President Frances Wallace welcomed 20 members via Zoom to the April Meeting of the club.

She then introduced the speaker for the evening, retired third generation vet, Mike Robson.

As the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies will take place in 2023 Mike gave an outline of its relationship to the local area and also of his family connection to the Mearns as vets.

A veterinarius was a soldier in the Roman army who served as a veterinary surgeon. Their job was to care for the multitude of animals attached to an individual military unit: cavalry horses, beasts of burden, animals used for sacrifice or animals used for food. As a result of the training above-average intelligence required of them, the soldiers who were veterinarii were given the status class of immunis. They were soldiers who held immunitas from ordinary duties as they had special tasks of their own to fulfil.

The Highland Society of Scotland which was established in 1784 and became known as the RHAS – The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland – encouraged all horse owners to compete through Farmers Clubs. In the Mearns in 1824 this saw the establishment of the Fettercairn Farmers Club.

William Dick (6 May 1793 – 4 April 1866) was a Scottish veterinarian and founder of the Dick Vet School in Edinburgh, the first veterinary college in Scotland. He was born in Edinburgh to Jean and John Dick (1769-1844), a farrier who had moved south from Aberdeen. There are now also Vet Schools in Bristol, Cambridge and Surrey.

A family of farriers who lived in Fettercairn in the 1820s sent their sons to Edinburgh to Vet College and they returned to practise in Fettercairn.

Mike’s Grandad (nicknamed Yorkie) Mr H W ROBSON, who was a vet from Northumberland came north for an interview for a post. This was held in the Ramsay Hotel and as a result he took over a Fettercairn practice on 1st January 1900.

His Grandad had 3 gigs before he learned how to drive, having written to the Chevrolet Car Company for instructions on purchase of a car. His clothes were- a bowler hat, hacking jacket, riding breeches, leather leggings and brown boots and this style of clothing was continued by Mike’s Dad until the 1950s.

Mike’s Grandfather bred bulldogs and fox terriers and would send them to shows by train on their own. His hobby was looking after budgies. He also served on the Town Council and became a Provost.

When he moved to Laurencekirk as a vet in 1916 he originally stayed in Conveth Place before moving to Glenroyd on the High Street. This house had originally been built by Lord Gardenstone for the Manse for the Episcopal Minister.

His son, Mike’s Father, who was born in Fettercairn also went to Vet School in Edinburgh. Whilst there he joined the OTC to learn how to ride properly. On finding an employer in Yorkshire he went round shows in the area competing. He too, returned to the Mearns to join the practice and also became a Town Provost.

On the recommendation of Lord Boyd Orr and his work at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen in the 1920s, that children in city schools should receive free milk, dairies in Scotland increased and this ensured that vets were kept busy.

After the Second World War, many farmers in the Mearns went bankrupt. To encourage people to lease farms there was a government scheme to eliminate TB from milk, and it put money in vets’ pockets.

In conclusion Mike stated that most practices have now been bought over by multinational companies, specialising in domestic pets. Stonehaven, Forfar and Kirriemuir are the practices which now are associated with farmers.

80 – 95% of vets are females now. Conditions are much improved and the provision of the night service enables women to work weekends and shorter hours.

Frances Wallace gave the vote of thanks.

The International Inner Wheel Convention was held Virtually in Jaipur on the 17th and 18th April and some members were to participate. We look forward to hearing their experiences.

President Frances was also to attend the Virtual Association AGM and the First Virtual Bridge Tournament for District One, with Lena Smith as her partner.

The next meeting will take place on 11th May.

Kathleen Murray
Club Correspondent

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