John Brian Howard Reed BVM&S MRCVS. Born: 2 May 1947 in Altrincham. Died: 6 November 2016 in Melrose, aged 69
John Reed was a “weel kent’ face around the Borders, and the 500 people who packed into Melrose Parish Church for his Service of Thanksgiving demonstrated how John touched the lives of so many. John died, suddenly but peacefully, at home, following a diagnosis of cancer two months ago.
John was a man of many parts: vet, fisherman, rugby man and wildlife enthusiast.
He was born in Altrincham in England’s north west in 1947, second child of John and Lesley Reed. He attended Oldfield Brow Primary School and Altrincham Grammar School.
John graduated from Edinburgh University Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery in 1971. Along with colleagues from his year he then undertook a veterinary project in Botswana, and John returned to The Dick to write up the research papers.
After jobs in Wakefield and Lockerbie he came to St Boswells in 1975 to join Jim Scott. Jim was tragically killed on a farm the following year, leaving a young John to run the practice for Jim’s widow, Sheila. He needed some veterinary help, and was joined for a month’s locum by Nigel Brown. John’s interviewing technique never changed. Out with him on a couple of calls and then to the Buccleuch Arms for a pint – that worked.
The original St Boswells practice, which was founded in the 1890s by the grandfather of John’s wife, Alison, could have folded then, but it was testament to the loyalty of Jim and John’s clients, and the respect they had for John, that most stuck with the practice, and the “Boswells” vets survived. A year later John bought the practice and traded as JBH Reed. He was a great vet, a skilled general practitioner equally at home at the front end of a difficult Rottweiler or back end of an accommodating suckler cow. He was compassionate, totally committed to his patients and their owners.
Clients, who usually became friends, had trust in John, his professional opinion, his discretion and his expertise. Trust was so much part of the man John was. He trusted his friends, and all his staff over the years. John trusted his vets. Since John joined and ultimately acquired the practice no vet left to work elsewhere. He was a real mentor to them all, happy to share his knowledge and experience.
John, with his intelligence, and knowledge on many matters, was yet always interested and receptive to the expertise of others. He was always keen to learn and develop new veterinary ideas. Well-known Suffolk breeder Karl Linklater and John did embryo transfer work before it was commercially available, using a wheelbarrow as an operating table. His practice had the first fibre optic endoscope in the area and one of the first mobile phones,
John was not a tall man. In an article in Country Life in the Nineties he was described as short, burly and friendly. He would take that. He once rang a 6ft 2in colleague for assistance with a difficult calving. “I don’t need you, just your arms” A few inches extra reach made correction of a head back a bit easier. The practice grew, as John’s trust extended to partnerships over time for Nigel Brown, the late Ewen Cameron and Neil Cameron.
Reed & Brown was founded in 1980, and soon became Reed, Brown & Cameron for over 20 years. As the practice outgrew Braeheads Stables, John was hugely involved in the purchase, design and build of the new premises at Greenside in 2007, when Greenside Veterinary Practice emerged. After working part time for two years he retired in 2009, with Andy Armitage becoming a partner.
But John was so much more than a vet. John was an Englishman. John was always proud to be an Englishman. He was also proud to be a Borderer, a Melrose man, a Boswells man.
He was Chairman of St Boswells Primary School Board, Chairman of Earlston High School Board, played for and was Secretary of St Boswells Cricket Club and supported Alison in her council work. He compered the St Boswells Hall New Year Millennium celebrations. He was chairman of the Newtown St Boswells and District Angling Association. In his retirement, he was a volunteer at The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and acted as a polling clerk in St Boswells.
Everyone knew, respected and valued John. He was impatient of flannel, and chaired any meeting with an emphasis on brevity, sound reasoning and decisive action.
John was a very funny man, witty, self deprecating, the life and soul of any party. Although modest and somewhat shy, his wit and imagination made him a very popular after dinner speaker.
John married Alison, the daughter of Ian Chalmers, who had also been a vet in St. Boswells, in 1979.
They were a perfect match, sharing their love of the Borders, gardening and rugby. They both watched a lot of rugby and rarely missed a Melrose match.
They enjoyed many wonderful family holidays in the UK, North America and Southern Africa. John never lost his love for Botswana and he and Alison holidayed there in 2008 with his friends from that 1971 field trip.
Brian, their elder son, followed in John’s veterinary footsteps and is in equine practice in Yorkshire, while second son Michael took the medical route and is a Rheumatologist in Glasgow. Grandson Edward, the joy of John’s life, was born to Mike and April last year.
John loved the Borders. He loved the Borders hills and valleys, and fly fishing became his first love. He fished for trout all over Scotland and Northern England, designing and tying his own flies, combining his knowledge of the fishing craft with his surgical dexterity.
Every May for the last 30 plus years John, with his fishing friends, would pack the car with tackle, food and cases of Balvennie or McCallum and head off for a week’s fishing and other boys’ tour stuff. They visited every part of Scotland including the Uists, Rhum, Islay, The Floe country, Suilven and many other airts. He also worked with The Tweed Foundation, monitoring local river and fish health.
Rugby was a lifelong love for John . He represented Cheshire Schools, captained The Dick Vet – winning a blue – and as his sons started playing he began coaching the youth teams at Melrose, moving on to committee, Sevens Tickets Secretary for many years, President 2011-13 and honorary secretary. He served the club with great pride and dedication right up to his death. He also served Borders rugby as Border League President.
He is survived by his family, sister Jennie Brockington and his two nieces.
Nigel R Brown