MVP History: 1959-1979


Established in 1966 our practice has changed premises and practice name a number of times.  We can track our history back as far as 1959 and are fortunate enough to have this recorded for us, by the two founders of our practice - Tony Farrow and Spencer Bayer.  We hope you enjoy the following account of the practice in its early years.  Please read on ...

The Beginnings

Tony Farrow BVetMed MRCVS, a new veterinary graduate, joined Waters and Logue in Halstead on the 2nd January 1959.  At the same time Spencer Bayer MRCVS, also freshly qualified, was starting his career at Sandown Veterinary Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.  In May 1960 Spencer joined the practice in Halstead.  In fact this was the beginning of a professional relationship and friendship between them and their families which has lasted for over 50 years and exists to the present day.

Waters and Logue was a 4 vet mixed practice - 80% farm animal, 20% small animal and no exotic pets!  The 'old man' (Mr Wilfred Waters) was officially retired but nevertheless came into the practice nearly every day.  He was of great help to Tony and Spencer on the equine side - having been a veterinary surgeon during World War 1 and hence very experienced and knowledgeable, often accompanying them when they visited equine clients.    Mr Waters initiated our first practice laboratory, something or a rarity in veterinary practices.

Practice standards and working conditions were very different in those early days!  Advertising was NOT allowed.  No one could call themselves a specialist - even if they were!   Practice brass plates were approximately 10" x 8".  There was no appointment system and the working hours were long and demanding.  

Days were packed with patients and in-between the many farm visits were 3 small animal consulting periods during the day: 9am-10am; 2-3,30pm and 6-7.30pm including Saturdays.  There always seemed to be the client or clients who arrived at 7.20pm!   Small animal operating did not begin until the vets started returning from the morning visits.  This would change with time.

Two vets always had to be on call.  One vet was first on-call and the second as a reserve helping when 2 emergencies presented at once or assist during operations if needed.  The reserve could go out but had to be near a phone so he (women vets were rare) could be contacted if needed.  There were no mobile phones or bleepers at this time.  Later the advent of mobile phones and bleepers would make life considerably easier!

Vets were on call every second night and every second weekend.  The weekend started on a Saturday after the consulting and visits had been completed.  Each vet had half a day off every week and 2 weeks annual leave!  Veterinary assistants were allowed free use of the practice car and petrol.  Consulting fees were very low by today's standards - 7 shillings and 6 pence - approximately 41p !

Assistant duties also included making up bottled medicines for farm animals.  There was no recording system for small animal consultations but Tony and Spencer rectified this soon after arrival by setting up a record card index system - another rarity in the then modern veterinary practice.

Farm animal veterinary work and practice progression

Initially in the 60's there were a substantial number of clients with small milking herds of 20 to 40 milking cows - and several large herds of 100+.  There were also a large number of pig units and quite significant number of clients with a few pigs in the backyard!  There were also a few clients with heavy horses, (Suffolk and Shires) and also a large number of horses for hunting, hacking and as children's ponies.  As a result there were many visits and the prices for visiting were quite low.  

Every bovine animal had to be tested annually for TB (tuberculosis).  There was much stock so this was very time consuming, as was also the routine work of dehorning, disbudding, castrations, vaccination against brucellosis, erysipelas, swine fever, placenta retention, foot trimming etc..
Obstetrical work, road traffic accidents and trauma cases etc.. always took precedence.  This period was also the beginning of a change to farming practice as farming became more intensive.

Tony and Spencer shared a flat a short distance from the practice.  Life was very very busy and hectic but exciting.  In 1962 they became partners in the firm.  Frank Logue was diagnosed with caner and passed away in 1963.

Veterinary Practice was also changing. New ideas, diagnostic aids and surgical techniques were becoming more sophisticated, especially in the fields of anesthesia and gaseous anesthesia, orthopedics, ophthalmology and surgery in general.  New graduates would bring in fresh approaches to problems but could rely on their senior and more experienced colleagues.  Equipment was also changing, becoming more practical and efficient and hence the practice purchased an ex-NHS reconditioned operating table and x-ray machine.  

In the early 1960's there were still many elderly farm labourers and stockmen - a critical audience for newly qualified vets.  Many had severe arthritis through working outside in all weathers for so many years.  They used to purchase white oils, a horse liniment to treat their own arthritis.  In fact we probably supplied more to them than we used on the horse patients!

Signing on the dotted line!

Tony married Lesley in 1962 and Spencer married Sue in 1963 and subsequently bought houses in Braintree, in Broad Road and London Road respectively.  This fitted in well with the practice as there were large animal clients in and around Braintree and the small animal practice, in size and scope was expanding with an increasing number of clients from Braintree.

It was also within easy reach of Halstead and other areas the practice served such as Wethersfield, Finchingfield and Coggeshall etc... In May 1966 premises were rented at 37a Bradford Street to house a new veterinary practice - the forerunner of the Millennium Veterinary Practice as it is today. 

