In choosing a location care must be
taken to keep four miles away from apiaries already established. With such vast areas of suitable forest
country to choose from this can easily be managed, and is in the interest of the newcomer himself, as he
will find it hard to build up his apiary in face of the competition of the populous colonies of his
neighbours. An exception to this rule may be made where several families for the sake of company find it
convenient to settle upon a ridge or level tract in the mountains - away from other apiaries - that is
surrounded on all sides by timber reserves and broken country not likely to be settled in the near future.
It is desirable that the settler should pick the home for himself and his bees where a variety of good
honey-producing trees are present, otherwise his bees may have a feast one year and a famine the next, as
the as the same tree does not blossom every year. As far as possible the open country should be avoided,
as such land is likely to be ringbarked and cleared by other settlers engaged in farming and grazing, and
without the native forest the bees will not be able to find a living. If the home is made in a suitable
locality, a well-managed apiary of from 100 to 150 strong colonies should yield an annual surplus of from
4 to 10 tons of honey, and about 100 lb. of wax beyond that required by the bee-keeper for use as
foundation comb.
These figures are not the result of mere surmise, but are the outcome of a lengthy experience on the part
of the writer. Good honey from the mountains area is worth on an average 2 ½d. per lb. wholesale, and
should not be sold for less; but in years of glut should be exported or stored at the apiary to be sold in
years when the supply is less abundant.
In the year just ended (1905) the writer’s crop of about 6 tons (120 cases) realised £150 gross, or about
£125 net. Of this amount, about 4 tons (80 cases) were sold in the local market, and 16 cases sent to fill

export orders from South Africa, the writer receiving 2 ½d. per lb. in Sydney without risk. The quantity of
the honey exported (consisting of 20 cases of white stringybark honey and 20 cases from red bloodwood)
was reported as having given satisfaction on arrival in South Africa.” 21

Hall with his bees. This photograph, c1906, looks to the east.
Acquiring Stock
“Good stocks of bees in frame hives can usually he purchased in Australia at £1 per hive, but the man
who is not overstocked and is prospering will not sell good Italian hives under double that money.
Swarms of black bees can usually be bought in the season at from 2s. 6d. to 7s. 6d., according to size.
Where possible it is well to buy swarms, as they carry no risk of disease.
Colonies of black bees with comb, in the common gin-case, are worth about 5s. each. It is generally best
for the beginner to buy black bees, put them in frame hives, and afterwards Italianize them. If bought in
boxes with comb the bees may be drummed out, the combs (if healthy) cut out and transferred into
frames, placed in the new frame hives, and queen and bees shaken in with them. When the colony has
secured and mended up the combs and settled down, the queen may be removed and a good Italian queen
introduced in her place. Good Italian queens, either golden or preferably leather-coloured, may be bought
- untested, 5s. ; tested, 10s. ; select tested breeding queens, 15s. each - from any of a number of reliable
breeders in the State.” 22
An Autobiography of Sorts
The next segment is as much an autobiography as instructions for intending mountain settlers “In forest
country the settler can generally add considerably to his stock by cutting the nests of black bees, gone
wild, out of the hollow trees in which they have built, saving the pieces of worker comb, and brood, and
transferring them to frame hives along with the bees, and then Italianizing as soon as they have settled
down. For the rest, a page out of the writer’s own experience may best give the necessary information.
First, knowing nothing of bees, he bought one hive - wicked hybrids - near relatives of the wasp in
temper. To learn how to handle these fiends he bought Root’s A.B.C. of Bee-culture, and soon learned a
good deal about bees. Several black swarms were given to him by friends. Next he purchased a good
Italian queen, and breeding young queens from her replaced the wicked hybrids and blacks. When he had
seven strong colonies he removed to another district, taking his hives 200 miles by rail.
In the new district he bought a couple of stray swarms for a few shillings each, cut several nests out of
hollow trees, and despite the loss of many fine swarms at swarming time through inexperience and failure
to cut the queen’s wings, in two years raised the total to thirty colonies. Then removing to the barren
stony ridge - then in a state of nature - on which his home now stands, he trusted to the bees and to what
he could grow on the stony land for a living for himself, wife, and four young children. Obtaining the best
strains of leather-coloured Italian blood, breeding, culling, selecting, he has now as fine a lot of
thoroughbred queens and bees as can be found anywhere. By dint of clearing, trenching, draining,
manuring, and even sifting, the barren hill has been turned into a most fertile garden. For years he made
his own hives out of the ubiquitous kerosene case, till the labour of harvesting the increased yields left no
time for such work. So by ten years’ hard work – earning before he ate – he has built up a home in which
he is satisfied to end his days. The same opportunities, and much better, are open to thousands of others,
and … the struggle need not be so hard as it was at first for the writer.” 23

style of smoker most likely used by Hall, as

depicted in the 1912 edition of Gale’s
Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture

