John Reginald George Morgan

John Reginald George Morgan MRCVS

Think ‘Siegfried Farnon’ in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. That’s JRGM!

See: All Creatures Great and Small (2020 TV series) – Wikipedia

Tristan Farnon? Who? Me?

Just remember Bill: “You win more with honey than with vinegar”. Maybe I should have ‘listened up’?

Featured Image: JRGM MFH of the Scone Hunt. This was John’s dreamworld scenario and one from which he never resiled. He liked the idea of MFH (Master of Foxhounds) rather than the more prosaic, and No. 2 in the pecking-order hierarchy, ‘Whipper-In’. His close friend David Smith (UK) astounded and astonished a group of Scone trainers at White Park one morning  when he turned up with John dispensing a loud rendition of ‘D’Ye Ken John Peel’ on the hunting horn!

Retrospective ‘Rumination’ Perspectives

“From where did you acquire this taste for luxury that life should be fair”?

“Life is a risk. If you do nothing, it’s a risk. If you do anything it’s a risk.

Life is a risk”. (Sir Humphrey Appleby ‘Yes Minister’)

There is little doubt that following Murray Bain the most influential veterinarian to practice in Scone has been John Reginald George Morgan (JRGM). Not a great deal has been written about him, but John offers the following pearls of wisdom laced with “just a little bit of (characteristic) latitude”. This is the quintessential Morgan rather than the ‘mad dog’ variety! Bill Stewart, Sue McCubbery and Jamie Barnes did concoct an aphorism relating to ‘Morganization’ and being ‘Morganized’. I have always speculated cognitively on the real meaning of this epithet. John explains it as the result of failing to follow detailed instructions and experiencing difficulties as a result!

Reminiscences and Ruminations of a ‘Guru’ John Reginald George Morgan (JRGM).

I came to Scone at the start of the 1968 season (August) returning home to Newmarket in December. I was immediately impressed by the more laid-back Australian approach to practice and stud management compared to England. The lifestyle appealed to me. Here was – and still is – a country of great opportunity. I returned to Scone accompanied by my family the following year (1969). I had been working in the old established practice of Reynolds and Partners in Newmarket where a former army colleague of Murray Bain Bob Crowhurst together with Fred Day were legendary long-term partners. This formed the initial link between the two practices which was maintained, and I think strengthened following the formation of Morgan Howey Fraser & Partners. This exchange of a junior member from each practice joining the other for the breeding season (‘shuttle seasons’) has spanned over thirty years and in my eyes has been a great success for all concerned. From our point of view having an extra dependable pair of hands arrive in Scone every spring season was ideal and well accepted by our clients.

On my arrival here I was particularly impressed by Murray’s record keeping. He maintained a detailed record of every mare and foal treated or examined by the practice. Sadly, we later failed to keep this up possibly because of pressure of work but mainly because the studs themselves began to keep their own. Secondly, having an ‘in-house’ laboratory run by a competent bacteriologist in Shona Murphy was an enormous aid in the diagnosis and correct treatment of infections. Thirdly, the ultra-high standard of veterinary hygiene created by Murray in installing sterilizers on every stud serviced by the practice was very prescient. Mare speculums were sterilized between each and every mare to a remarkably high standard. Murray always maintained that ‘not if but when’ something turns up transmissible mechanically we will be prepared. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see the day. Later it was suggested internationally that we took all these precautions in addition to culturing some mares anaerobically because we had already encountered a particularly nasty organism. If this were true Murray would certainly have published the findings!

Every day was a challenge. You didn’t really know what we were going to see. You had to put your best foot forward and there were no excuses for bad workmanship. You had to set standards and maintain them. The veterinarian made 100 or 200 ‘on-the-spot decisions’ a day and was really a decision-making machine. Assistants quickly learned to be innovative and independent especially if they found themselves way out in the Bylong valley without recourse to back up late on a Saturday night! 1977 was the year of the ‘Jubilee Clap’ (CEM = Contagious Equine Metritis). I came back from a UK visit with inside information that year. We were forewarned and fore armed so we knew what to look for. That year I was in France with an employee of ours (Sue McCubbery) and she said, “Funny thing, we’ve got two mares out of the stud, they’re not in foal and they won’t let us bring them home”. I thought “Hello, that sounds to me like they have CEM!”

