The Eva Crane Trust is 20 - How it all began

The Eva Crane Trust is 20 - How it all began

Eva Widdowson was a true polymath and could have had an academic career in any one of five or six different fields. She chose mathematics and quantum physics as she found them the hardest subjects she had ever studied and therefore had greatest satisfaction in attempting to solve their mysteries. Her career commenced in Hull University then continued at Sheffield University. All was to change when she was given a hive of bees as a present to help provide sweetness in the austerity of wartime Britain. This occurred about the same time as she married James Crane in 1942. Many years later she would say: “It wasn’t the bees I was attracted to at all, I am a scientist and I wanted to know how they worked.” From then on she set about gathering everything that was available on all bees.

After the war Mr and Mrs Crane moved to Gerrards Cross, a particularly affluent town in the London commuter belt. Jim Crane had a job in the City of London and was able to support his wife in her endeavours. He supported her in all ways and she would often admit that very little of what she had achieved could have been done without Jim. This support took many forms not just the removal of the need to be in paid work. A part of their large house was turned into an office and study where a team of part-time workers would be busy under her guidance. He also encouraged and supported her travels which were to encompass over sixty countries world-wide.

Jim died in 1978, they had no children and apart from Eva’s sister, Elsie Widdowson a nutritionist of international repute, there was no other family. Eva became determined that any inheritance she could leave would be dedicated to continuing the work she had so diligently pursued for over fifty years.

Seeking advice from various sources and giving the subject much thought she came to a conclusion. Therefore, on a dark, wet and miserable evening on 18th March 2002 four of us gathered in Eva’s study at Woodside House in Gerrards Cross. There was Eva, David Smith a Crown Court Judge who had been a friend of hers since 1963 and was the honorary secretary of IBRA, along with her solicitor/financial adviser, and me then Director of IBRA.

Eva had decided to form a Trust. As always, she was very clear about how she would like this Trust to operate. Her aim was for the money to help do what she had always done: encourage research, gather that research and make it available to beekeepers and scientists who would ultimately bring the benefits of their finding to the bees and thereby enhance the knowledge and understanding of the human race. There was a discussion and Eva made it clear that she did not want to fund any one institute or have a Chair of Bee Science set up in her name at any University. She looked at each of us in turn, was sure the message had got through, and then turned and asked me if I would be Chairman of the Trust. I already had Eva as a mentor and very close friend, this was a final accolade and I was humbled. “That’s that then,” she said in her typically brisk way, “I think we should have a sherry to celebrate”, and we did.

That was twenty years ago. Things evolve but after every Trust meeting I usually have time to have some unrecorded words with Clementine Smith and Penny Walker, who both knew Eva well: one of us invariably says, “I think Eva would have been happy with that”. I hope so and long may it continue.

     Richard Jones

Chairman of the Eva Crane Trust.
March 2022.

Pictured top - Eva Crane at her desk in Chalfont St Peter
Pictured below - Eva Crane with founding Trustees David Smith (L) and Richard Jones. Taken at a conference in Thailand, 2000.