Abram, William

Frederick William Abram was born in Germany in 1854 of an English father and a German mother; his father was a bee farmer from Somerset who had spent some time on the Continent studying his trade. The family returned to England and William (as he called himself) was educated there and worked with his father. A deep interest in bee farming took William to the Continent to extend his knowledge and he was manager of several large bee farms in both northern and southern Europe. By comparing different strains of bees he found that the Italian bee was the best for the commercial production of honey.

William emigrated to Australia in 1880, bringing with him some special strains of queen bees,
including the Italian. He set up the ‘Italian Bee Farm’ in Parramatta and by 1886 was regarded as a pioneer in Australian bee farming and an international expert. He found that the Sydney flora and climate produced a large honey flow; the mild winters, the orange blossom of his district and the eucalyptus flowers were ideal for his bees.[1]

In 1886 in Sydney William married Domanica Bernardina Fontana, who was born in northern Italy in 1863; to the family she was known as Agnus. They had four sons, two only living to adulthood: Oscar Victor Adolphus, born in 1890 and Eloge Ernest (Poge), born in 1893.

In 1887 William purchased two properties, five acres of land on the Model Farms near Parramatta, for which he paid £136/10/-, and 3¾ acres between Thornleigh Road (Wongala Crescent), Beecroft Road and on the northern side of Chapman Ave., for which he paid £215. He moved his farm to the Beecroft land in 1889, but found his hilly site not altogether suitable. In 1891 he purchased two acres of land on the southern side of Malton Road for £39/10/11.[2]

However, no building was possible on the east of Beecroft station until the railway bridges were
completed in 1894, and William was reputedly the first to build a house there, by September 1894. It was a small timber house, now No. 32 Malton Road. This was a quieter site and adjacent to many miles of bush, and the bees and hives were transferred there. In 1918 he purchased another 1¾ acres east of his Malton Road home. The house on the Thornleigh Road, ‘Shirley’, was leased, and from 1898 to 1901 it was the residence for Beecroft’s sole policeman, Constable Kelly.[3]

The Malton Road bee farm won prizes for honey and bees at the Royal Agricultural Society Shows. By 1900 Abram claimed his was the first bee farm in Australia, established for 20 years, and was the leading supplier of pure Italian queens, swarms, stock hives and implements.[4]

William Abram was a member of the Beecroft Progress Association from 1894 and its President for a year in 1900. In 1898 he was asked to look after the Reserve at the station which the Progress Association was beautifying.[5]

Agnus Abram suffered from poor health but was a busy homemaker with a reputation for her cooking and jams, made over an open fire in the backyard from fruit in their orchard. The sons attended Beecroft Public School and helped on the farm, and William had hoped that Victor would train in bee farming. However, Victor became a Church of England minister, studying at Sydney University and Cambridge, England, and became well-known in the district during his term as Rector of St Alban’s, Epping, from 1931 to 1937. His younger brother, Ernest, worked with his father apart from the time he served with the Australian Imperial Force during the war. Ernest inherited the bee farm on the death of his father in 1918 and sold it in 1920; he spent the following few years travelling around the bush with his hives.[6]

Domanica Abram died in 1932 and was buried with her husband at St Paul’s Cemetery, Carlingford; Victor officiated at her graveside service.[7]

                   Helen Barker

[1] The Australian Beekeepers’ Journal, July 1886, pp. 79-80. [2] Land Titles Office 915/112, 993/60, 1266/130, 1165/235. [3] Cumberland Argus, 29 September 1894, 6 October 1894; Land Titles Office 1139/196; Cumberland Argus, 30 April 1898. ‘Shirley’ is now No. 35 Wongala Crescent. [4] The Australian Bee Bulletin, 27 October 1900, p. 167. [5] Cumberland Argus, 20 January 1900, 17 August 1901, 15 October 1898. [6] Fourscore, a short history of St Alban’s Anglican church, Epping, Sydney, 1977; Cumberland Argus, 13 May 1916. [7] Register at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford. Information from Kenneth Abram of Avalon.