It is with great sadness we announced the passing of Professor William "Twink" Allen on 6 June 2021. BEVA Past President and friend Jonathan Pycock has written the following obituary.
Well, no doubt many of us will have heard by now of the passing of Twink Allen. I couldn't possibly add to the wonderfully articulated messages and obituaries that have already been written. A huge loss indeed and as others have said more eloquently than I could, he will be an enormous loss to the equine reproduction world and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with his family. Of course his academic achievements are unlikely to be repeated His publications have been well referenced by others and I would simply say that I believe his papers were the best-written I have ever read. This naturally meant he was a tough supervisor for my Diploma in Equine Stud Medicine and there was often more “red pen” than original text following his review! Of course his suggestions did improve the work no end and I did pass at the end of the day! So chapeau Twink! I have done my best not to split an infinitive in this small tribute.
He was wonderfully and refreshingly non-PC. His ability to bring people together was second to none. One of my favourite Twink memories involves his conviviality and penchant for gin. We were at an International Equine Reproduction Symposium in the States and he had invited a whole bunch of us to his dormitory room at the University of Kentucky for 5 pm Gin and Tonic with a slice of Orange (never lemon). What had never entered Twink's head (or any of ours) of course was that Kentucky was apparently a “dry” state apart from certain licensed premises. So shortly after the first few gins had been poured some schoolboy age warden appeared to try and tell Twink he was not allowed to do that in his room and threatened to notify the Police! Twink ignored him and sent him off. But true to his word this chap called the local Police who duly arrived. As ever of course Twink appeared to smooth it all over and once they had departed the gin flowed as freely as ever. His dancing skills were legendary and he was just a wonderful person at a social function. It is difficult to imagine a more colourful character.
Twink was a marvellous supporter of BEVA over many years not only as a Council member, but for his wonderful lectures at Congress. To hear Twink speak and deliver a lecture was a privilege. As one who has done the occasional presentation in my time, I could certainly appreciate his easy, but authoritative style imparting information so comfortably. Often this information was novel work arising from the numerous research projects he had collaborated in over the years. As a stud medicine practitioner, I was always struck by how practical and clinically useful the many projects Twink was involved with were to those of us in the field. He was also well-known for asking probing questions from the audience, which he always did with careful thought showing how much he had considered the points made during the presentation. Many times I heard him offer words of encouragement to less experienced presenters which I know spurred many on to greater things.
Twink served on BEVA Council for many years and was BEVA President in 1981. Occasionally Twink could deliver a sharp rebuke when he felt it necessary. Over the years I had several as a result of my activities on behalf of BEVA. One such occasion was as I was coming up to my Presidential year in 2018 when he opined that he felt it was much better when BEVA Annual Congress was “At a good red-brick University and everyone could have a room in a Hall of Residence. All on campus. Perfect”. I began trying to point out that with the huge numbers and changing demographic of attendees this may not be a feasible, let alone popular, option! I soon realised it was best to change the subject! Of course, these comments simply indicated the strong interest he maintained in the organisation and always his aim was simply to make BEVA the best equine association in the world. I know I join all my BEVA colleagues, past and present, in thanking Twink for his massive contribution to BEVA over his working life. The Association will always be indebted to him. As one ex-BEVA President to another I would say “Thanks for everything you did for BEVA Twink.”
Another wonderful characteristic Twink had was that he never carried an argument on once he had made his point. I always suspected this was due to his Kiwi background.
He had an innate skill for organising events and bringing people from all avenues of the field of equine reproduction to a communal table. As a young equine vet involved in stud work, I was delighted to be invited to participate in an international workshop on equine endometritis held in honour of another legend of equine reproduction John P Hughes. I recall that this took place in Newmarket in 1992 and Twink was instrumental in organising it. It was an inspiring occasion for me to see so many colleagues at the top of the field of equine reproduction. I will never forget one of the many things that came out of this meeting was the coining of the term “endometrosis” to replace the previously used term “chronic degenerative endometritis”. This arose out of a lecture by the amazing Bob Kenney, but only became established as a result of the subsequent debate amongst the great and good assembled in Newmarket. Of course, it was not all presentations at the workshop as there were several outstanding social events allowing opportunities to chat with colleagues old and new in a casual and convivial environment. Twink certainly recognised the importance of the discussions and informal chats that took place outside the conference hall.
Twink was also a genuine horse lover and regularly hunted with the Thurlow, gaining his “hunt buttons” for his efforts on behalf of the hunt. In 1999 along with Dr Lewis Thomas he founded Vets for Hunting to provide a balanced opinion on the benefits of hunting with hounds.
He was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2002.
Considering the support he gave to so many young researchers over his time, it is appropriate that the W.R. (Twink) Allen Young Researcher Fellowship is being established and donations can be made.
The outpouring of respect and sense of loss in the equine reproduction world has been amazing. Will miss you Twink and hope you are enjoying a well-deserved G&T in that bar in the sky. Not sure they will be strong enough for you depending on who is pouring them! His partner of recent years, Sandra Wilsher (a fabulously talented equine reproduction expert in her own right) told me there will be a celebration of his life back in the UK later this year. We will make sure the gin is flowing and we can all remember a true legend in his field. Twink will be missed by everyone that knew him! I would concur with others in that his passing marks the end of an era.