|“I wish to emphasise that I have done my research on the Jew Menace in the same scientific spirit as when I was investigating camel diseases in the world’s deserts. I have been after truth, not propaganda; in fact, I have investigated the diseases of the body politic!”|
|The author aboard the “West Ham to Chingford Express”|
Being demobbed and intending to have a spell of private practice, I had consulted with my fellow-officers in the Advanced Horse Transport Depot, who had not, of course, lost touch with English life as I then had, and learned of several districts where there seemed to be a good chance of making a success of general practice. First I went up to enquire at Ulverston, on the Barrow peninsula of Lancashire, but I turned the district down as everyone agreed that farming there was in a backward state; but I met a retiring veterinary surgeon, who sold me many useful instruments, cheaply, so I had not wasted my time. Then I went to Kendal, but there were too many sheep and too many old-established practitioners there for me, so I moved to the next place on my list, Pontefract. One look at that was enough; and so to Doncaster. Here again, although the district was developing rapidly, there were several good practitioners who had been there for years, and I opined that there was no great need for even such a genius as myself so, further south to Stamford, at the extreme southern extremity of Lincolnshire. I spent several days in inquiries and then wrote to my wife that we had found our stamping-ground. At first we had to take lodgings and I put up my plate under that handicap. The cautious people of Stamford and district had seen one veterinary surgeon come and go after a brief stay and had found it unpleasant to have to return to the old practitioner (who had been there for years) after once leaving him for another man. Many people waited to see whether I was going to turn out equally temporary before they would consult me. The fact of my being in lodgings was, therefore, a drawback, apart from the fact that the accommodation for an infirmary was nil, and once I had to stitch up a horse’s top eyelid in the street before an admiring crowd. I had found a house with good stabling almost ready made for what I needed, but owing to the deadly slowness of the War Office who had been using the house for troops, coupled with the natural paralysis (probably Freemasonic) which I met with in the agent for the noble landlord, it was months before I could secure the house.
Meanwhile, I had visited London with the intention of purchasing my old mount which I had had at Abbeville, but was distressed to find that the little grey mare had developed stringhalt since I saw her last, and I had to return to Stamford empty-handed. In those post-war times, I was unable even to buy a man’s bicycle; and my first journeys as a veterinary practitioner in Stamford were made on a lady’s bicycle or sometimes on a man’s bicycle kindly lent me by a sympathetic tradesman. Veterinary equipment for horse and cattle cases is apt to be bulky and I must, on some of these journeys, have reminded spectators of a Christmas Tree or a One-Man Band, particularly when I was going out to a calving case. My troubles, however, had been mitigated considerably by the fact that I had not been in the town three weeks before the largest horse-owner, a timber merchant on a large scale, had decided that I was his veterinary surgeon.
When, at last, I secured my house in 20, St. George’s Square, I “never looked behind me,” and soon developed a sound practice and got most of the work in the district inside a radius of about eight miles. The house was an old one, and far too big for us; there was a nice garden with fruit trees and (most important from the professional standpoint) good stabling and coach-house, including four loose-boxes and two stalls, in one of which a horse could be slung if necessary.
As soon as I saw the horse I wanted, I bought it; a roan mare which we called Methel after two friends of ours named Maud and Ethel: I looked after her myself, and I was never so fit as during the time when her early-morning toilet demanded my regular services. She became very fond of me and had her own gentle snickering language in which to tell me so. When I drove out with her, it was two pals going out into the world together. I bought a governess car at an almost prohibitive price, and with that we worked up the practice. She was never sick or sorry, and I had a system of stable management which fitted the irregular hours we had to keep.