Initially we had 2 consulting sessions each day - 9-10am and 5-6.30pm.  All surgical cases were transported to Halstead and returned at the end of the day.  Marion Carter was the sole secretary and Helen Wilkin, the indefatigable cleaning lady!  Tony ran most of the morning consults as he was more orientated to domestic pets and Spencer was more involved in the dairy and large animal world.  

As the middle 1960's moved on so changes in agriculture became more apparent.  Cattle numbers started to decline as smaller farmers went out of business and the larger farms increased their capacity.  Intensive pig and calf units were on the increase - hundreds of pigs under one roof - the noise at feeding time was deafening!  The net result was less stock, fewer farm workers, hedges removed, more large farm machinery and streamlined farming systems.  This coincided with an increasing affluence of the public and a willingness to pay for more complex and comprehensive treatment for their pets.   This resulted in a huge improvement in standards and the advancement in small animal practice.  There were very few exotic pets initially but later snakes, tortoises, lizards, fish, birds etc.. started to appear - many of which we had never seen before - let alone treated!  London Zoo vets were very helpful!  Pet insurance was also becoming increasingly popular.

The 1970's

The 1970's proved to be an era of great expansion, especially in small animal practice.  The decline in the number of dairy herds continued and farming became increasingly intensive with less clinical work as such.  There were more diseases associated with management - ventilation, hygiene and housing leading to a huge increase in enteric and respiratory problems - the era of mass medication of antibiotics in feed was gaining in momentum.  Also fertility work in the bovine and ovine fields were increasing with the synchronizing of oestrus in cattle and sheep and ovum transplants in cattle.  We once performed nine caesarian sections in a month in one Charolais herd which was using pedigree ova and semen transplanted into non-pedigree heifers!  

In 1971 the firm purchased a small single vet practice in Colchester.  The provision of veterinary services to an increasing number of pedigree dog breeders and small animal practice was rapidly becoming increasingly comprehensive and specialised.  By now we had become a 5 vet practice, having 2 assistants who became partners in 1973.  At that time Tony and Spencer also found a vacant site in Colchester which the firm purchased.  Plans were drawn up and new veterinary premises with an upstairs flat were built.  An extra assistant was employed.

In 1975 South African vet Howard Hellig joined the practice as a poultry specialist and the practice became heavily involved in poultry diagnostic services and also the inspection of poultry units' where day old chicks and eggs were being exported and needed health certification.

Practice and life in general was consequently becoming increasingly hectic and slightly frantic due to the wide spread nature of the practice and its demands.  

In 1976 vet Iain Paton approached us with an offer to purchase his small animal practice in Braintree as he wished to specialise in mainly equine work.  We accepted and moved premises to a temporary breeze block building in Blyths Meadow in Braintree, (now Sainsburys car park and shared it with Ian for approximately 6 months until he moved to alternative premises. Included in the agreement were plans for a new surgery to be built in Coggeshall Road, Braintree which was eventually built in 1982.

Finally in 1977 the practice purchased a premises in Coggeshall and set up a branch practice.  We were now a 7 vet practice covering a wide area in North Essex and into Suffolk.

Support Staff

Mention must also be made of our nurses and secretaries.  In the early days there was no formal nursing structure - as a result we trained our own and they became excellent as did our secretaries and receptionists.  Without their help and expertise the practice would not have functioned as efficiently as it did.  We cannot mention all their names but include Rosie Griffiths, Christine Joy, Kathy Hardy, Marion Carter, Helen Wilkin and many others.  We are indebted to all of them and they would be followed by the next generation of wonderful nurses and secretarial staff as the practice progressed.  

Behind every man is a good woman!

Finally before we conclude this early history of the practice we must acclaim our wives - Lesley and Sue.  Bringing up our children; left to cope with the practice phones at lunchtime, nights and weekends; dealing with whatever turned up at the door; chasing and catching up with vets on their rounds; unreliable mealtimes and interrupted nights and weekends - life at was very hard and demanding!

Focusing on Braintree and Coggeshall

In conclusion the practice had become very widespread with all its branches - in Halstead, Braintree, Coggeshall and two in Colchester.  Consequently, the administration of the practice was becoming increasingly difficult and arranging meetings to make decisions even harder!  The individual aims and which direction the practice should take began to differ from partner to partner and this led to stresses and strains.  Eventually it was decided to break the partnership with Tony and Spencer taking Braintree and Coggeshall and the other partners taking the Halstead and Colchester practices.

So began the new practice with the name Farrow and Bayer Veterinary Surgeons above the door.  The main professions at the time usually named their businesses after the people that owned them, so name changes became common place as partners came and went.  Some of our newer veterinary assistants became partners themselves and the practice name was changed to reflect this.  It was amended to Farrow, Bayer and Garrett after vet David Garrett joined the partnership.  Some years later another name change - Farrow, Bayer, Garrett and Freeman - marked the addition of vet Paul Freeman.  

Tony Farrow retired in 1995 and the practice new name of Bayer, Garrett and Freeman didn't change again until 2001.

Personal Reflections
With kind permission of Tony Farrow  and Spencer Bayer  2016

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