To “… those who desire to escape from city life in his own land to the healthful life of the mountains: He
who has a stout heart and possesses industry and grit need not fear failure. He will not make a fortune, but
room and work for every child, and a home and a living he may have. As a reward he will live a life most
varied and interesting – too busy to be dull - the years will slip by. He will call no man master. He will
have busy times and times of leisure.
In place of the monotony and confinement of city labour he will have work most varied, according to the
time of the year, - clearing, splitting, fencing, building, with material from his own land, beginning, if
need be, with a sheet of bark or slab hut, and ending with as good a house as his skill or means can
construct. Hive-making, queen-rearing, uncapping, extracting, soldering, marketing, ploughing, or
digging, trenching, draining, planting, reaping, mowing, harvesting, pruning, grafting, budding, picking
fruit, packing; all these and others go to make up the life of the mountain home.
Though not rich, the settler, like the writer, may have many good things from his own labour – peas,
beans, pumpkins, marrows, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, and other vegetables from his own
garden in plenty. Honey and honeycomb in variety and abundance, milk, cream, butter, eggs, and bacon
of his own curing. From his few trees, peaches plums, nectarines, apricots, apples, passion-fruit, oranges -
more than he can eat; strawberries and cream for all till they can eat no more; the choicest of grapes in
abundance - things that the richest cannot buy so fresh and good. His children growing up hardy, deep-
chested, and innocent, taller and stronger by far than their parents, may follow in their father’s steps, or in
after time in other callings rise to eminence in the land. To the men and women who fear God, seek
knowledge, and are patient in industry, all these things are possible ‘on the mountain lands.’ ” 24
Much of the above section was reproduced in Australia Unlimited, though written in first person, and
with a different photograph of Hall amongst his more than 100 bee hives, taken c1906. The view, as seen
below 25, faces roughly west with the original timber home backing the apiary.
Famous Apiary Destroyed, Dec. 1908
From The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 January 1909 (p.5) the following story appeared under this banner:





“For some days past a bush fire has been burning between the Western-road and Glenbrook, supposed to
have been started by picnickers on Boxing Day.
On Wednesday morning the fire crossed to the northern side of the Western-road, but, as it was burning
quietly, no particular anxiety was felt by the neighbouring residents. About dinner-time Constable M’Lean
rode up to Mr. Hessel Hall’s, and Mr. Hall, with a couple of friends, accompanied him to the old rifle range
reserve, near the intersection of the railway line and the Western-road, where it was evident that the fire,
fanned by a rising wind, was making dangerous headway. An attempt was made to beat out the flames above
the deviation survey line. This was partially accomplished, when the fire broke over on the line of fallen
timber left by the railway surveyors.
As the wind was taking the flames in a direct line to Mr. Hall’s house, an attempt was made to cut off the fire
by burning off from a track at the foot of the hill. This attempt was successful, and the eastward march of the
flames stayed.
In the meantime the wind had risen, and it was evident that the house, nearly a quarter of a mile back, was in
danger, as the flames had crossed along the survey line to Mr. Hall’s land. A rush was made for the house, but
the flames, a hundred feet high, and advancing at racecourse speed, were close to the house by the time the
workers got up the hill. It seemed as if nothing could save the house and outbuildings.

