Big thank you from

The Anthrax debate

by the Rambler 5/10/2001

BEFORE some of our readers, who are biologists, vent their spleen about the dissertation upon murrain that we published last week, let me tell them that it didn't take my mentor long to spot the weakest link.

Harry, a long-retired veterinary surgeon, who had his surgery at High Street, Lurgan, blew his top when he read the bit by the Power of Tipperary about 'the absence of the spleen in cattle'. It's well it's a long way to Tipperary or Harry might take off?

As soon as the print caught his eye, he headed for his bookcase and landed a weighty pharmacopoeia on my lap. "Here!" he said, "look it up in that. Anthrax comes first."

I immediately found Anthrax, as the book was indexed alphabetically, and there was the answer - a detailed exposé of the appearance of the spleen of a beast suffering from Anthrax!

Mr Power's account of the research which he had done impressed me. Clonmacnoise, as far as I know, was the cradle of Christianity in its particular neck of the wood, but the author seems to have got out of his depth in the field of biology.

I have the greatest respect for Harry MRCVS as a neighbour and as a surgeon. A long time ago, say 100 years ago, Harry's father James farmed at Gortnomony near Moira (where the family still farm). A slow running stream separates that farm from the townland of Ballymackeonan, and also from land which my people have farmed for centuries.


Both parties were good friends as well as close neighbours, and their descendants remain so. Naturally, Harry was my family's vet when he was in practice, and a most concerned professional. One incident which I will recall will illustrate this.

A beast had died suddenly, in puzzling circumstances, and when a second showed similar symptoms, Harry carried out wide research. He came up with a verdict of 'lead poisoning' which was regarded as incredible and unacceptable. Where on earth could cattle, out grazing, pick up lead? Incredible or not, Harry held firm.

After weeks of painstaking search of every square yard of territory, we found an ancient paint tin, lidless and buried deep in a thicket of briars, where it had lain for a lifetime. It still contained remnants of white lead paint, and the animals had been licking it! Harry was proved right (as usual).

He is long retired, but obviously his professional skill remains intact. Long may he follow Glenavon 'who have their tails up'!

Ulster Star