Monday, October 15, 2018
Dr. Brian Singleton died quietly at his home in Blakeney, Norfolk, on 23rd October 2018, at the ripe old age of 95. Brian was one of the most distinguished veterinary surgeons of his or any generation and had the unique distinction of being a Past President and one of the founding members of the BSAVA, a Past President of the RCVS and perhaps surprisingly, also of BEVA. I am certain that this will never be achieved again.
Others have written of his small animal surgical skills in private practice in Pont Street, with Woody Woodrow a co-founder and first President of BSAVA. However, my first involvement with Brian was when he was a newly appointed Director of the Animal Health Trust and I was a Horserace Betting Levy Board scholar, keen to gain experience in Newmarket, working on equine airway disease with Dr. Bob Cook. Brian not only facilitated my appointment, but was a great source of inspiration and encouragement. He was an honorary Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, a rare distinction for a private practitioner working in the UK. He always insisted on the highest surgical standards and was not slow in ensuring that we young surgeons always strived to improve ourselves. He encouraged and supported my joining Peter Rossdale’s practice, at a time when relationships between the two Newmarket practices could on occasion be quite strained.
Brian was a successful Director of the AHT, always a difficult role and during his tenure he made the time to join BEVA Council and was elected to its Presidency in 1988. BEVA Congress in his year was held for the first time in Harrogate. This represented a major step forward for the Association, which up to that point had held UK conferences on university campuses. His determination to acquaint himself more closely with the equestrian world during this period, was exemplified by his riding out every morning in Lanwades Park on Rosie a chestnut mare, wearing an old pair of jodhpurs. Brian and his wife Hilda lived in the top flat at Lanwades Hall, where they often entertained the junior staff of the AHT.
On retirement from the AHT in 1988, Hilda and Brian lived in Vine Cottage, Blakeney. He followed his major hobbies, sailing, birdwatching and photography. In fact, he was awarded an Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2001 for photographic work including a series of shots of an operation we carried out on a stifle bone cyst at Rossdales Equine Hospital. I still keep a signed copy of one of those photographs on my wall. During his life he received many awards including a CBE, an Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh University, a Thoroughbred Breeders Special Award for services to the Thoroughbred industry and the Dalrymple-Champneys Cup, the highest award of the BVA.
Brian Singleton was a man of vision and integrity. His values were perhaps those of a previous era, but his encouragement of younger members of the profession and his ability to navigate a changing profession made him a most effective leader. He made a significant impact on the veterinary profession throughout his career. Brian lived a long and happy life, but was devastated by the loss of Hilda 6 years ago, after more than 60 years of marriage. His daughter, Maxine Wood, has cared for him during his last years. He leaves a family including 3 children, 5 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren.
Timothy R. C. Greet
BVMS, MVM, CertEO, DESTS, DipECVS, FRCVS
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