Photo taken for possible inclusion in New South Wales, The Mother State, A Guide for Immigrants and Settlers.
1906. The timber house succumbed to termites and was replaced by a brick dwelling on the same site in 1930.
Neighbours were arriving to help, and a stubborn fight was maintained. Part of the line was saved, but the fire
ran up into the fowl yards, and threatened the whole place from above. Several weatherboard outhouses had
to be abandoned to their fate; others were saved by beating out and throwing water on the flames.
The incredible swiftness with which the flames advanced was due to the high wind and the fact that the
deviation survey line runs corner-wise through Mr. Hall’s property. The main line acted as a funnel. The
flames ignited the green scrub, and roared up into the tops of the highest trees. Branching off from the main
survey line at intervals of a few yards were the cross lines cut through the scrub for taking cross levels, and
two long tangent lines, all littered by the timber cut in clearing the line. The fire swept up the centre, and
branched right and left up the cross lines, till in a few seconds the whole slope was a seething mass of flames,
bearing right for the house.
While the workers were trying to save the house a flake of flame crossed the defences on the front of the hill,
and entered the apiary. One man made a desperate attempt near the top of the apiary to cut the fire off from
the workshop and honey house; for if these had caught fire nothing could have saved the house. By the time
help arrived he had beaten a line through. Others coming with water-carts and wet bags managed to maintain
this defence, but the rest of the apiary was doomed. Surrounded by flames the soft pine of the hives caught
fire. The melting wax ran down the hill in sheets of flame. Mr. Hall, anxious to strengthen and multiply his
hives after the previous seasons’ losses, had taken no honey. The bees clustering closely around their queen
and brood hives – honey and all – were consumed in rows of glowing furnaces.
After burning fiercely for hours only a pile of glowing coals and tangled wires marked the spots where the
tall hives, with their pedigree queens and teeming workers, had stood. Two of the human workers, soaking
their clothes with water, attempted to move a few of the hives by lifting them off the flaming stands, but the
fierce heat dried up the clothes in a few seconds, and little could be done. About a dozen good hives and some
scorched salvage are all that is left of Mr. Hall’s famous apiary. Mr. Hall’s loss is heavy – the results of 10
years work perished in a few seconds.”
Mr Hessel Hall thought he would be safe for a day at least, and advised the workers to attend further away. In
the midst of the work some cooee-ing 26 took place, and Mr Hall’s place was visited, for the fire had got
across, had got into several of the orchards, and was fast approaching Mr Hall’s residence. Real good work
was done, the house, furniture, and orchard being saved; but more than two-thirds of his bees and hives were
destroyed. Lucas’, McCann’s, Squires’ and Mullins’ property were in great danger, but only a small amount
of damage was done. The fire was got partly under about midnight, but it is feared will cross the old road and
do considerable damage if it is not checked.”
The Nepean Times of 9 January 1909 recapped, using detail from The Sydney Morning Herald article, and
added “The abnormal heat of Sunday and Monday last caused a good deal of damage to the poultry yards.
We hear of several residents who had quite a number of their ‘chooks’ 27 ‘turn up their toes’ 28 during those
two scorching days.”
In the same issue “Springwood, like most other places, has had its share of the heat wave and bush fires.
Sunday and Monday last were hell on earth. The thermometer registered 110 in the shade on Sunday, and on
Monday was very little better, if any. The bush fires called the attention of many fire-fighters, and several
houses would have been burnt without doubt but for the energy and forethought of Constable Loftus in
organising gangs to beat fires. He had a rough experience on Sunday, trying to save people and property.
On Monday a call came from North Springwood to the effect that the fire was being driven with the hot wind
very near to Miss Mills’ bee farm. Again Mr Loftus ran round and collected as many men as a sociable could
hold. … When nearing Miss Mills’ place small volumes of fire and smoke rose sky high. Everyone began to
feel anxious for the safety of the good lady and the little children which were known to be there; but on
Method of calling to another, the call drawn out and delivered at high pitch
arrival, it was found that they were all safe, but fire all round. … part of our gang stayed behind … I am
pleased to say that a nice cool change has set in, and all danger of fire past for the present.”
A Well Laid Out Argument
The July 1901 issue of the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales 29 reported “In the April number 30 of
the Australian Bee Bulletin these words are to be read: “The Rev. Hessel Hall is satisfied, opinions to the
contrary notwithstanding, that a great deal of honey is gathered from maize”; and in walking through the
apicultural shed at a country agricultural show some few weeks since I overheard a gentleman say, “give
me corn honey, that’s what I like.” I mentioned to a bee-keeping friend who stood by, that corn did not
produce honey. He replied: “I am not so sure of that.” Now, in this respect – that is, as it regards corn
honey – the bee-keeping world “is at sea,” and we may as well try to put it right, because I have heard the
same opinion expressed by many a non-observant bee-keeper more than once.” I’m sure Hall bristled at
being described not only as “non-observant” but “at sea”, then have to suffer Gale “put it right”.
Gale called in support, among others, the 1901 edition of A. I. Root’s ABC of Bee Culture, quoting its
index entry “Corn – why it contains no honey”, and in consulting the referenced page 249 “It is said that
corn sometimes bears honey as well as pollen, although I have never been able to get proof of it.” Gale
then launched into a technical lecture of over two pages to detail his argument. It’s not necessary to
reproduce his case here, but having delivered his lecture, Gale added “Yet the most observant man,
whether he is engaged in plant culture or bee culture, must have noticed this fact, that bees visit both the
staminate (male) and the pistillate (female) flowers of the pumpkin, apparently indiscriminately. Bees
frequently visit the staminate flowers of corn, but who has ever seen bees alighting on the pistillate – ie.,
on the silky beard that protrudes from the cob ? Why not ? Because there are no petals, no nectary, no
honey, or other bee food to be found there. The only object bees have in visiting plants is the search for
As if to shake the opposing argument insensible, Gale concluded “I have seen very many samples of so-
called maize or corn honey … Corn honey seems to me to be a thing of modern invention. … We may as
well expect to get honey from ferns or mosses as from the grasses 31 ; or expect a hen that is without
ovaries to lay eggs as to expect honey from a plant that has no nectaries. Bees cannot gather honey from
maize, because the flowers have no glands wherewith to secrete it.” I can imagine that on reading this,
Hall set immediately to compose his counter-response, and take no prisoners
I see no animosity in the following counter argument, however forthright and ruthless as directed against
Albert Gale’s opinion. Hessel, I believe, could not allow a statement to stand he disagreed with without
immediate challenge. His response under the title “Do Bees obtain Honey from Corn (Maize) ?” is
consistent with D. McDonald’s evaluation of Hall’s capabilities in the Nepean Times, 4 January 1908, as
“a lecturer of ability, thoroughly conversant with his subject.”
Remembering Duncan’s earlier comments regarding his father’s vigourously successful debating talents,
here then is Hessel’s thoroughly prepared and argued presentation. “In the July number of the
Agricultural Gazette, Mr. Albert Gale devotes a long article to the task of disproving a statement to the
effect that bees obtain honey from corn. Mr. Gale discusses the matter from a botanical point of view, and
proves to his own satisfaction that corn cannot, and therefore does not, produce honey. In this article I
purpose dealing with the question as a matter of evidence and fact, and will endeavour to prove that corn
does, and therefore can, yield honey.

