In Memoriam: John Tandy (BVSc 1957)

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John Tandy

(b) 1935, (q) 1957, Died 6 May 2022

A vet with a head for business and a love of rugby, his greatest pleasure was making people happy.

John Tandy was born in St Helens, Lancashire on 1 February 1935. His head for business started at a young age; his father supplemented their family’s income through keeping poultry and growing vegetables at an allotment and John helped his father in these activities. By the age of eight, John worked for a local firm bundling sticks of firewood and selling them door to door; having passed the 11+ at the age of nine, John attended Cowley Boys Secondary Grammar School where he continued his commercial activities selling foreign stamps, fountain pen sets, socks, and shrapnel from German Second World War bombs dropped on a decoy city located in the Dee Estuary. He also made regular ferry trips to Ireland to buy things cheaply that he could sell on.

A determined young man he passed his A levels at the age of 16 and entered Liverpool University Veterinary School at the age of 17. He had several jobs whilst at University that allowed him to further develop his business acumen. Alongside these activities John enjoyed playing rugby; he represented his school and then the University of Liverpool on the rugby field. The sport became a lifelong passion and led to many years playing for and then becoming the president of the Liverpool St. Helens Rugby Union Club.

John graduated in 1957, and his first job was in farm animal practice in Bristol; shortly after this he was offered a post in Yorkshire and worked with Alf Wight, better known as James Herriot, for a short while before returning to St Helens in 1959. John aimed to open his own practice and his wish was realised in 1961 when he opened Rutland House Veterinary Surgery in a Victorian house with his wife Brenda (who helped with reception duties) and Ian Hughes, a friend and contemporary from Liverpool. The Tandy and Hughes partnership was formed and became very well-known.

John’s business experience led to an interest in the design of veterinary premises and practice management techniques. In the 1970s John made trips to the USA as he heard that veterinarians there were leading the way in practice development. Following these visits farm and equine work ceased at Rutland House, and the practice was redeveloped into one of the first veterinary hospitals for domestic pets in the UK. Between 1970 and 1988 the practice grew to become a team of seven vets with over 30 veterinary nurses and lay staff. Soon branches were opened, referral services developed, a staff development programme was initiated, and the practice became a veterinary nurse training centre. As a result, John was invited to give papers on practice management issues including at the World Small Animal Veterinary Association conference and at the American Veterinary Medical Association conference. In 1981 he received the RCVS Francis Hogg Prize which recognised his role in advancing small animal practice.

During his career John was elected to several veterinary presidencies: in 1972 he was the founding president of the British Veterinary Hospitals Association, in 1978 he served as president of the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons, and in 1980 he became president of the British Veterinary Association. He was also a founding trustee of the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation and chairman of the Royal Veterinary College Allen White Memorial Trust. John was immensely proud of these positions, especially the BVA presidency, and he frequently stated that it was the most special period of his life. Having realised how much work each BVA president does on behalf of the profession he began inviting each year’s president to an England rugby match at Twickenham, a gesture that he continued until very recently and one that was much appreciated. In 1982, his senior vice-presidential year, the BVA celebrated its centenary and our patron, Her Majesty the Queen, visited Mansfield Street with His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. John accompanied Prince Philip during the tour.

In 1990, John retired to concentrate, as he put it, on his other interests. Animal welfare was always at the forefront of his mind and having watched a video about the work of primatologist Jane Goodall he was inspired to meet her and was subsequently invited to join her in the Forest of Gombe in Tanzania. Later when she established the Jane Goodall Institute (UK) he became its chairman, a post he held for 10 years

John was a founding member of the University of Liverpool Veterinary Alumni Association, which was established in 1991 to connect veterinary graduates, staff, and current students. John was a constant on our Committee and continued his role until very recently. He was always full of energy and enthusiasm, always had someone he knew that he could call upon to speak at an event, and always had a story to tell around the dinner table.

John also travelled extensively with his family of whom he was very proud.

Brenda predeceased him by a number of years. We extend our sympathies to Carol, his beloved wife, and his daughters Jill and Jane, and their families, which now include grandchildren and great grandchildren, and Marjorie, his sister.

If you were lucky enough to have met him you will undoubtedly have your own memories with which to remember him, John will be missed by all who knew him.

Based on John Bower’s (BVSc 1965) obituary.