Vet recalls career funnies

“The Owners are funnier than their animals” could have been the title of Mike Robson’s talk as he regailed fellow Rotarians with anecdotes gathered during his 40 year career as a local vet. His profession took him from Ross shire to Southampton before returning to join his family practice which had been started by his grandfather in Fettercairn in 1990 and moved to Laurencekirk in 1917.

He was brought up on the couthy humour of Yorkshire vet Alf Wight, alias James Heriot, who popularised the profession through his writing and latterly the TV series and film “ All Creatures Great and Small.”

Heriot’s characters were shrouded in anonymity but Mike, released from his professional ethics, was able to give his subjects a more recognisable hue and their eccentricities were well known to many of the members. In his teenage years, as a gillie, up Glenesk he came across many natural wits amongst the gamekeepers, farmers and shepherds whose dogs also had the same peculiar traits as their owners. Two abiding characters in the Mearns who took “eccentricity” to a new level were the itinerant grazier Chae Downie and the surgeon cum farmer Jock Milne. Both were teetotal so drink could not be blamed for their unconventional behaviour.

One day Mike was called to Chae’s farm at Marykirk and, just as he got to the cow, it expired. Most of his clients would have harangued him for being late but Chae took a look in the cow’s mouth and found no teeth and said philosophically “ gosh,it’s high time she wis deid.“ Many vets wish that their patients could tell them about their illness and Mike’s prayers were answered when a parrot talked him through a blood test on its wing and he was indeed flattered when it uttered “Pretty Boy”! From crofts to castles, from horses to hens, Mike has a fund of stories gleaned from his veterinary years and Douglas Lamb thanked him for sharing them with his fellow Rotarians and observed that he should follow Heriot into the writing world. Perhaps we might yet see our local rural worthies and our eccentric pet owners immortalised on the silver screen.