I searched the April 1901 issue several times but could find no words attributed to Hall regarding maize honey, as
well as subsequent issues to January 1902 without avail. A search of issues previous to April 1901 may locate the
correct issue which spurred Gale to print.
maize belongs to the grass family
I am aware that corn belongs to the anemophilous or wind fertilized group of plants, and that a great
weight of authority can be found against me in regard to this class of plant, but authority is not infallible,
and the question is one to be decided by the facts of the case and not by theories of what ought to be.
I am also aware that maize belongs to the class Monoecia, and that it has stamens and pistils (ordinarily)
on separate flowers in the same plant, the cob representing the female flower and the tassel the male
flowers. I use the word “ordinarily” because I believe there are exceptions to the rule.

c1906, Hessel Hall amongst his hives,

standing close before the old house.
Mr. Gale says “no one would ever think of looking for grain at the top of the stalk. The writer has
repeatedly seen the plumes of the tassel covered with well-developed grains of corn right to the top of the
plant, such grains not being covered with a husk as in the cob. This peculiarity is more common in some
varieties than in others. It may be observed sometimes in a crop sown broadcast or in individual plants,
whose cob has proved barren, or has been destroyed by injury. Now, on Mr. Gale’s own principle – “No
hen, no ovaries; no ovaries, no eggs” – it would appear that there must be partially developed female
organs amongst the male flowers on the tassel, otherwise there could be no grain on the tassel. These facts
are undoubted and have repeatedly come under my own notice. If then the male flowers on the tassel
contain rudimentary female organs, then Mr. Gale’s whole argument re the impossibility of maize flowers
producing honey must fall to the ground. But apart from the presence of rudimentary female organs on the
tassel, why should it be incredible that the male flowers should secrete honey ? I have not seen bees visit
the beard and cob, but am satisfied that they get large quantities of honey out of the male flowers on the
tassel. In the case of the pumpkin, Mr. Gale admits that the bees visit male and female flowers alike. I
know the bees get honey from the male flower of the pumpkin, because I have seen the honey at the
bottom of the flower at the base of the stamen, and have watched the bees collecting it. If the male
pumpkin flower secretes honey, why not the male flowers on the corn tassel ?
Mr. Gale contends that the honey in flowers is secreted at the base of the petals and proceeds to assert that
“Maize has no petals, and, therefore, it has no honey glands or nectary.” If this logical proposition is
correct, then the following ought to be true, as the mature flowers of the Eucalyptus family have no
petals. Honey is secreted at the base of the petals. The flower of the “Yellow Box” has no petals, therefore
it has no honey glands or nectary, and can secrete no honey.” What do the bee farmers of New South
Wales think of arguments like that? The trouble is to be found in the premises in which Mr. Gale, relying
upon botanical generalization in regard to a class, assumes the very thing to be proved. But if we admit
that the cob has no petals, is this true of the male blooms on the tassel ? Without a further examination of
the blooms, I am not prepared to admit that they have no petals. But in any case, Mr. Gale admits that “the
petals are a modification of the stamens,” so that there is no reason why honey glands should not be found
at the base of the stamens in the maize bloom as they are in the bloom of the Eucalypts.
Running through the authorities quoted by Mr. Gale is the idea that wind fertilized flowers are
independent of insects, and therefore, are inconspicuous, have no honey, and hold out no inducements to
insects to visit them. But I am satisfied that insects play an important part in fertilising many wind-
fertilised flowers, by disturbing and shaking down the pollen on to the female organs, and in effecting
cross fertilization (especially with maize) by carrying the pollen to and from plants growing at a distance.
And even though Botanists may have failed to find honey in these flowers, yet where the insect does a
service one may expect to find that he does not go without his reward. Without his wages the bee won’t
work, and I have noticed that when the maize does not secrete honey (as happens in some seasons in
unfavourable weather) that the yield of grain is light and the cobs are barren, or but poorly filled.
When the Botanists divided all flowering plants into wind-fertilised and insect-fertilised flowers, I am
afraid they drew the distinction much more sharply than Mother Nature has done. She has grades between
plant and animal, bird and reptile, bird and mammal, and I guess she has grades between the wind-
fertilised and insect-fertilised flowers.
Mr. Gale half apologises for the fact that the bee visits maize-blooms at all. He only does it, Mr. Gale
assures us because he is hard up and short of pollen. But that is not true. For the bees visit the male tassels
just as greedily when the angophora, the grey gum, or the bloodwood are in bloom, and when the whole
mountain is white with pollen-covered tree tops. The bee needs no apology for his visits. He works not to
fertilise the maize (though he does that by the way) but he works for his wages, honey; having a good
enough nose to find it where Mr. Gale and the Botanists say it ought not to be and cannot be found.
From Darwin’s “Origin of Species” Mr. Gale quotes these words “Flowers rank among the most beautiful
productions of Nature; but they have been rendered conspicuous in contrast with the green leaves, and, in
consequence at the same time beautiful, so that they may be easily observed by insects. I have come to
this conclusion from finding it an invariable rule that when a flower is fertilized by the wind it never has a
gaily-coloured corolla. Plants habitually produce two kinds of flowers, one kind open and coloured so as
to attract insects, the other closed, not coloured, destitute of nectar, and never visited by insects.” “Maize
is one of these latter,” says Mr. Gale, “and therefore produces no nectar.”
In the first place I am not disposed to agree with Mr. Darwin’s materialistic view that flowers are
beautiful solely to attract insects, for his opportunities of observation have evidently been incomplete,
since a number of wind-fertilised flowers that have come under my own observation are coloured, are not
closed, and are visited by insects. In any case colour is only a minor source of attraction to insects as I
hope to show later.
Now, Mr. Gale’s comment “Maize is one of these latter, and, therefore, produces no honey.” That is, Mr.
Gale asserts that the maize flowers are not coloured, are closed, are destitute of nectar, and are never
visited by insects. Now, these assertions are wrong in every particular. In reds, browns, and yellows, the
male blooms on the tassel are quite gaily coloured, and often very beautiful. Next, the male blooms are
not closed but are quite open enough for the bees to get to the very bottom, then as I shall show, they are
not destitute of nectar, and finally, they are regularly visited by bees and other insects.
Now, as many of our best honey-producing flowers are inconspicuous, some other sense than sight must
come into use. 32 Probably the most highly developed sense in the insect is the sense of smell; boiled
cabbage always collects the blowflies, even when covered from sight, and the smell of honey always
attracts the bee no matter how insignificant the flower in which it is contained. It is a well known fact that
insects can hear sounds that the human ear is incapable of hearing; and there is no doubt that they can
detect perfumes too faint or distant for human beings to detect, and that they are guided to their honey-
food by these perfumes. Now my experience is that all flowers with a perfume contain honey and are
visited by insects.
And I find that every honey has a characteristic perfume, identical with that of the flower from which it
comes, and derived from the essential perfume-oils secreted in the nectar. Now, when a man can smell the
honey in a flower surely the bees can do so too, and can find it too even without the aid of bright colours.
I find that the maize-blooms of the tassel have a very decided perfume never to be mistaken when once
recognized. And I find that the honey brought in by bees working on maize always carries the perfume of
the maize-blooms. And because I can smell the honey in the blooms, I have proved and know that maize
can and does produce honey.”
An interlude here to Hessel’s argument is appropriate to support Hall’s strong reference to his sense of smell.
His son Machin recalled in 1976 “We had a large apiary … The honey had a rich taste. In the early days came
the honey, the corn and oranges. The bee-farmer who works on these things is rather unusual. There was
enough of that stuff grown on the dark sandy soil – it was even denied that you could get honey from orange
blossom, but you couldn’t fool the old man – he had an extraordinary sense of smell and taste. When he went
up the mountain he would say, “Come on, boys! Can you smell that?” It ran in the family. The old lady – his
mother – used to sort out the family washing by the smell. She’d get a basket of clothing off the line and
she’d sort out the clothes. She’d say, “That’s Ebenezer’s, that’s Evelyn’s,” and so on. She didn’t realise it was
extraordinary; she didn’t realise she was doing it. … There was a lot of corn grown here. … You can tell the
taste of any honey on the mountain, if there were sufficient quantity.”
Hessel’s argument continued “In these matters it is much safer to trust one’s nose (if it is one that can smell)
than the text books. And if Mr. Gale will follow his nose in the cornfields on a muggy summer’s afternoon as
the bees follow theirs, he will have no doubt as to whether corn produces honey.

