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Timothy David Hirst
  1. Tom Oxtoby and
  2. Fran Baird

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A ‘friend to all’, as well as an inspirational vet who was fully committed to the future of British farming

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Timothy David Hirst, BVM&S, CertCHP, MRCVS, (b) 1980, (q) Edinburgh 2003. Died 28 July 2019.

At the age of 14, it was a trip to the vets in Holmfirth with his brother’s cat that marked the start of Tim’s veterinary journey. Evenings and weekends spent doing work experience, combined with a natural academic ability, provided the path to the Royal (Dick) vet school in 1998. He made innumerable lifelong friends and immersed himself in activities that ranged from rugby and sailing to hiking and ski trips to Aviemore. He was the instigator of many social events and the life and soul of every party.

He arrived at Edinburgh with the intention of being a small animal surgeon, but found his natural home while doing farm animal rotations. Qualifying in 2003, he cut his teeth in the Parklands practice in Northern Ireland with John Grant and Jim Slain – the first partners to beat a well-trodden path to car dealerships on Tim’s behalf. John’s abiding memory of Tim was that he was ‘a friend to all who met him’. It was in Northern Ireland that he managed to convince EMS student Joanna Suthers to become his girlfriend. Their first date involved a trip to the Giant’s Causeway, so it was fitting that several years later Tim proposed to her at the causeway’s other end – Fingal’s Cave in the Inner Hebrides.

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Life took him next to Wotton-under-Edge and the Rowe Veterinary Group where, under the guidance of Phil Marsh, he really came into his own as a farm animal vet. The close friendships that he forged with his clients in that period continued throughout the rest of his career. His growing experience and clinical expertise, especially noticeable in the remarkable speed and neatness of his surgery, unfortunately did not extend to the care of his practice car.

In 2007, Rowe’s farm practice amalgamated with the George Veterinary Group in Malmesbury, and ‘Team George’ became acquainted with Tim. He fitted in straightaway and was instrumental in helping make the practice what it is today. Early on it was obvious that Tim had a rare empathy with the animals under his care and the clients who owned them. He was equally at home treating a smallholder’s pet sheep or coordinating the management and health of multimillion pound dairy farms. Nothing was too much trouble; he was always the first to volunteer.

He could be relied on to be at the centre of any social event whatever it was and whenever it occurred. There were countless trips, events and nights out that are vivid in our memory despite the hazy recollections at the time. They range from team weekend trips in a minibus to Yorkshire and Friday nights at Bath rugby to transatlantic and south-east Asian study tours with groups of dairy farmers.

Tim’s knowledge and expertise were recognised when he was awarded the RCVS certificate in cattle health and production. There followed a natural progression to becoming a director of the George Veterinary Group.

One passion was to do whatever he could to tackle TB in cattle, which brought such hardship and pain to the farms under his care

There are numerous young farm vets working in the industry today, both at the George and elsewhere, who owe a lot to the mentoring and inspiration that Tim engendered. Fully committed to the future of British farming, he leaves many legacies. One passion was to do whatever he could to tackle TB in cattle, which brought such hardship and pain to the farms under his care. Initiatives in this field, pushed forward by Tim, will bear fruit in the years to come.

He immersed himself in all activities, but sailing, hunting, skiing and shooting were his main passions.

Married to Jo in 2012, they took great pleasure and pride in converting the ruin that was Gully Farm into a fabulous and welcoming home.

Tim was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2018, yet continued to play a full part in the business right up to the month of his death. His great positivity was evident, even at the point of his anaesthesia for a bilateral lung transplant, which was sadly unsuccessful. The esteem with which he was held was evident in Thornbury Church where over 500 people came from across the world to pay their respects to this remarkable individual.

He will be sadly missed by all, but especially by Jo; Bryan and Janet, his parents, and Simon his brother.

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