Obituary: Duncan McMartin, vet whose career took him from Perthshire to California

Duncan Alexander McMartin, BVMS, PhD. Born: 30 March 1932 on the Rannoch Estate, Perthshire. Died 14 January 2017 in Davis, California, '¨aged 84

Duncan McMartin passed away peacefully at home last week from complications after routine surgery.

He was born in 1932 to Alistair and Jean McMartin, at East Lodge on the Rannoch Estate at the west end of Loch Rannoch, where his father was head gamekeeper. Duncan, along with his siblings Betty, Jessie and David, enjoyed a country childhood. Some of his best days were spent out on the moors or loch, hunting and fishing, more often than not with a dog by his side. His stories of growing up in such a wild and beautiful environment during a bygone era kept friends and family entertained and inspired for many years.

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He attended the tiny primary, Georgetown School, at Bridge of Gaur and then Breadalbane Academy, Aberfeldy. He boarded in the hostel with other pupils who lived some distance away and during the week took fiddle lessons with one Miss McGregor. Duncan began these lessons in Rannoch with John Robertson and playing Scottish fiddle music became a lifelong passion for him.

After leaving school, he spent two years in the Army doing his National Service.

In 1957 he graduated in Veterinary Medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh. Following this he was employed as assistant specialist in the experiment station at Davis, California and received his doctorate in Comparative Pathology from the University of California, Davis, in 1961.

During these years in Davis he met and married his loving wife of nearly 50 years, Hyla Tinklepaugh.

The couple soon moved back to Scotland, where Duncan worked for the British Ministry of Agriculture Veterinary Laboratory at Lasswade, near Edinburgh, becoming head of microbiology. For his outstanding work on eradication of M. gallisepticum from commercial poultry in Britain, he was awarded the Hall Gold Medal by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London in 1969.

During this time Duncan and Hyla raised four children – Christina, Duncan, John and Shona – at their home in the small village of Edgehead, Midlothian. Here he enjoyed the idyllic life of a small country village with friends and neighbours. Duncan was active in the local community and enjoyed social gatherings.

In 1980 Duncan was appointed a cooperative extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis and he and his family emigrated back to the US. His career was focused on the impact of diseases on large and small commercial flocks of poultry, but he also had interests in pet and exotic birds. Duncan considered it his privilege to travel throughout California liaising with individual farmers, practicing veterinarians and poultry companies and applying the latest scientific research and knowledge to the health and welfare challenges facing the agricultural community.

He developed a dynamic applied research programme aimed at eradicating and controlling bacterial and viral diseases that confronted the poultry industry.

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His research and leadership contributions to avian health and food safety were recognised both nationally and internationally with numerous invitations to speak at professional conferences. He also lent his expertise to state and federal regulatory/governmental agencies. Additionally, Duncan enthusiastically and readily shared his knowledge about poultry care and health with his colleagues, college students and many young people. He retired from UCD in 1993.

Duncan was well-known and loved, especially within the Scottish community in California.

An accomplished fiddle-player and Gaelic speaker, he brought joy to people as he shared his love of Scottish music and culture, often with a wee dram in hand. He was a long time member of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco and a founding member of the Dixon Scottish Cultural Association and took part in many activities. He was involved in helping with the sheepdog trials and fiddling, and was well known for his dramatic and inspirational rendition of Burns’ “Address to the Haggis”. He had an amazing memory and often regaled others with music, songs, and his vast historical knowledge. Duncan was also known for his kindness, wit and humble nature; he always saw the best in others and went out of his way to be there for family and friends around him and he will be greatly missed.

Duncan is survived by his sons Duncan and John, daughters Shona and Christina, sister Betty and grandchildren Laura, Andrew, Lex and Jake. He will also be lovingly remembered by many extended family members and friends.

A celebration of Duncan’s life will be held this summer in Davis along with a service in Scotland. Both will be announced in due time. Although he lived in his adopted home of Davis, California, for many years, his heart was always back in Scotland. His family will be bringing him home to Rannoch, along with Hyla – who died in 2007 – to be buried there.