Review/Oorsig Volume 23, Issue 01 - Page 26

Oorsig/Review A Tribute to Veterinary Pioneers 2020 Will be the twin centenary of The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) and the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort. Leading up to these events The Review will be publishing an article in each issue relating to the history of veterinary science, specifically livestock. Not just diseases, but especially the people - vets - who helped create what we now think of as standard practice PETER NEWTON COLLIER (1929-2013) Peter Collier was a Jo’burg boy, the son of a master brewer. Peter went to Jeppe High. Despite being a city boy he spent his entire adult life on farms, both as a country vet and a farmer. He was part of the small but illustrious class of ’53 at Onderstepoort, which included Prof Theuns Naude (toxicology), Prof Malie Smuts (anatomy) and Dr Alan Abrey (of Umgeni and Brazilian Bird Parks renown). Their camaraderie saw the classmates holding regular reunions over the decades and these allowed them to watch one another’s families grow, ultimately fly the coops and have families of their own. After cutting his eye teeth at the Azzie practice in Jo’burg and in a stint in the UK, Peter worked with Sandy Littlejohn in Mooi River. He married a nursing sister Ena Kirby, a Transkei trader’s daughter, and this marriage partnership lasted both their lifetimes. In 1957 the remote Underberg farming district had no resident vet, so the Farmers Association offered Peter a deal whereby it would subsidise his income if his earnings – as local vet – didn’t reach fifty pound a month. (It never had to!) Peter and Ena Collier became the legendary vet practice in south-western KZN. Like Drs Romyn Every (Estcourt) and Peter Wacher (Howick), the practice evolved from TB and CA testing and fire-engine based work to a whole herd philosophy. As a single-man show he worked himself to the bone with few holidays. Locums were hard to come by but he later managed to “blood” a few young vets by hiring locums or assistants. Dr Stuart Southwell from New Zealand and Dr Jacques Flamand (a Cambridge graduate) were two such protégées. Jacques in time became a renowned wildlife vet, specialising in rhinos. Tod Collins joined Peter in 1976. Today the Underberg Vet Surgery comprises Tod Collins, Gavin King and Rob Delaney. The Colliers purchased a small farm a few kilometres outside Underberg, on the Drakensberg Garden road. This was the base of the practice and their Charolais stud. The well-known “Duck & Dolittle” restaurant now occupies the old surgery buildings, after the new surgery was built alongside the Farmers Association saleyards in the Underberg village in 1988. Peter was a remarkably talented sportsman, shining in country districts golf, cricket and tennis. In his later years he took to mountain biking and with a legendary Comrades runner, Clive Crawley, formed the oldest team to complete the Sani-to-Sea event. Conservation matters became a passion too and he was an active Honorary Officer for EKZN Wildlife. The Colliers were also founder (and 25 years later, closing) members of the local Lions Club. 26