George Stewart Forbes MRCVS
Featured Image: Profile for George Stewart Forbes MRCVS written by D G Hogben in ‘Thoroughbreds’: A Veterinary Bloodstock Agency Publication.
The late George Forbes was one of the most remarkable and eminently memorable of all the equine veterinarians I have ever met. I’ll explain his tenuous Scone connection later.
Quite simply George Forbes was a veritable but mildly ‘eccentric’ ebullient legend in the esoteric English speaking world of thoroughbred racing, breeding and sales. It’s an image one has to work at to sustain. George was inordinately successful. He epitomised the quintessential English gentleman.
He started out with a stout pedigree himself. His genotype was ‘inadvertently inherited’ but he built solidly on firm foundations. He derived from minor Scottish nobility of aristocratic lineage. An Old Etonian his undergraduate veterinary career was memorable; successfully negotiating an undulating pathway via Cambridge, Edinburgh and eventually graduating in Dublin. It’s not recorded in the attached exemplar but his undergraduate dress in attending lectures wearing morning coat, yellow gloves and carrying a white cane suitably embellished his reputation and genre. He was able to register as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS); a necessary pre-requisite to practice legally as a veterinary surgeon in the British Isles.
George’s professional career embraced many iterations; veterinary surgeon in practice, bloodstock auctioneer, assistant trainer, livery and eventually bloodstock agency and veterinary pharmaceuticals. George established his Veterinary Bloodstock Agency at Burley Lodge, Epsom, Co. Surrey, England. The Classic English Derby and Oaks Stakes are run at neighbouring Epsom Downs.
George produced an ‘advertorial’ Thoroughbreds booklet distributed through his eponymous Veterinary Bloodstock Agency. This was ‘pushing the boundaries’ because advertising veterinary services was prohibited by the licensing authority the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. I doubt George was either inhibited or intimidated? The ‘Thoroughbred’ booklet included an ‘Evolution of the Thoroughbred Horse’ by George himself, and descriptive articles on every ‘Horse, Pony, Cattle, Sheep and Pig native to the British Isles’. The Right Honourable Lady Wentworth contributed not only photographs but also an excellent and very thorough treatise on ‘The Old Arabian Racing Breed’; going back 5000 years! Also included are many advertisements for magazines, veterinary remedies and chronicles plus a diary of George’s attendance at thoroughbred sales throughout the British Isles and overseas. His nephew The Honourable Robin MacDonald Sinclair is also cited.
So what’s the Scone connection? In the late 1960s George Forbes was guest speaker at the Annual Dinner of the Australian Thoroughbred Breeders Association in Sydney. I have written about this elsewhere. George came to visit his friend Murray Bain in Scone. We were sitting in the drawing room at ‘Chivers’ savouring triple malt. Murray remarked on the pallid and drawn cachectic appearance of an agent of the British Bloodstock Agency with a noble title. George’s answer was pure patrician profundity: “I fear”, he said’ “that Lady Julia is making importunate demands on his person”! Murray and I were consumed by mirth. We both felt that local Aussie argot would have delivered a more succinct bucolic version. Its pure chance, and a considerable coincidence, that fifty years on one of George’s delightful daughters is now resident in Scone.