We generally had at least one spare loose-box, and her “bedroom” was another. The first thing I did in the morning was to take her out of her bedroom into her “sitting-room” where her feed was awaiting her. There was no bedding in the sitting-room, and I groomed her there, leaving the mucking-out of the bedroom until such time as was convenient on any particular day. That reduced the unavoidable before-breakfast stable routine to a minimum. I developed a large canine and feline practice in addition to the ordinary horse and farm work and sometimes I would have as many as twenty dogs on the place and I was both vet. and kennelman and did all the work myself. There were three separate enclosures where dogs could exercise themselves and when there was a crowd of them, it took some scheming to reduce the time occupied in this process by exercising compatibles together. The dogs seemed to appreciate my hospital, as a rule, and often we opened our front door to find an ex-patient, recently discharged, sitting on the doorstep. One old terrier of fifteen years walked in twelve miles from his country home on several occasions, a testimonial which we accepted with mixed feelings, because somehow, he had to be got home again. I remember one tight-skinned fox-terrier which was a great favourite with us, bursting in through a window curtain. He still remained a favourite! Our large house was able to supply us with spare rooms for cat patients; these rooms were closed to all traffic, and the chimneys had to be stuffed with bags of straw, because cats in a strange place will stick at nothing to make an exit if they can. I considered it disgraceful for a veterinary surgeon to allow any animal placed in his charge to take French leave; all the time at Stamford this only happened once, and we got the cat back all right before the owner got to know about it! We had not been in Stamford two years before we seemed to know everyone in the town from the Marquess of Exeter down to the local gypsies. In the years before 1926 I was so busy that it sometimes seemed as though it was only at meal-times that I saw my wife. Fees were customarily rather small in Stamford District and by working hard all day one got very little more than a competence; but, looking back, I know how I enjoyed the life, although it meant seven days a week with night-work thrown in. Working so hard, I resented particularly the rising income tax; it seemed hard to turn out in the middle of the night, drive out say seven miles, strip to the waist in a cow-shed and work like ten niggers on a calving case, wait for your money, say, six months and then pay some of it to the Government as a kind of fine for having had the energy to earn it! However, I trained my clients not to knock me up at night unless it was unavoidable; in other words, I got them to send for me before bedtime when trouble appeared to be brewing in stable or cow-house.
When I had had my mare, Methel, one year, I sold her to a farmer friend who, I knew, would use her right and I bought a Morris Cowley car. But what a price I had to pay, so soon after the war! But, once I had got used to the car, I found it fully justified by the time and trouble saved; one got to one’s cases sooner, which is always an advantage, and night-work lost most of its terrors.
For years afterwards, my mare, if standing by the kerb, would be able to detect my footsteps even if I was walking in a crowded street, and turn her head and snicker in welcome. Finally, she was sold again, this time to a dairyman and she was still working his milk-float when she was thirty-three, always with a clean bill of health!
Then came the deflation of 1926 and the great strike; it was the farming industry that was hit most severely by the falling prices and my practice suffered a blow from which it never recovered. The farmers drew in their horns and kept less stock and that of less value. People began to get short of money and the tendency was to let sick animals rip until they were too far gone for successful treatment. Of course, in addition to this, horses were rapidly being replaced by mechanical traction; the long and short of it was that I began to have some spare time in my practice.
One thing that I did with this spare time was to write a textbook on the camel in health and in disease; I had long intended to do it, indeed I considered that the opportunities I had had in the past and the salary and allowances I had drawn from my camel-work made this an obligation. When this interesting job was done, I snatched time off to see a London printer of veterinary works; but his ideas were fixed and could not be shifted; he wanted to produce an imposing volume about 3½ inches thick which would cost a purchaser 26/-. Now I hadn’t been a camelman for nothing, and I knew that every ounce of weight that could be saved in my treatise would mean a few more sardines in the chop-box for someone! I said I did not want my work to be in the form of a large tome, but a compact book in rather small print. He just could not see it. So back to Stamford I went and there I arranged with the printer of one of the local newspapers to print my book, and I made my own arrangements about the illustrations for it; finally, I got an account-book binder, in Kettering, to do the simple cover for the book, and turned out the article I aimed at for a cost to purchaser of 16/-. I expected to lose £100 on this venture, but actually, in time, I made a profit of nearly that amount! The book is the accepted camel text-book, and I wrote two supplements to it containing information which brings the book up-to-date. The Governments of India and of Somaliland helped me greatly by ordering a large number of my books before it was published. I sold out my last copy in 1951.