such as bees ability to see ultra-violet light
“Lapstone Apiary after the fire.” Two hives in the foreground plus some fifteen in the background were the only
survivors of 150 hives. Each hive stood on four wooden pegs driven into the ground, each presumably of turpentine
and termite resistant. Even most of these were burnt away.
Mr. Gale declares that “Corn-honey is a modern invention”; so is the bar-frame hive, the use of which alone
enables us to identify the honey of various flowers with any degree of certainty. Referring to his personal
experience on the Lower Clarence before the introduction of sugar culture there when it was only second to
the Hawkesbury as a corn-producing district, Mr. Gale says “I, with others, kept a number of hives, and in no
case did the faintest suspicion enter my mind that I was harvesting corn-honey, because I knew that the
grasses yield nothing of the kind.” An open confession truly – having his mind made up he did not take the
trouble to find out. Furthermore, Mr. Gale settled in the Clarence in the year 1868, thirty-three years ago, and
in those days and for long-after the gin-case hive reigned supreme, men got their harvest all mixed together
once or twice a year. Under these conditions how could men know much about corn or any other kind of
honey ? But now-a-days with the frame hive “robbed” once every ten days one has a chance of getting to
know something about the matter. Mr. Gale is also troubled about the want of uniformity in the samples
shown him as corn-honey. But this is easily explained, as the successive corn crops cover a long period in
their bloom, and unless care is taken in separating it the bulk samples at different times will be affected by
other stronger and darker honeys. In this district (Nepean and Hawkesbury), the apple, bloodwood,
stringybark, grey-gum, and others all come in (in the years of bloom) during the period of corn-bloom. And
the presence of a little honey from any of these will quite alter the sample. In order to get a reliable sample of
corn-honey, advantage must be taken of the fact that the bees of one hive work on one bloom while it lasts.
In my apiary, some hives stick to maize right through the period of bloom, and others work on apple, grey
gum, bloodwood, &c., as they come out. By taking the sample from these hives that keep to maize, or by
taking it from hives during the occasional intervals when no other bloom but maize is out, a reliable sample
can be obtained that never varies.
It has been a hobby with me to identify the honeys of various flowers in this district during the past eight
years. And in this work I have identified those from maize, broom-millet (another grass), orange, stone fruit,
clover, dandelion, water gum (Laurina tristania), Grass-tree (Zanthorrhoea minor), Red Apple (Angophora
lanceolata), White Apple (Angophora subvelutina), the She Oak (another wind-fertilised flower), and from
many eucalypts. Each honey is typical, has the same perfume as the flower, (often very marked) and is the
same from year to year. For eight years I have worked an apiary (now numbering 150 hives) in this
essentially maize-growing district, spending all my time in the season among the bees and blooms. I have had
the corn under the closest of observation during the whole time, nor do I think I can be classed as a careless
or non-observant beekeeper 33 “who is at sea” and needs to be put right in a matter so closely affecting his
own business.
The following are some of the reasons for believing that bees gather large quantities of corn-honey :-
(1.) When the maize fields are in bloom, if no other honey-flow is on, the whole apiary makes for the corn
tassels. At such times the bees roar and show signs of excitement over their work, such as they never
show except when they are bringing in honey. Moreover, the bees show no signs of robbing each other
when the hives are opened – a clear sign to every beekeeper that the bees are getting plenty of honey. If
other honey-blooms are out a large proportion of the hives still keep to the maize and bring in the same
type of honey.
(2.) The bloom of the tassel is not closed like the cob, but when the flower is secreting honey (especially in
close thundery weather) the bees eagerly work in to the bottom of the cup fairly jostling each other to
get at the sweet-smelling nectar therein.
(3.) During the period of maize-bloom, the bees working on maize bring in large quantities of dull
greenish-coloured honey, mild and pleasant in flavour, candying speedily into soft white crystals,
rather brittle in the grain. This honey is not so glutinous as most honey, cuts differently in uncapping,
and when new, carries with it the odour of the maize-blooms.
(4.) I have not observed this honey except in maize districts, and never anywhere except when the maize is
in bloom. In my own district this type of honey is plentiful. A sample I took to Sydney was at once
recognised by an old Hunter River resident as “Corn-honey,” like that known and enjoyed on the
Hunter in early life. I have noticed the same type of honey in the Tumut District in a sample gathered
around the Tumut maize flats. This fact is significant, as the native honey-producing timbers in the
Tumut District are quite different from those on the Hawkesbury.
(5.) During a visit to the Richmond Agricultural College apiary some years ago, Mr. McCue, the College
apiarist, informed me that maize formed the main source of honey supply at the College, and his
description of the characteristics of maize-honey coincided exactly with my own experience.
(6.) When this “maize-honey” is coming in at my apiary, the bees of the colonies gathering it may be
observed flying direct to the maize field on the plains, and not to the mountains where most other
honey in the neighbourhood is obtained.

