The tradition of beekeeping in Cúil Aodha, Cork is flourishing with the establishment of local honey factory Mil an tSuláin.
In 1978 Peadar Ó Riada and Séan Ó Lionáird established the honey factory 'Mil an tSuláin' in Cúil Aodha (Coolea) in the west of the Muskerry Gaeltacht region, County Cork. Both men were keen beekeepers before this and are impervious to bee stings.
In spite of a bad summer, their business has made a turnover of £70,000. The majority of this comes from the export of their Sulán Irish blossom honey, sold in handmade pottery jars.
The Cúil Aodha valley approximately 30 miles from Kenmare in County Kerry is suitable for beekeeping although the weather can be uncertain. Peadar Ó Riada and Séan Ó Lionáird both work hard to keep their 30 hives functioning and can walk five miles between one hive and the next. Apart from disease, there is always a danger the hive will be infested with insects such as flying ants.
Computer technology helps to keep and maintain records on the condition of the various hives. It is also helpful for business accounting. At 'Mil an tSuláin' there are numerous pamphlets and journals for keeping up to date with the latest beekeeping studies and they also carry out their own research.
Peadar Ó Riada learnt his trade from older locals. He explains that bees were imported from America to improve the indigenous strains and to combat diseased European stock.
In the shadow of a statue of Saint Gobnait in nearby Baile Bhúirne (Ballyvourney) graveyard, Dónal Ó Liatháin explains the strong connection between beekeeping and Cúil Aodha. Saint Gobnait is the patron saint of the area and she is also the patron saint of bees and beekeeping. The statue created by sculptor Séamus Murphy depicts Saint Gobnait standing on a beehive.
Dónal Ó Liatháin tells the story of when Saint Gobnait released her bees to scare off a warring tribe that were plundering the area. He says beekeeping has always been associated with monasteries such as Glenstal in County Limerick.
A 'Féach' report broadcast on 10 November 1980. The reporter is Mícheál Ó hUanacháin.