Scots obituaries: Neill McCormick, Scottish veterinarian

Veterinarian Andrew Neill McCormick died peacefully on Monday 2nd May 2022 at the age of 97 at Craighead Nursing Home in Newport on Tay.

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

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After the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Air Force in 1943. He got his wings in a gypsy moth before eventually flying Lancaster heavy bombers. Like many from that era, he preferred to keep those memories to himself. Neill was never one for pomp and ceremony.

Neill McCormick with his devoted girlfriend Lizzie

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

After the war, Neill resumed his education and qualified at the Royal Dick Veterinary School in Edinburgh in the 1950s.

A Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, he first practiced in North Yorkshire where he developed his skills in veterinary medicine for both large and small animals.

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

Young Neill McCormick in uniform

Neill became a highly respected vet in the Dundee area, popular with his peers, farmers and pet owners alike. His calm approach to all manner of medical challenges was his trademark and no matter the time, day or night, he dutifully attended to missions. Many young vets came to the practice and no doubt gained valuable veterinary and surgical experience from his expertise.

Horses well known in the equestrian world responded positively to Neill’s calm and confident approach. In 1982 the owners of the famous Red Rum trusted Neill to house him at his small farm 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 when he and Marjorie reportedly moved to Galloway for retirement. Not Neil. He continued to don his white coat and stethoscope at the Gatehouse of Fleet for a number of years just in case local small animals needed assistance.

He eventually retired when he and Marjorie moved to Castle Douglas after spending a remarkable 50 years as a veterinarian. He continued to wear the “Dick Vet” tie that he had worn with great pride throughout his life.

Outside of work, Neill and Marjorie were housewives and enjoyed the challenge of restoring houses and creating beautiful gardens. He was the tough landscaper and she was the soft landscaper. They returned to Fife in 2004 and Marjorie died in 2007.

Neill continued to lead a quiet life, enjoying visiting family and eating Laura’s Lemon Drizzle Cake at Harbor House in Elie.

He maintained a strict walking ritual every day to move and collect his Dundee Courier. He also insisted that he continue to do his push-ups and star jumps every morning. No one has really seen it, but you don’t reach old age without real courage and determination.

Neil’s love of animals never waned. His beloved spaniel Lizzie was by his side for 18 years and most recently he had to carry her around but as long as she was enjoying her meal he said “she’s fine”.

Neill remained self-sufficient until 2019 when he needed more care. This changed his daily lifestyle. He survived the pandemic, but its effects were damaging and disrupted his “secret to longevity” routine. He stayed happy to the end and was grateful to his coaching team at Craighead.

His best friend, Baird Matthews, a childhood pal, still lives down in Galloway at the age of 97. They had a true and enduring friendship of more than 90 years, from school days to two spirited old men.

Neill McCormick was never forgotten a true gentleman who will be greatly missed.

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