Duncan said of himself and his father, c1976 “We both had the seeing eye and could enjoy the countryside.”
(7.) The bees gathering this maize-honey may be observed to have the maize-pollen on their legs.
Moreover, when they return home from the maize fields with the maize-pollen they have the rings of
their body extended to full length, showing plainly that their honey sacs are also full. And as bees do
not visit more than one type of flowers at a time, this fact affords a clear proof that the load of honey
was gathered from the maize tassels as well as the load of pollen. If one of these bees be crushed a
clear drop of honey will be seen extending from its body, and this honey with that in the hive carries
the odour of the maize-blooms. Surely such evidence is conclusive to all save those who go to the
Botanists instead of to Nature for their facts.
(8.) The other great honey-producing flowers in this district have definite periods of bloom extending over
from about three weeks to six weeks. Moreover, they do not bloom every year but at intervals of two
and sometimes three years. But the honey I identify as corn-honey comes in during the whole period of
maize-bloom extending over a period of some four or five months. It never comes in before the early
maize-blooms and ends with the bloom of the late-sown crops.
(9.) There is no other flower about this part that covers this period of maize-bloom, except possibly the
lucerne, but in this district we seldom get lucerne-honey in appreciable quantities because the farmers
cut the crops for hay as soon as the flower buds begin to burst. Moreover, when the bees bring in
lucerne-honey they also bring in lucerne-pollen; this is of a dull dirty greenish colour like clover-pollen
and not in the least like maize-pollen.
(10.) During the past season my bees brought me in between 3 and 4 tons of corn-honey. Presumably, like
Mr. Gale’s friend, I prefer it to any other. And an extended experience in the matter has convinced me
that the maize-plant is one of the most reliable and abundant producers of honey that we have, while
the quality is such that it is relished wherever it is known.
In view of all these facts, and in view of the amount of choice corn-honey that filled my shelves, Mr. Gale
must show me some better reason than the “ipse dixit” of the Botanist, before I can consent to disbelieve the
evidence of all my senses.” 34
Duncan related “For drinking water on which our lives depended we used 1000 gallon iron tanks filled by
rain from the galvanized roof of the house. The rungs 35 were tapped to check how much water we still
had, and we hoped no frog would foul the water by dying in it. When it rained and the gulley ran, we
would use a yoke to carry a load of 120 gallons up a rough track for the garden. There were neither roads
nor bridges. We grew as far as we could our own food, milked our own cows, and Toby 36took me to the
local store two miles away in case of emergencies.
In the bush water was the one indispensable element. It would be 80 years before a public water supply
reached us. Yet with every storm a deluge of water rushed down the mountain. How to store it? How, in
time, we solved this difficulty and made our own water supply is a saga worth telling. Storage had to be
underground, and a few feet underground was solid rock – incredibly hard conglomerate. It could only be
blasted out inch by inch. So we set to work, armed only with hand tools, punching holes in the rock,
setting fuses, blasting out a few inches at a time, cleaning up the debris, and starting over. It required
many weeks of hard work but we enjoyed it. Gunpowder is a man’s friend and a boy’s delight.
Finally a huge rock hole was down to the required depth of over 12 feet. It was to be a 12,000 gallon tank,
leakproof. Father took over. With occasional outside help, he faced the rock walls with cement, added a
beautifully done inner chamber of brick arched to form a dome with a narrow opening at the top. As the
first deluge of water from a hillside storm rushed into the tank, we all stood in the rain to look with
delight on our 12,000 gallon tank full to the brim with water. It never leaked and could always be drawn
Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, (Vol. IV, Jan. – Dec. 1893) pp.1086-1091
This may be a (my ?) typographical error, and possibly should read “bungs”
I believe their horse
on freely for the garden when needed.” I can confirm by personal inspection that Hall’s reservoir is still
there doing its job, the brick dome intact. The remains of old robust plumbing attest to the importance
such a water store held for the Hall family.
A Colourful Career: The Late Rev. Wm. Hessel Hall, M.A.
The following obituary appeared in the Forbes Advertiser for 23 November 1946. “At Forbes District
Hospital on 23rd November, as briefly reported in our last issue, Rev. William Hessel Hall M.A., passed
away at the age of 85, bringing to an end a colourful career. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, the
late Hessel Hall had a distinguished career at Sydney University before he became a minister of the
Methodist Church. His appointment as a clergyman included Corowa, Adelong, Queanbeyan and Glen
Interested at an early age in political economy and land reform, he fell under the spell of the American
economist, Henry George, and became a “single taxer”. His propagandist activities as a land reformer
were viewed with disfavour by the more conservative members of the Methodist ministry, and finally led
to his retirement from the ministry. He refused attractive offers from Presbyterian and Congregational
connections to join their ministries, and remained an active worker in the Methodist community.
Mr. Hall settled on the land at Lapstone Hill, where he commenced beekeeping and strawberry culture, to
earn what was at first a precarious living. The “parson farmer” was not expected to last long on the land,
but he lived there for 48 years and developed a beautiful home.
After twelve years he was readmitted to the Methodist ministry by an unanimous vote of the conference.
He always looked upon his case as a successful fight for freedom of speech in the church. Although a
clergyman, he did not again take up an active pastoral charge, but remained at his mountain home where
he experimented in developing a special strain of bees. A recognised expert in apiculture, he acted for
many years as consultant to the Public Service Board in making appointments to that branch of the
service. More than once he refused the position of Government bee expert, owing to the inadequate salary
Increasing old-age and war-time conditions 37 caused him and Mrs. Hall to live with their son and
daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Machin Hall, first at Young, and later at Forbes. His wife predeceased him
in 1945.
Of his four children, two predeceased him – Mr. Lincoln Hall and Mrs. R. G. Warry. 38 He is survived by
Mr. Duncan Hall, of Washington, U.S.A., and Mr. Machin Hall, 39 of Forbes. There are eleven grand-
A memorial service was conducted in the little Methodist Church at Emu Plains, 40 which had been his
spiritual home for half-a-century, and where the late Mr. Hall took such an active part in the life of the
district. The Rev. G. Little, assisted by Rev. J. Calvert, his brother-in-law, conducted the service.”
Today, a low, sandstone kerbed double grave sits quietly in the far north western corner of St. Paul’s
cemetery, Emu Plains. Looming behind the modest headstone, the east facing slopes of the Blue
Mountains escarpment dominates the background, a mile or so away. W. Hessel Hall’s house still stands

