Widor, Vivaldi & Pets

Talk chaired by Jill White

Prof. Shelia Crispin

Retired Prof. of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bristol

13 April 2005

Although only recently retired as Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Bristol University, and about to become President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London, Sheila Crispin's talk was essentially about her very eventful life and hobbies, in particular her love of music and organ playing. She illustrated this with pictures of the various churches in which she has played, and CDs of her favourite performances, including those of Widor, Brahms, Bach, Cesar-Frank, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Faure’s Requiem, with an emphasis on romantic sacred music.

Sheila Crispin’s presentation, illuminated by photos and CDs of major natural world places and music, which had influenced her along her distinguished career, demonstrated a polymath's interest in both nature and the arts as well as her chosen scientific expertise, from sheep’s eyes, to the Himalayas from Coniston Water to the Indian Ocean, from acting as a medical doctor on an Himalayan trip to removing cataracts from a Bristol Zoo great ape!

Included were snaps from childhood beginnings in Liverpool and the Lake District to fighting for major animal and environmental issues from Foot and Mouth Disease - for which she changed the Government’s policy and is much mentioned in Hansard - to saving Beatrix Potter’s farm and descendents from her sheep herd which are under serious threat from the National Trust etc.  Dynamism, clarity of thought and a consummate use of the English language, underpinned by a wicked and engaging sense of humour enabled us to enjoy the company of a ferociously committed person who most definitely ‘knew her onions’ and has the courage to fight at Government levels!  

With her relaxed and highly amusing idiosyncratic delivery Prof Crispin drew us into her worlds, in which she has had great influence and development. Ethical causes relating to animal and agriculture are her current passions. Next year she will become the President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.  She will be formidable!

Jill White