‘You had to be hardy enough to be a vet then’


Brian Gormley MRCVS speaks about graduating as a vet in 1958, old fair days and farming over the decades.

‘You had to be hardy enough to be a vet then’

  • ADDED
  • 4 mths ago

Brian Gormley MRCVS speaks about graduating as a vet in 1958, old fair days and farming over the decades.

The Humans of Longford Facebook page describes Brian Gormley MRCVS as one of “Co. Longford's most senior and active veterinary surgeon and poetry reciter.”

Gormley took time to recall some of his earlier memories and it makes for some compelling reading.

“Ah, it's great to see a genuinely quiet animal; a lot of them are wild nowadays.”

“You have to be very careful when dealing with cattle these days - they can be deadly dangerous.”

Brian qualified as a veterinary surgeon in 1958 – a time when cows were tied up in byres and their calves were bucket-reared.

“They'd come running up to you in the field - cattle were more used to being handled then.”

The vet then recited The Drover by Padraic Colum;

"To Meath of the pastures,

From wet hills by the seas,

Through Leitrim and Longford,

Go my cattle and me"

Brian said that times have changed "a fair bit" since the poet penned those lines. “I remember well the old fair days - there could be up to 1,000 cattle standing side-by-side in a town and they'd have been walked miles to the different fairs, often starting out in black darkness,” Brian explained.

"Times were tough"

Brian worked on the Clare/Galway border after he graduated; he carried out TB tests and used his earnings to purchase his first car.

One memory from the Clare /Galway border that remains with him is arriving in a remote, little valley.

There were about forty thatched houses in that valley with two cows and three calves in each place.

“But you'd have maybe four men helping to catch the cattle. There were no handling facilities in those days - you had to be hardy enough to be a vet then.” He added.

“The times were tough on the farmers too - it was a struggle to survive.”

“You'd have the same scene replicated in the next little valley - plenty of thatched houses and a population barely existing.”

“Those people have all gone now, the farms have gone; there are trees there now.” He stressed as he recited The Silence of Unlaboured Fields by Joseph Campbell.

"Small herds in challenging areas"

Brian also worked with the late Pat Gallagher who had a large veterinary practice.

“You're talking about over 8,000 herds but I suppose they were small herds in challenging areas.”

“The average holding was about 25-acres - much of it not good or as some used to say ‘25-acres in a good, dry summer and 5-acres in a bad, wet winter, often worked by bachelor men,’”

“I checked recently and the majority of places and their occupants are gone - total depopulation, the humans are decimated.”

“It started in the Famine and has continued on until now.” He added as he quoted lines from The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith.

Humans of Longford asked Brian if he is going to hang up his boots anytime soon, to which he replied: “Retire? Why should I give up what I love when I'm able to do it? The Granard air is good for me.” He concluded.

Image source: Humans of Longford \ Facebook

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