in 1943
Mrs. R.G. Warry, certainly the spouse of R.G. Warry who authored the following N.S.W. Department of
Agriculture Bulletins :
Introduction to Bee Culture, Farmers Bulletin No. 59, illus, pp.10, 1913
Rearing Queen Bees, Farmers Bulletin no. 62, illus, pp.14
Beekeeping for Farmers, Farmers Bulletin no. 76, illus, pp.19
Then headmaster at Forbes High School
this church still stands, almost engulfed by the Uniting Church’s Edinglassie retirement complex. It bears a plaque
declaring it built in 1863.
on Larstone Hill, just out of view, known as number 13 Hessel Place, Emu Heights. The low weathered
gravestone records that Rev. William Hessel Hall died 23 November 1946, aged 85 years, now “At Rest”.
Also laying in the same plot is his wife Jeannie who died the year before, on 17 September 1946, aged 84
A Few Notes on the Man
Having devoted significant and deserved space in this book to the Rev. W. Hessel Hall, M.A. (with
honours), I feel it appropriate to add a few observations. My initial interest was primarily that of Hall’s
beekeeping activities, however this man’s wider contribution to his time has made a distinctly positive
impression on me. His depth of character, demonstrated intelligence, wide area of interests, staunch
independence and family orientation all demand advertisement. Hall was a man of mark who has to this
date mysteriously escaped the worthy notice of historians in general. Let this man, who, like his sons,
possessed the “seeing eye”, be seen in today’s light for the person of vision, 41 substance and consequence
he was.
Hall did not fear to disagree with one of the giants of science, namely Charles Darwin. Hessel possessed
the indelible mark of “independence treasured”, as evidenced by his refusal of the post of government bee
expert and the title “Not for Hire” for his contribution to the N.S.W. Government’s publication, The
Mother State of Australia. He explained to the government photographer at the time that “he was not a
government official and did not work for hire.” Twelve years after expulsion by the Methodist Conference
for his vocal political views, when “the elder brethren in the church frowned on the activities of the young
firebrand” 42,

