Taking a history on veterinary education

Capturing Life in Practice links up with the Veterinary Record to offer first-hand accounts to accompany 'Taking a History on Veterinary Education' by Andrew Gardiner and Susan Rhind (Veterinary Record, 173 (16), pp. 388-393)

The extracts below come from in-depth life stories – encompassing early life, education and career – recorded for Capturing Life in Practice, an oral history collaboration between RCVS Knowledge and the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, with the British Library as archive partner. For details of the project and to hear further extracts.

All the speakers on this page qualified under the MRCVS Diploma system described by Gardiner and Rhind. Alistair Clarke and Dick Lane recall their final practicals, conducted by RCVS examiners. Mr Lane also highlights the dearth of basic textbooks for post-war students. Heather Nestel, who was accepted by the RVC at the age of fourteen when she qualified for entrance, waited until she was nineteen to be offered a place under the quota system for women. She also describes the frustrations of learning descriptive anatomy, as does Carl Boyde, who remembers the confusion of having to cope simultaneously with the different nomenclatures of M'Fadyean and Sissons.

While Gardiner and Rhind's illuminating survey spans four centuries – from the founding of the first British college (London) in 1791 to the opening of the new school in Surrey in 2014 – Capturing Life in Practice records experiences within living memory as a resource for the future and today. Imagine if earlier veterinary surgeons could have done the same.

But the chain of human memory extends beyond a single lifetime. These speakers remember their predecessors vividly: Sir Frederick Hobday and John George Wright (Mary Brancker), and Jimmy McCunn (Carl Boyde). Clear evidence, if it were needed, for Gardiner and Rhind's observation that ‘Good teachers tend to be good teachers regardless of the methods they choose to use.’ ‘And,’ one might add after listening to these testimonies, ‘regardless of their era.’

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Mary Brancker (qualified 1937, London)

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Carl Boyde (qualified 1951, London)

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Alistair Clarke (qualified 1947, Glasgow)

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The ‘degree exams’ here refer to the MRCVS single portal system (See Gardiner and Rhind). Alistair Clarke received his BVMS from Glasgow in 2010.

 

 

Dick Lane (qualified 1953, London)

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The ‘roaring operation’ on the horse, also known as ‘the Hobday operation’ after the surgeon, Sir Frederick Hobday, aimed to remedy noisy breathing caused by a collapsed larynx.

 

 

Listen to extract 2

 

Heather Nestel (qualified 1954, London)

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With thanks to the speakers for permission to reproduce their contributions, to Susan Rhind and Andrew Gardiner for the invitation, and to the Veterinary Record for the web link. Copyright in these extracts is held by the British Library and/or individual speakers.