Scotsman Obituaries: Neill McCormick, Scottish veterinary surgeon

Veterinary surgeon Andrew Neill McCormick died peacefully on Monday 2 May 2022 at Craighead Nursing Home, Newport on Tay, aged 97 years.

Neill was born in Newton Stewart in 1924 and raised with two brothers, Donald and Peter, and a sister, Margaret. He was educated at Douglas Ewart School and then boarding school at Worksop College, Cumbria.

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After war broke he joined the Royal Air Force in 1943. He gained his wings in a Gypsy Moth before finally flying Lancaster heavy bombers. Like many of that era he preferred to keep those memories to himself. Neill was never one for pomp and ceremony.

Neill McCormick with devoted friend Lizzie

He was seconded to the Naval Air Training Center, Pensacola, Florida to train on PBY Catalina flying boats and became a Naval Aviator with the United States Navy.

Following the war Neill summarized his education, qualifying at the Royal Dick Veterinary School, Edinburgh, in the 1950s.

As a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons he first saw practice in North Yorkshire, where he developed his skills in large and small animal veterinary medicine.

Neill married Marjorie in 1955 and they moved to Dundee in 1959. They had four children, Andrew, Iain, Donald and Jill.

The young Neill McCormick in uniform

Neill became a highly respected vet in Dundee and surrounds, popular with his fellow vets, farmers and pet owners alike. His calm approach to all manner of medical challenges was his trademark of him and no matter what the time, day or night, he would dutifully attend call-outs. Many young vets saw practice and no doubt gleaned valuable veterinary and surgical experience from his expertise.

Well known in the equestrian world, horses responded positively to Neill’s quiet and confident approach. In 1982 the owners of the famous Red Rum trusted Neill to stable him at his small yard near Longforgan during a promotional visit to Dundee.

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Neill practiced in Dundee at 121 Nethergate until 1994. His remarkable work ethic continued as he and Marjorie moved to Galloway, supposedly for retirement. Not Neill. He continued to don his white coat and stethoscope in the Gatehouse of Fleet for several more years, just in case any local small animals needed some help.

He finally retired when he and Marjorie moved to Castle Douglas, having completed a remarkable 50 years as a vet. He continued to wear the “Dick Vet” tie he had sported with great pride throughout his life.

Away from work, Neill and Marjorie were homemakers, enjoying the challenge of restoring houses and producing beautiful gardens. He was the hard landscaper and she the soft landscaper. They returned to Fife in 2004, and Marjorie died in 2007.

Neill continued to carve out a quiet life and enjoyed visiting his family and eating Laura’s Lemon Drizzle cake at Harbor House in Elie.

I have maintained a rigorous walking ritual every day to exercise and pick up his Dundee Courier. He also insisted that he still did his press ups and star jumps every morning. Nobody actually saw this but you don’t get to his ripe old age without true grit and determination.

Neil’s love of animals never wanted. Her beloved spaniel, Lizzie, was at her side for 18 years and latterly he had to carry her around her, but as long as she enjoyed her food he would say “ella she is just fine”.

Neill remained self-sufficient until 2019 when he required more care. This changed his daily lifestyle from him. I have survived the pandemic but its impact was detrimental, upsetting his “secret to longevity” – routine of him. He remained happy to the end and was grateful to his team of carers at Craighead.

His best friend, Baird Matthews, a childhood pal, still lives down in Galloway aged 97. They had a true and lasting friendship of more than 90 years, from being schoolboys to becoming two spirited old men.

Forever remembered, Neill McCormick was a true gentleman who will be greatly missed.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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