Sandy Urquhart, a much loved and respected veterinary surgeon for Penrith and the surrounding area, has died aged 77.
A proud Scot, Sandy was born in Glasgow in 1943.
By the age of eight, he had decided to become a vet — and began breeding white mice in his parents’ garden shed.
He would cycle two miles with his surplus mice in a box in his saddlebag, to sell his mice for nine pence each to a Glasgow pet shop.
Sandy became a popular, eager and fastidious student at the University of Glasgow’s Vet School.
After graduating in 1966, he moved to what was then Cumberland to embark on his professional career.
Within months, he was in the Midlands, dealing with the foot and mouth outbreak, before returning to Cumberland where he spent the majority of his career as a partner with Rowcliffe House Vets, in Penrith.
The news of his passing has brought many fond memories and stories from colleagues, clients and friends far and wide. He was hugely respected, dearly loved, and will be much missed.
Sandy loved being a vet. He cared for pets and farm animals in equal measure, and attended countless agricultural shows throughout Eden for more than 30 years.
He gave many talks about his role, answered listeners’ veterinary queries on Radio Cumbria, and relished being part of Glasgow Vet School’s selection panel for prospective students.
He was also a hospital inspector; one fellow Glasgow student describes how “…our friendship was always put to one side as Sandy performed his inspection.
“He was meticulous in the task and indeed I expected him to be just that.
“If repairs or alterations were needed, I was told very clearly and precisely.
“After the inspection, old friendship returned, and we usually went for a meal and a few drinks…”
Sandy was a president of the British Veterinary Hospitals’ Association (BVHA). He visited Moscow with the association in 1990, before leading the BVHA’s 1991 study trip to Washington DC.
Back home in Cumbria, a few weeks later, Sandy and his wife Joan hosted his fellow 1966 Glasgow graduates’ 25th anniversary reunion. They are held every five years, and Sandy never missed one.
Like most vets, Sandy experienced a few knocks along the way.
One visit to a remote Eden hill farm to castrate calves resulted in a kick to the head, requiring hospital treatment; the following year he returned to the same farm, only this time to be kicked by a cow and have his leg broken (he found this coincidence very amusing!)
On another occasion, part of his lip was bitten off by a dog, which made the news.
The story of him repairing a parrot’s beak with superglue, after it had been in a fight, even made the national press.
Away from work, Sandy loved reading, music, his beloved Scotland, and photography. He was a popular member and former secretary of Penrith and District Camera Club.
He also loved his family — so much so that he would sometimes take them to work with him.
His son Alistair recalled how one night, when the children were very small, he needed to attend to a dog but they couldn’t find a babysitter, so the children were taken to the surgery in their pyjamas and plonked in a large animal cage on freshly laundered dog beds, while he and his wife — who was a veterinary nurse — performed the operation.
Sandy retired from practice in 2001 — narrowly avoiding the next major foot-and-mouth outbreak — then worked as a hygiene inspector at Frank Bird Poultry, Langwathby, before retiring altogether in 2009.
He and his wife, Joan, then moved from Fell Lane, Penrith, to Otters Holt, Culgaith.
Right up until his death, Sandy remained as enthusiastic about his profession as he was when he had started breeding his white mice.
He died in the Cumberland Infirmary in December, after a short illness.
He is survived by Joan, his sons Alistair and Stephen, daughters-in-law Claire and Annika, and grandsons Ross and Joel.
A private family funeral was held in December at Carlisle Crematorium. Richardson’s Funeral Directors, Penrith, had charge of the arrangements.