For 54 years Frank Lindsay has kept beehives and for most all of that time he has had a heavy involvement in the beekeeping industry, having dedicated uncountable hours to clubs, industry groups, research projects and just generally helping other beekeepers to support a better industry. Now, after years of nominations, the Wellington beekeeper has been announced to be an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in the New Year Honours list.
Modest to the core, Frank Lindsay’s first thoughts are of other people when congratulated on his impending ONZM honour.
“You think about other beekeepers and what they have done and this makes you a bit humble,” Lindsay says, speaking from his Wellington house via a phone which has been running hot since the New Year Honours list was made public that morning, December 30.
“There’s a few people running around with smiles on their faces,” he says following the news.
One of the biggest smiles would have to belong to former Wellington Beekeepers Association president James Withington who has put Lindsay’s name forward every six months for the past five years for New Year or King/Queens’ Birthday Honours.
“It’s a long time coming,” Withington says, adding that he has spoken some terse words every time the Royal Honours lists have come out for the past five years without Frank Lindsay’s name.
“Frank dedicates his time to everyone else and sacrifices his own stuff when he drops what he’s doing to help others. His work has gone under the radar. People don’t have a true understanding of his level of involvement in the beekeeping industry,” Withington says.
Lindsay has been beekeeping for 54 years after getting his first hives in the early 1970s as a young man. At age 48 he dedicated himself to full time commercial beekeeping with around 500 hives. Now in his 70s he still keeps “about 60 colonies, mainly nucs”. He holds life memberships to the Wellington Beekeepers Association as well as the Southern North Island Beekeeping Group and the now-defunct National Beekeepers Association. (Editor’s note: more detail on his beekeeping career can be found in this February 2022 story).
Withington says there were dozens of supporting letters from those in apiculture that went along with the Royal Honours application and he has continually been adding to Lindsay’s list of accomplishments over the past five years as it grows, or at least he learns of various undertakings in the name of better beekeeping. There are research projects from far and wide, such as the thousands of sound recordings of beehives which Lindsay took for an American scientist, plus the assistance he gives to others, including a recent visit from Australian scientists to learn about varroa, on top of a mountain of work with industry groups in Lindsay’s five decades of dedication.
“That is at his own time and expense. It is not a paid job. He has all the right intentions. He will continually battle until he can’t lift a hive tool, in an industry that doesn’t get recognition,” Withington explains.
Wife Mary-Ann Lindsay has also been involved in the family’s beekeeping enterprises and beekeeping groups. Withington says she has been a help in detailing all of Frank’s beekeeping endeavours, but keeping their efforts secret was a challenge.
The ONZM honour is for “a distinguished regional or national role in any field” and sits above both the Queen’s Service Medal and Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in terms of seniority of New Zealand honours. It is below Knighthoods and the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. An investiture ceremony with the Governor-General will take place at Government House in Wellington in May.
Lindsay says he hopes to be there, but May is when they usually take a holiday to Australia to visit various beekeeping conferences, and he wouldn’t want to miss them. Withington thinks he should show up to Government House in a brand new bright white bee-suit, but he doesn’t think his friend Frank would rock the boat like that!
While that ceremony is five months away, Lindsay has been sitting on the news of his honour since accepting the nomination in October. He has had to keep it secret, but he did recently let it slip to one person.
“I told my mum on Christmas day,” Lindsay says, adding that she had perhaps the best response of all, “she’s 102 years-old, quite proud, and she said ‘oh, another thing to live for’.”