Reverend Samuel John Millar B.A. (T.C.D.), M.A. (T.C.D.)
1938 – 2015
The passing of the Reverend Sam, as he was affectionately known, has deprived the Irish beekeeping world of a respected and much-loved figure. He was the Education Officer of the Roe Valley Beekeepers’ Association, and the panel discussions at their monthly meetings benefited greatly from his expertise. We were always sure of a comprehensive and reasoned answer when the Reverend Sam responded to a question.
He was a staunch supporter of the Ulster Beekeepers’ Association, serving on its Education Sub-Committee. The increasing number of people wishing to take up beekeeping in recent years in Northern Ireland had to be matched by provision of education, and Sam played a leading role in meeting that demand. He was recognized for this work as Beekeeper of the Year in 2012
The Reverend Sam was born in Ahoghill, Co. Antrim, and after secondary education at Ballymena Technical College worked in T.G. Alexander & Son’s draper’s shop in Ballymena. However, he felt called to the Church, and after studying at Magee, Trinity and the Assembly’s (now Union) Theological College, Belfast, he was ordained in 1967. He was appointed Assistant at Sinclair Seamen’s Church, Belfast, and in 1970 became Minister at Clough & Seaforde, Co. Down.
It was at Clough that he took his first steps in beekeeping under the guidance of the Reverend (later Dean) Hutchinson, of Tyrella Parish Church. In 1974 he became Minister of a Church Extension charge at Hazelbank Coleraine, and was most successful in building this up into a thriving Presbyterian Congregation; he was highly regarded for this work.
He retired in 2003 to live in Garvagh, Co. Londonderry, although he maintained strong and active links with his calling, and was Chaplain to Coleraine Harbour Commissioners.
He threw himself into the study and teaching of the craft of beekeeping. He himself held the Senior and Lecturer Certificates of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations. Many aspiring beekeepers benefited from his Preliminary Courses, and many went on to study for the Intermediate exams under his guidance. He was part of the team that delivered the Preliminary Course at the FIBKA Summer School at Gormanston each year. He was an enthusiast for the Native Irish Black bee and did much to conserve and promote it.
Every winter he visited his daughter Judith in New Zealand for several weeks, and there built up a circle of beekeeping friends, extending his knowledge and expertise. Each year on his return he would report on his experiences. He also studied beekeeping in Israel and worked hard for the Zomba beekeeping project in Malawi.
Sam was a keen and expert fly fisherman, and often travelled to Scotland, Donegal, Tipperary and other favourite spots further afield.
His wife Della predeceased him. She was very active both in his congregation and in the Presbyterian Women’s Association nationally. He leaves a brother, Tommy, a daughter, Judith, of Christchurch, New Zealand, and a son Sam, who has two children, in England
His kindness, gentle manner, enthusiasm and expertise will be sorely missed.
To his family, his beekeeping friends from all over Ireland and beyond extend their deepest sympathy.