Ronald Soutar came over the water from Fife in the 1980s to study veterinary medicine, beginning a relationship with the University that lasts until this day.
|Ronald Henry Soutar
|Year of Graduation
Your time at the University
During an event in Summerhall, the old Vet School , at last year’s Fringe, memories of my time at the University flooded back. This was the building in which my veterinary career started, during a period which shaped my life and which influences so much of what I do now, four decades later.
We vet students, immersed in our vocational course, were a pretty insular bunch. Then, as now, the BVM&S studies meant busy days and evenings with little time for interaction with the wider university. Not that this stopped us having a lot of fun. A lunchtime pint was pretty much the norm then: I remember our dilemma when the previously strict licensing hours were relaxed – another drink in the Southern Bar or back quick for the afternoon’s first lecture!
Fitting, too, that it was an excellent gig (Billy Bragg, as it happens) which triggered reflection, for I saw some very memorable musicians in seventies Edinburgh, including the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Gong and Dr Feelgood. After being in the front row for Can in Potterow basement, I was deaf in one ear for a week.
We did work hard, though, and our close-knit veterinary band helped one another through a tough but rewarding course. Lasting friendships were formed and more – my first wife was a fellow student and though the marriage did not survive life’s pressures, the good times were very good and the legacy of children, and now grandchild, truly wonderful.
For a Fife boy, my trip to student life in Edinburgh was short, but it started a journey which has taken me to wonderful places, from Singapore to Iceland, Seattle to Hong Kong and a multiplicity between.
Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University
For a Fife boy, my trip to student life in Edinburgh was short, but it started a journey which has taken me to wonderful places, from Singapore to Iceland, Seattle to Hong Kong and a multiplicity between. My veterinary degree opened a door through which I stepped tentatively into a fairly conventional world of mixed general practice, then was whisked off in far-from-expected directions.
After a further degree, this time on the very different campus at Stirling, I entered the world of fish medicine and spent the nineties as company vet, then Production Manager, for one of the world’s leading salmon-farming companies. I was lucky enough to learn a lot about management there and subsequently put that experience to use back in the world of veterinary practice.
That combination of clinical and managerial skills led me in a spiral back to Edinburgh, as the University’s first Director of Veterinary Services. In that role, I was lucky enough to be involved in the move from Summerhall to the world-leading facilities now on the Roslin campus. To see the academic world from the other side, and to be able to help academic colleagues in a modest way with the varied pressures of their multifaceted roles, was a genuine privilege.
I’ve moved on again, back into the world of aquaculture but am still lucky enough to maintain my links with the University. Now President of the Fish Veterinary Society, I return on an annual basis to deliver a lecture on farmed fish health and welfare. The University of Edinburgh has been inextricably woven into my life; I hope it continues to be so and that I can give back something of what has been given to me.
A piece of advice for today’s students? Go with the flow – it may be a cliché, but your degree really is a passport to places you don’t yet know exist.