Close-up of the Hall gravestone

“For many years” previous to 1907 Hall strenuously advocated a dam on the Warragamba River for water storage
and irrigation. Refer his letter dated 20 December 1907 in the Nepean Times for 4 January 1908. It was not until
1946 that work commenced on Warragamba Dam. It was completed in 1960.
Duncan Hall’s unpublished memoirs, c1976
William & Jeannie Hall’s grave, St. Paul’s cemetery, Emu plains
Hessel refused the offer of a parish to stay on his property on being unanimously reinstated to the
ministry in 1906 as “minister without pastoral charge”. Duncan suspected the Conference sought to regain
his power and prestige for the church. Hall “received several offers to become both Presbyterian and
Church of England ministers, and was constantly on call as a local preacher.” He was a man of flair also
for Duncan recalled “It was his love of publicity not money that made him in his early years seek combat
in public debate.”
He did not eschew hard work, be it the heavy effort demanded of honey harvesting, land clearing, blasting
a water reservoir from the bedrock or improvement to the poor soil on the mountainside by regular
manure gathering and processing. Duncan gave credit where it was due “He was a physically hard worker
but always intellectually alive. ... but he was never an organizer and inclined to procrastinate about many
things. It was my mother who was the driving force when the time for decision had come.”
Duncan recalled “The day’s activities on our “estate” began at dawn and continued until dusk on the four
acres we owned. Large forest trees, especially eucalyptus and turpentine had to be grubbed and burnt –
often days of work for one big eucalyptus tree. Only then could the task of breaking up the stony old
prehistoric river bed begin. Each tree hole would yield a few ears of maize and a plant or two of the
nutritious and tasty Australian pumpkin … The lanes half a mile below the house were full of manure. In
winter before dawn, my father and I would take the old spring cart down the hill to gather the manure
with frozen fingers. Finally it would be processed in bins in the cow yard.”
When Hall did something he did it right, be it breeding his own strain of Italian bees noted for their honey
quality, docile temper and non-swarming behaviour; excavating underground water storage or debating
with conviction and attention to detail, almost to the total devastation of his opponent’s case, though with
no sign of vindictiveness.
His offspring were given a solid education, sufficient for them to make their own significant
contributions. Hall was a family man, but I sense a certain distance between his father and Duncan, given
the latter’s comment “Bees were the means whereby my father and I learned to speak a limited common
language and to understand each other at least in this limited field.” It would not surprise me that Duncan,
who saw great success in the League of Nations and with the British Government, was of the same
independent and solid mould as his father, though his aspirations lay elsewhere. Hall, I sense, would have
liked his sons to continue with the apiary, but Duncan touched on a generation gap in his unpublished
memoirs “Would the three sons go on doing all that, as Father almost seemed to hope? Helpers not
One of Hessel’s grandchildren, Alan, wrote of him in 1996 “‘Lapstone’ was to be the family home until a
few years before he died.” It was here that Hessel compiled a series of stories he grouped under the title
of Nature and Fairy Tales. Each with a distinctly Australian flavour, they are reminiscent of Dorothy
Wall’s Bridget and the Bees (1935), Norman Lindsay’s 43 The Magic Pudding (1918), May Gibbs
Cuddlepot and Snugglepie and Dorothy Wall’s Blinky Bill. 44 Alan observed “the bush around ‘Lapstone’
and his experiences and professions as a clergyman and as a small scale farmer provide the building
blocks and moral flavour of the stories which are an unusual mix of natural lore, realism and sentiment.”
Hessel concluded his story The Pied Piper of Emu Plains with a lament many parents would empathise
with, once their children have grown and left home to begin their adult lives “Now, good bye, little ones,
everywhere. I send you my love, and when you have read the story, please send your love back to me, for,
in my lonely big house, I want it every bit.”
As a final summation, Duncan put it simply, with barely hidden sentiments of respect, admiration and
love “He remained a ‘land man’ treasuring above all else the bush, his bees, and the independence and
seclusion of his new life.” Without doubt, the Rev. W. Hessel Hall remains one to whom his descendants
may look upon with esteem and affection.

Norman Lindsay’s home and studio may be visited at Springwood in the Blue Mountains, not ten minutes drive
further up the Great Western Highway from Lapstone.
Dorothy Wall lived in Warrimoo (approx. halfway between Lapstone and Springwood along the Great Western
Highway), Blue Mountains, NSW, a village where I and my family also lived for eight years, and later at
Springwood for another seven years..

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