In 1928, I retired from practice, having had nine years of it without a holiday; I handed it over to an ex-serviceman who had been under the weather. I am glad I retired when I did; and I do not think I should like the life a modern veterinary surgeon leads in the country, with so much stress placed upon rather uninteresting preventive work with cattle, involving frequent rectal examinations and with that dear creature, the horse, taking such an insignificant amount of his attention.
Before I leave Stamford, I will relate a few anecdotes about our own pets we had there. We had three cats, one of which was a tortoiseshell female, which had a litter of kittens in our dining-room cupboard. That very morning, I was called out to a terrier bitch which could not pup; after the removal of a dead puppy and the birth of several live ones, the bitch was found too weak to rear all the litter, and yet the owner wanted to save the pups. I bethought myself of Binkle, the aforesaid cat. So I said: “Let me take a long chance and see if our cat can help.” I took the superfluous pups home, got Binkle out of earshot, removed the litter of kittens and destroyed them, and put the pups in the place where the kittens had been. Then we brought Binkle back and stood by ready for action, for normally she hated dogs. As she stepped into the cupboard, she stopped as though she had seen a ghost, and her tail became twice its proper size. For a tense half-minute, she remained thus, then climbed in among the pups and there was no more trouble; but she never licked them and at first was frankly puzzled by the noises they made. She brought them up, small as she was, although one was taken from her at the fourth week because it was clearly beyond her strength to continue to suckle the lot; this pup was taken back to its legitimate mother, who, after being prevented from killing it, suckled it until weaning time.
Two of our cats mastered the art of opening latched doors; for this reason we had to use a hook and staple to prevent the larder door being at their service. They would spring up and hang on to the handle of the door with one paw and pull the latch down with the other paw; and if there were two working together, the other cat would shove the door at the right time. How they ever learned this trick, I cannot tell. It may sound incredible, but I once saw Nandy, our yellow cat, sitting on the back-door mat with his mother and the latter got up and evidently wanted to go into the house, the back door being shut; Nandy got up, opened the door for his mother in the way I have described and then went back and sat down on the mat again. I record this, not as a case of chivalry or filial sense in cats, but as a remarkable bit of co-operation.
Animals like that, I always feel, are not so far removed from us. I always regarded Christianity as a religion alien to white men’s instincts, because it takes no note of man’s best friends who share his hearth. It is in the East where dogs are pariahs. I think it a pity that Christianity has not been adjusted better to the spiritual needs of nordic men, who do not need to be told not to murder and steal; a white man’s religion would begin on a higher plane and teach him to be straight-forward, to be kind to animals, to be courageous, loyal and chivalrous.
One of my patients had been a St. Bernard dog, born in Switzerland, belonging to a titled lady. I had had him under treatment on two occasions and was called to him once more on a third. The owner said: “Mr. Leese, you seem to be able to keep this dog fit and well, yet, with me, he is always ailing; would you like to have him?” As this great dog was 10½ stone in weight and as high as a table, I felt it incumbent upon me to consult the mistress of my house before coming to any decision; but she knew the dog and said “Yes” at once. So Barry came to us, although we always called him Knob, because he had one on his head (anatomists call it the “occipital tuberosity”). It was always more like having a guest in the house rather than a dog, except when we had to follow him around with a “gob-cloth” to wipe away the slobber which he could not help depositing in places where no slobber should be. He was our magnificent friend for some years and went with us to Guildford when I retired; he was the biggest dog in the district and the gentlest. He passed over when we were away in Norway for a holiday; when we heard the sad tidings, it spoiled the rest of that holiday for us both. He collected for the hospitals in Stamford, for the Fascists in Trafalgar Square, and on many other occasions. He had a way of wandering down our hill into the High Street of Guildford and sitting at a corner of the street to watch the traffic go by; but the crowds he collected on those occasions were so large that the habit became a nuisance and we discouraged it. When he wanted to go out by himself, we headed him in the opposite direction on to the downs where he could sit and watch the landscape without doing any harm.
Arnold Spencer Leese M.R.C.V.S., Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel-Doctor pp. 42-47 (c. 1950). Leese was probably the first person in modern history to be imprisoned for writing against the Jews; for a selection from Leese’s newspaper, The Fascist, see the British sub-site.