Three Beehives

Three Beehives

Three beehives for the University of Stirling was made in collaboration with the Dunblane and Bridge-of-Allan Beekeepers, who have been maintaining hives on the campus grounds for some years.

Located in a quiet area, near to allotments and an old steading, beyond Airthrey castle, the hives are primarily used for teaching, at sessions where experienced keepers hand their knowledge and lore on to beginners, as has always been the way with apiculture.

My memory of this scene goes back to student walks, up Airthrey Crag, or on the track that scales Dumyat. The juxtaposition of the old Castle and the Principal's house, with its vague hint of the Bauhaus masters' accommodation, epitomizes the University’s quirky origins.

This spirit carries over into the vegetable plots and hives, pitched somewhere between antiquarian hobby and self-reliance.


Contemporary science and the travails of bees are in evidence, as the hedgerows half-conceal some of Professor Goulson’s left-behind bumble-bee breeding boxes, as testimony to the importance of his tenure here (he recently migrated to the University of Southampton).

I negotiated the addition of three motto-style poems to the beehives with the help of John Coyle, chair of the Association.

John patiently explained that, in order to move the hives to their new location so that they could be painted, he would need to follow an old established rule of beekeeping: 3 feet / 3 miles.

Flying bees will remember the position of their hive so long as it is not moved further than 3 feet. To move a hive farther it must first be transported more than 3 miles from its original location, then, after 3 weeks, most of the original flying bees will have died, and the hive can be returned to the vicinity of the old location.

photograph, John Coyle 





photograph, John Coyle 

photograph, Luke Allan

 photograph, Luke Allan

photograph, John Coyle 

The hives are now in position, with the poems added. The text offers an ideal portrait of the University community, which was once, or could be, a ‘hive’ of shared ideas and common aims.


bees' faith is the future


bees desire to live forever
in those that come after them


bees share their work in common
loving what lies ahead of them

The nether hive, newly installed in the library, suggests a similar enterprise, in which intellectual labour is seen as a process of individual effort and mutual exchange:



photograph, Ken Cockburn


three beehives for the University of Stirling
Alec Finlay, with Dunblane and Bridge-of-Allan Beekeepers, 2013

completed during a Leverhulme-funded artist residency, in collaboration with Kathleen Jamie, Chair of Creative Writing, School of Arts & Humanities.

with thanks to Luke Allan, Jane Cameron, Chris Ellis, and John Coyle, and the Leverhulme Trust