SANDY URQUHART (1943-2020)


Sandy Urquhart, a former President of the British Veterinary Hospitals Association, died on 13th December 2020 after a short illness.

A proud Scot, Sandy was born and bred in Glasgow on 7th May 1943. By the age of 8 he’d 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 ninepence each to a Glasgow pet shop.

Sandy became a popular, eager and fastidious student at the University of Glasgow’s Vet School. One of his fellow students recalls the day Sandy “volunteered” for a physiology practical which involved drinking several litres of water. He undertook the appropriate measuring of kidney function, but then ran into problems: “Sandy’s wonderful dissertation described in detail his individual short bus journeys, as he had to get off the bus at every public toilet on his way home...

After graduating in 1966, Sandy moved to 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.

Sandy loved being a vet. Aside from caring for pets and farm animals in equal measure, he gave many talks about the role, answered listeners’ veterinary queries on local radio, and was part of Glasgow Vet School’s selection panel for prospective students. He was also a hospital inspector; another of his old pals 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 an active BVHA member. For several years he edited the Association’s bulletin /newsletter, then in 1990 he became Junior Vice President, visiting Moscow with the Association in February of that year, before leading the 1991 study trip to Washington DC as BVHA President. Back home in the Lake District a few weeks later, Sandy and his wife Joan hosted his fellow 1966 Glasgow graduates’ 25th anniversary reunion (those reunions 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 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: “PENRITH VET SAVAGED BY HOUND” screamed the local newspaper billboard. This wasn’t Sandy’s only brush with fame: the story of him repairing a parrot’s beak with superglue, after it had been in a fight, made the national press.


Away from work, Sandy loved reading, music, photography, his beloved Scotland… and he loved his family. So much so, that he would sometimes take us into work with him. My brother Alistair reminds me of a night when we were very young, Dad needed to attend to a dog but he and our Mum (who had worked as a veterinary nurse) couldn’t get a babysitter. So they hauled us out of bed, took us into the surgery in our pyjamas, and plonked us in a large animal cage on freshly laundered dog beds, whilst they performed the operation!


Sandy retired from practice in 2001 – narrowly avoiding the next major foot-and-mouth outbreak – then worked for several years as a meat hygiene inspector, before retiring altogether in 2009. Right up until his death he remained as enthusiastic about his profession as he was when he’d started breeding his white mice. Indeed, he’d already secured his place for the next BVHA virtual AGM…


The news of his passing has brought many fond memories and stories from colleagues, clients and friends far and wide. Sandy Urquhart was hugely respected, dearly loved, and we’ll miss him very much.


(Stephen Urquhart, January 2021