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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

English Mead Meets Irish Charm


Last month we met well-travelled Auckland beekeeper Carol Downer. Among her beekeeping travels was a jaunt to England and Ireland which included a unique mead, and a run-in with border control agents which ended in a uniquely Irish manner…

Carol Downer visits the holy isalnd of Lindisfarne to collect a bottle of mead.

The purpose of Carol’s trip to the UK and Ireland was to attend Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association Summer School, visit relatives in the UK and a five day tour of northern England. It also provided a chance to visit the tidal Holy Island of Lindisfarne – renown for not only its historical Christian sites and limited road access due to tidal flows, but also the world famous Lindisfarne Mead.

Located off the northeast coast of England, Carol travelled by bus to Lindisfarne, crossing the causeway at low tide.

“You've got limited time that you can even get to the place. So, it was a bit of an adventure just to get the mead,” she recalls.

Once a bottle of the famous Lindisfarne Mead was purchased, the plan was to take it home to New Zealand and enjoy it at her pleasing. However, that is not how it would play out.

Two weeks and one country later, upon attempt to exit Dublin International Airport to Heathrow with her precious bottle of mead in her handbag, Carol was stopped at Border Control – the bottle of liquid was oversize and its contents were not going to be allowed through. The honey-wine would be confiscated. It was offered as a gift to the female officer, who declined – it was illegal to accept gifts.

Now Carol was majorly upset.

Next the officer, with a smile and in a beautiful Irish lilt offered, “Ooch, It’s alright sweetie, I’ll escort you back through customs to the terminal, you let me know when you’re ready to come back – you can put it in smaller containers or you can drink it!”

Escorted through back corridors, Carol was left standing in the terminal, clutching the famous bottle of mead.

Lindisfarne Mead comes with the claim “the world’s finest”, and that was something Auckland beekeeper Carol Downer put to the test in the departure lounge of Dublin Airport.

“I had to decide whether I was going to buy 200millileter bottles to divvy it up into, or what I was going to do,” Carol explains.

“So, I sat down and while I was deciding what to do a woman came along who was waiting for her daughter to get in from Australia, so I shared it with her. I uncorked it and started drinking on a short time frame,” Carol says.

“Then I notified the border officer to fetch me and the empty mead bottle, back through customs, to border control and my passport. I boarded the plane pissed-off… in more ways than one!”

Carol says her mood would have been much worse, if not for the “charming” Irish border control officer who saw the situation to an acceptable outcome for all.

“It’s really amazing how the Irish border control handle people. This girl was just so awesome. Taking me back through and leading me to the other side. She was just charming, was so nice, and she could see that I was actually stressed.”

So, instead of those stress levels rising higher at seeing an expensive tipple from a remote island go to waste, Carol shared a drink ... or several … with a new and fleeting friend thanks to some quick thinking from all involved, and journeyed home from her beekeeping sojourn in a rather jolly mood.


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