I said to Bill “Any suspect stallion we’ll only serve two mares and any imported stallion we will swab the mares after the second or third day”. In the case of one imported stallion the first three mares covered were found to be oozing pus and CEM was diagnosed. The interesting thing was that two stallions in France sent to America had CEM and spread it to forty stallions on the farm in Kentucky. Sadly, they weren’t doing what we were doing with aseptic precautions in serving mares and separate washing jugs. Because of the knowledge and the setup and early decisions made we avoided the full-scale epidemic they had in Kentucky. Scone in 1969 was small community. Everyone knew each other. You only wanted the slightest excuse for partying. There really was a lot of comradeship and everyone in the mainstream and the practice got on well. We tended to get on well with other practices because we had nothing to fear from them. We were just busy doing our own stuff. AMB could be a difficult bastard! He could also be entirely unreasonable. We all saw that and occasionally bore the brunt of it. He had a great belief that what he thought was correct. I think everyone’s entitled to that but frequently he built it into he was right, and you were wrong!

In his most vituperative mood, he could be an ‘avatar of malice’. Murray was perfunctory with trade people coming around. A salesman of a MIP (Mare Immunological Pregnancy) Test explained it and claimed that at 42 days this is a 99.5 per cent sure test. Murray pulled himself to his full height and said “I am 100 per cent. Go away and perfect your product!” (No arguing!). We worked hard and played hard. But we all really enjoyed what we were doing and enjoyed each other’s company by and large. We worked as a team, and we used to fully support each other. There were ritual difficulties and late calls and coming back from Widden Valley and then having to go back again. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves by just working too hard and not working the business side of things too well. Luckily, we all survived and didn’t succumb to car accidents or depressions although we all had brushes with the ‘black dog’ at times and jousts with alcohol! You can’t control your emotions and how you feel but you can control how you behave. Astute observation and being acutely percipient are keys to success but some of it is just very sound common sense. For example, treat every lame or ‘proppy’ foal as ‘joint ill’ until proven otherwise. The seven years I spent farming and going to farm produce and livestock markets were with a dry difficult lot. It prepared me psychologically for the job ahead. It enabled us to deal with difficult clients! Talk about lessons in life!

Brian Maher, Lionel Israel, Carl Powell, Alan Morrisby and Souran Vanian all had their moments. Brian Maher was the ‘bottom of the harbour tax evasion’ expert and said he’d build us a practice. We said, “We’ll do that but probably finance it ourselves”. We did not want to play into his hands. Manageress Lorraine Skinner thought that Siegfried Farnon (“All Creatures Great and Small”, BBC TV) and John Morgan were so alike it was untrue. I think one of the good things for the people working for us is that we used to give them a lot of latitude and preferred it if they came back and discussed anything with us. They could have time off to go somewhere even on their weekend on. You can’t have it all ways. We expected them to give 200 per cent in the breeding season and you’re there seven days a week. We got ourselves a bad name in some areas because it seemed the sort of person we’d like to come in and work for us and be able to deal with clients well would be the ones who were still playing Rugby. We did incline to employ people who had played and were still playing because it suited us better. At one stage everyone played Rugby except myself so the only person on call on Saturday afternoons was me. It was a very satisfactory arrangement mainly employing males and the sort of work we did. There was a lot of drenching, pregnancy testing cattle and physical stuff just like an endurance race every day. You got the satisfaction of a job well done with the absence of noise and a smooth flow. You know it’s going well if there’s no-one yahooing and yelling. It was difficult for partners. One day during the famous party at the ‘Castle’ I left the kids at the swimming pool without supervision. Some man had picked them up at the pool. No one knew who he was or where they’d gone! It didn’t affect me all that much because I’d just managed to get home, and I fell asleep. I left it to my other half [Sally] to sort it out. Somebody had taken them home. She had no help from me. A fair few of us were ‘unhelpful’. We didn’t need an occasion. Bill put on a party and might I add that BH did not do things by halves! There’d be enough alcohol for a week just in case there were floods or something. There were people passing out everywhere. Not a great advertisement for temperance but not unpleasant! [Happy note: Good neighbour Norman Smith had recognised the signs and retrieved the Morgan brood for safe keeping!].

We had one or two good if not great practice parties. We traditionally hosted one in the Scone Cup Week in May. We would invite everyone to come. They were legendary and literally came in hundreds. Bert Lilley and his crew got stuck on the veranda at 106 Liverpool Street and just chundered into the street. When Tony Parker left, we had a terrific party. When I came to Scone in1968 I lived in the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ [Kelly Street] for a few months. One didn’t spend a lot of time there. One went there just to sleep and get up and then get going. We used to leave quite early to drive to wherever we were going to. You could find yourself late on a Saturday night with a hundred miles to drive back. I got in very hot water because when I came back with my family in 1969 two or three people said “We didn’t even know he was married”! It was a harmless remark, but I don’t know what Sally construed into that. You couldn’t be pining away by yourself. You’d have to have a beer and debrief in the RSL Club. The place shut at 7pm in those days. ‘Comeuppance’ stopped me going to RSL. Rebecca was about 4 years old and had been here about 2.5 years. I’d been away all day said, “I’m just going for a drink.” She came up with a bottle and said, “You don’t have to go away, we have a beer here”. That finished me!