Page 38 - Chiron Autumn 2018
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John Douglas Parkinson, “JD”, who died aged 98 on 5th April 2018 was one of the last veterinary surgeons who saw action in the Second World War.
Born at Quernmore in Lancashire in 1919, his childhood hovered in the
grey area between unconventional and “dysfunctional”. Days spent in the hills - birdwatching and sleeping in hay barns – were interspersed with incidents like the gunpowder experiments which demolished the kitchen. This lifestyle inculcated in him independence, resourcefulness and a healthy scepticism regarding authority.
After the local vet came on a house- visit, (and stayed the afternoon chatting over a bottle of whisky with his father), JD decided on his future career. He declined an Oxford history scholarship and went to Liverpool University to study veterinary medicine - graduating and passing his MRCVS exams in 1943.
In 1944 he volunteered, joined the RAVC and was sent to Burma, (Myanmar), and attached to 64 India Brigade looking after pack mules along with the occasional elephant. He saw action at Mandalay, Kalaw and Pegu Yomas, was mentioned in dispatches and ended the war as a Major with a deep affection for mules and the Ghurkas and an abiding dislike of the Japanese. On one occasion his veterinary principles led him to refuse a direct order to “fire” some mules but he argued his case robustly and no disciplinary measures resulted.
Returning to the UK in 1947 he started a practice at Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales in association with Harry France, (a vet in Kirkby Lonsdale). He acted as a local councillor in addition to building up his business. Although in later life he had a succession of MGs but he was also a fan of the newly produced Land Rovers testing them thoroughly on remote farm visits.
In a rare moment of reading the veterinary runes incorrectly he decided that TB was going to be eradicated and the major source of income for rural practices would disappear. So in 1959 he bought a share in a Plymouth practice in partnership with Tony White. He worked here until retirement in 1985. As well as the practice he set up quarantine kennels and two veterinary supply companies. He had an interest in bovine obstetrics, (one of the first to do caesareans), amassing a great deal of information on the subject. Written up and submitted as a thesis this gained him not only an RCVS Fellowship but also the William Hunting Medal in 1974. A core belief was that the profession should be a mutually supportive community akin to a family. Veterinary students were effortlessly absorbed into family life, practitioners down on their luck
were given employment, (not always
to the benefit of the practice), and relationships with vets around the world fostered – notably China which he visited in the late 70s.
After Plymouth he retired to the small village of Capernwray in Lancashire. Retirement did not slow him down: he enjoyed visiting his property in Spain, finishing the Telegraph cryptic crossword every day, managing a large fishpond and gardening. Finding time on his hands he collaborated with another Burma RAVC veteran, (Roger Hornsby), to write “Along o’ My Old Brown Mule” about their wartime experiences.
He married twice: firstly to Beatrice with whom he had three children, (Heather, John and Guy) and secondly to Christina with whom he had two more children, (Helen and Mark). All except Beatrice have survived him.
Dick was born 22nd December 1930 in Neath, South Wales. He attended the Royal Veterinary College in 1949 as one of 64 students mainly comprised of ex-servicemen. He was awarded the Clinical and Centenary Medals
(4th year) and the final year Clinical, Centenary & Coleman prize. He was an active member of the RVC alumni throughout his life. After graduating, Dick did two years national service joining the Royal Army Veterinary Corps spending 18 months in Egypt and Libya. He remained an active supporter of the RAVC regularly attending the Cenotaph on Armistice Day.
In 1956 Dick had his first professional job as an assistant in Thame, Oxfordshire marrying Joan Powell in 1958 (a Cardiff university history graduate) whom he had met whilst seeing practice during college. He moved to Leamington Spa in 1959 and was joined by Mike Murray forming the partnership of Lane and Murray in the early 1970s originally based in Guy Street, Leamington Spa but expanded with branches in Kenilworth and Coventry. The practice also provided veterinary care to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, both to its training and breeding centres. This started Dick’s interest in animal charities which he was to carry throughout his life.
Although Dick involved himself in supporting animal charities he was mainly known for his pivotal role in establishing a new charity called Dogs for the Disabled (now Dogs for Good) with Francis Hey. He remained heavily involved in this charity throughout his life (including supporting their stand at Crufts 2018). He had a lifelong interest in animal welfare and in 2016, The International Society of Applied Ethology presented him with a medal to
celebrate his 50 years of service. In 2000 Dick was awarded the JA Wright Memorial award for ‘outstanding contribution to welfare of pet animals’.
Dick was a keen writer and was awarded the BSAVA Dunkin Award (1977) and Melton Award (1987) for veterinary related papers. He was also involved in developing the professional standards for veterinary nurses and became editor the standard textbook (originally Jones’s animal nursing). Dick became a prolific author writing numerous books on different aspects of animal care such as Veterinary Advice for Dog Owners (2010), various chapters in dog and cat books and publishing dictionaries of veterinary medicine. In 2010 he branched out into a different area, sharing his wife’s love of history, publishing ‘A Victorians veterinary student diary’
Dick retired in 2001 after a very enjoyable and successful career, moving to York to be closer to his grandchildren (Maddy and Max) where he started his second career as a student and global traveller. He continued to maintain strong links with the veterinary profession and animal charities travelling to many scientific meetings around the world. He used his retirement as an opportunity to broaden his knowledge studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Myerscough College, Bishop Burton College and most recently his ninth degree at York University.
A major part of his retired life was about supporting the African Sisters of St Mary ( uk/) in Tanzania and Zambia; initially as a veterinary advisor but latterly as Trustee to the charity spending several weeks visiting them.
Dick also had a passion for sport, he was lucky enough to see the Olympics in London both in 1948 and 2012, and as a direct descendent of Yorkshire’s first professional cricket captain (Roger Iddison) he loved watching county and international cricket.
Dick’s wife Joan died prematurely in 2001 after a short illness. He is survived by his two children, Athene Lane, Associate professor in social medicine at Bristol University, and Charles Lane, a consultant plant pathologist in York. Dick died peacefully at home on 16 April 2018 having recently returned from a very enjoyable trip to Athens revisiting the places he had been previously with Joan. He was due to present a paper at an animal welfare conference in Norway within the month and then a five week trip to Tanzania. He was in excellent health throughout his life and enjoyed it to the full!
Charles and Athene Lane 30/05/2018

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