“If only they could talk” said it all and has a lot to answer for…
From picking up James Herriot’s first novel I was hooked. It shaped my dreams literally and
metaphorically, childhood and adulthood for at least the next 4 decades. Having devoured the series in
book form it grew into the fabric of my being as it morphed into “All Creatures Great and Small” on TV.
From the few dying bars of Johnny Pearson’s iconic theme tune as one programme ended, it was
anticipated with passionate fervour until the music started again the following week. It was my “Game of
Thrones” in the 70’s; unmissable, unpredictable and watched with adoration. But “All Creatures” was
attainable, funnier and of this world. It had sex too albeit of a more ahem, earthy and agricultural flavour.
Nothing to shock the sensibilities of a son of the sixties…
Luckily I had a veterinary practice straight across the road from my house in Kanturk, Co. Cork. With no
little persuasion I managed to get father and son to allow me follow them like a lost sheep and over my
teenage years I got an unrivalled education from them and the pet owners and farmers of North Cork. One
that any university could only dream of. Dan was referred to as “The Boss” by everyone including his
clients, wife and family (I am not so sure about the parish priest…) and had gone on horseback to collect
the first batch of antibiotics ever used in veterinary practice in North Cork. His recounting through cumulus
clouds of cigar smoke the reaction of farmers in the area to the miracles engineered by those drugs was
fascinating. Game of Thrones how are ya! I was ensorcelled. John was similarly adored and respected by
his clients and his small and large animal surgical skills were absolutely cutting edge. I will be forever
grateful to those two wonderful gentlemen O’Keefes.
I did my veterinary degree in University College Dublin and benefited from many wonderful teachers none
more so that Professor Kevin Keely, an inspirational figure who had organised the first International
Conference of Veterinary Radiologists in Dublin in 1968 and who was at the crepuscular part of his career.
I am very lucky to have had him as a mentor. Like most of my class I headed off to the UK where I spent 6
wonderfully enjoyable years in practice. From Cambridgeshire to the Dales, Derbyshire to Liverpool and
more, I had a ball. In doing so I developed an avid interest in diagnostic imaging and in 1993 was awarded
a Certificate in Veterinary Radiology from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
I left Liverpool for the bigger smoke of Philadelphia where I completed a three-year radiology residency at
the world-renowned Ivy League University of Pennsylvania. Then the busiest small animal hospital in the
world with the largest Radiology Department I lived, breathed and dreamed radiology for three years and
honed my craft under the guidance of some of the best radiologists and teachers in the world and in 1998
become a Consultant Radiologist and a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Radiology. I have
since lectured in universities in the UK, the Caribbean and the US and worked in private referral practice in
the US before returning to the UK to provide a consultant veterinary diagnostic imaging service for pets
and vets in the southeast since 2000.
As founder and managing director of The Veterinary Referral Centre, I am continuing to realise the dream
that was born when I first encountered James Herriot in a North Cork bookshop many moons ago. Being
able to share that dream with some of the world’s best and brightest veterinary consultants together with
me in this new story is surely a dream come true. I dream that The Veterinary Referral Centre will be a sort
of “Harley Street” for pets. Somewhere we can continue to learn, teach and improve so we can provide
vets, pets and their owners with the love, care and compassion (with a sprinkle of humour!) that Mr.
Herriot, Messrs O’Keefe, Prof Keely and many others have done over the years together with the best
tools in the business to boot.
Mr Pearson, let the theme tune play on…