Obituary: Brian James Alps, veterinary surgeon

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Born: 26 August, 1939, near Ely, Cambridgeshire. Died: 29 March 2015, in Tarbert, Argyll, aged 75.

Brian Alps was a vet who made a successful career in the British pharmaceutical industry. However, his life also embraced many different unrelated activities and it is as much for his enthusiasm and dedication in these areas that he is remembered.

Veterinary surgeon who was an expert and enthusiastic builder of model submarines

Veterinary surgeon who was an expert and enthusiastic builder of model submarines

Brian was born to Jim and Ethel Alps near Ely in Cambridgeshire on 26 August, 1939, the eldest child of four, having two sisters and a brother. He was educated at Soham Grammar School and the University of Bristol where he gained a BSC in veterinary science and a PhD in equine cardiology. He got married to Lyn in 1963.

On leaving Bristol in 1966, he spent two years in a mainly equine veterinary practice based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Here his eldest daughter, Sarah, was born while they lived in Coventry.

In 1968 he decided to go back into research and joined Wyeths, an American pharmaceutical company based in Slough, as a research physiologist working on drugs associated with coronary disease. His son Jonathan and daughter Katie were both born in Bourne End.

In 1976 he was offered the post of director of physiology by another American pharmaceutical company, Syntex, at their new research facility being set up on the Herriot Watt University Campus in Edinburgh.

The family moved to Linlithgow where the children were educated. He led the physiology department there for many years and held numerous patents on important drug developments.

Although Syntex developed drugs for human use, Brian was always watching for possible applications to benefit animals. He remained at Syntex until his retirement and eventually moved to Guildford with his second wife Rita.

Brian was an accomplished artist and an able craftsman in many different fields which stretched from woodwork to electronics. He used these skills and his endless enthusiasm to encourage others to achieve more.

In Linlithgow he was involved in several organisations, the Canal Society for whom he masterminded floats for the Marches and the Deacons Court, who run the Marches along with the associated decorations and costumes for the participants which won many prizes.

He was also chairman of Linlithgow Academy Parents’ Association for three years and chairman of Linlithgow Civic Trust for two years. He developed a long-term interest in bonsai trees and was president of the Scottish Bonsai Society for several years.

Brian was always looking for animals to help. His family remember a stray cat in Linlithgow which arrived on their doorstep with serious facial injuries, probably from a car.

Over many months Brian steadily used his surgical skills to rebuild the cat’s face until she was able to return to a normal life as a family pet.

Years later, when Brian lived in Guildford, he became involved with the animal sanctuary set up by TV screen writer Carla Lane. Brian specialised in helping injured birds and developed many novel techniques using surgical needles to pin together broken wing bones.

Also, while in Guildford, Brian developed an interest in model submarines. He had always had a keen interest in model making, his children remembering numerous model ships, aircraft and others which their dad built. They particularly remember his attention to detail, whether it was adapting some everyday item to become a gun on an ancient warship or modelling from scratch and painting the pilot of a model plane.

Brian’s model submarines really worked. He built them from scratch using plastic drainpipes, wood and all sorts of everyday items he could adapt and then he finished them to look like real submarines often with a realistic “crew” on deck.

He created a working model of Captain Nemo’s Nautilus from the film of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and laterally built his Wallace and Grommet submarine with the intrepid adventurers at the controls. Some years ago when the Royal Navy made a television programme about submarines, Brian was invited to provide one of his working models as a demonstration in a swimming pool.

Brian was a member of the Model Submariners’ Association for many years. He is remembered by them for his enthusiasm and innovation in technical matters but particularly for his active support of the association. He was editor of their magazine In Depth for many years, providing many of the articles himself, and stood in for a period as chairman.

Despite all his successes and many talents, Brian will be remembered as a very sympathetic man who was tolerant and supportive of colleagues and fellow enthusiasts alike. He always encouraged others to achieve beyond their expectations.

Brian is survived by his first wife, Lyn, his three children Sarah, Jonathan and Katie, by three grandchildren and by his second wife Rita.