2003-10-23 00:48:46 UTC
BYLINE: John Schauble <melbourne age>
OBITUARY - GEOFFREY ALBERT HAMMOND, APIARIST, 27-3-1940 - 3-9-2003
Geoff Hammond was a larger than life character, a big bloke with a long
white flowing beard, a booming voice and an enormous heart. He was
invariably known as "Big Geoff", sometimes with the explanatory note: "The
Raised on his parents' farm at Murchison, he first encountered the craft of
beekeeping there. A commercial apiarist, Bert Golding from Rushworth, used
to leave bees on the farm to work the river red gums. He introduced the
15-year-old to beekeeping when he hived a wild swarm and gave it to him. By
the time he was 20, Geoff had acquired the hives and equipment of another
beekeeper, along with a lifetime commitment.
In his heart, Geoff never really left the bush, but in life he roamed the
world in pursuit of all things apicultural. Educated as a border at
Assumption College in Kilmore, he returned to work for a brief period on the
family farm. His next move was into a 17-year career with the Victoria
Police. This saw him stationed at a number of suburban and country police
stations across Victoria. The high point of his policing career was a
12-month posting as a peacekeeper to Cyprus in the late 1960s. Upon his
return, he married Margaret in 1970, the family eventually basing themselves
in Box Hill South.
After leaving the police force, Geoff trained as a welder but it was not the
life for a boy from the bush and he was drawn pretty much full-time to the
world of bees. He worked for commercial beekeepers in Victoria, Tasmania,
New South Wales and New Zealand. He also travelled to Europe and the United
States to observe beekeeping there. Among his idiosyncrasies, in the age of
the internet and mobile phones, was to remain a prolific letter writer,
detailing his exploits to family and friends.
Yet it is as a teacher and an advocate of beekeeping that Geoff will be
fondly remembered, as far afield as the Philippines, where he went to train
poor farmers in the craft. He joined the Melbourne section of the Victorian
Apiarists' Association in 1960, which he later served tirelessly, including
two terms as chairman and also as secretary for several years. Geoff was
also a founding member of the Geelong and Pretty Sally beekeepers' clubs. He
was awarded a VAA meritorious service award and life membership of the
Big Geoff was a pragmatist. He understood that for beekeepers to prosper it
was necessary for them to practise their craft in a responsible and informed
manner. He pioneered TAFE-based education for beekeepers at the Northern
Melbourne Institute of TAFE, first at Parkville and later at its Epping
campus. He also fostered a practical program of instruction at the
Collingwood Children's Farm.
His generosity would lead him anywhere across Victoria to help out a
beekeeper in strife.
Geoff's dictum was simple enough. You could learn some things from books,
but when it came to bees it was a practical business. "There are four ways
in beekeeping," he would exclaim to his attentive students. "The right way,
the wrong way, your way and my way."
Geoff was buried at Murchison lawn cemetery, his coffin passing through an
honour guard of beekeepers from across Victoria. He is survived by his wife
Margaret and sons Roderick and Lawrence.
John Schauble is a staff writer and former student of Geoff Hammond.