John Parry

Veterinary surgeon with a chairman's gavel
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John Parry was a veterinary surgeon whose career, while based firmly in the countryside of Wales, embraced a remarkably wide range of public activity. As well as serving as President of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association, he was a governor of the BBC, a member of the Government's Agricultural and Food Research Council and of the Development Board for Wales.

John Alderson Parry, veterinary surgeon: born Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire 3 January 1934; President, British Veterinary Association 1976-77; Chairman, Welsh Agricultural Advisory Committee, BBC 1978-85; Chairman, Welsh Office Hydatid Control Steering Committee 1981-96; Chairman, Hill Farming Research Organisation 1981-87; CBE 1985; President, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons 1986-87; BBC National Governor for Wales 1986-91; married 1959 Joan Rathbone (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1992), 1998 Ruth Tomkins-Russell (died 2001); died Brecon, Powys 21 September 2004.

John Parry was a veterinary surgeon whose career, while based firmly in the countryside of Wales, embraced a remarkably wide range of public activity. As well as serving as President of both the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association, he was a governor of the BBC, a member of the Government's Agricultural and Food Research Council and of the Development Board for Wales.

No mere collector of hats, however, Parry used his natural skills as a chairman and his vast knowledge of agriculture and of Wales to make a substantial contribution to the many bodies on which he served. It was said of him that, as some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, John Parry was born with a chairman's gavel in his fist. He had an easy manner, a natural gravitas and an unruffled approach to any situation, however complicated.

His background was that of a Welsh-speaking Welshman of farming stock. His father, who had farming interests, was a veterinary surgeon and Parry followed the same profession. A public-school education at Leighton Park, Reading, was followed by Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied for his veterinary degree. This education widened his outlook and broadened his interests.

When, as a young veterinarian in 1963, he was awarded a travelling scholarship, he used it to study state veterinary systems in Eastern Europe - Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the then Communist countries Poland and Russia. The Cold War was still at its height and Parry was strictly supervised during his visit to Russia. He recounted that he delighted in tormenting his minders by diverting from the official itinerary. He would spot a farm as they drove past it and insist they make an (unplanned) detour. He thus gained a picture rather more realistic, and less favourable, than the official view of Soviet agriculture.

His veterinary career was meanwhile thriving. He had become principal of the Brecon practice which he had joined after qualifying and with which he was associated all his working life. He put down the roots of what was to become a growing involvement in veterinary politics and in more public life. From presidency of the South Wales Division of the BVA he was elected in 1968 to the association's council, becoming President in 1976-77.

The following year saw his election to the council of the Royal College of which, inevitably, he became in due course President. He was elected to that office in 1986 but did not serve a full term; he stepped down halfway through his year of office in the wake of some complication over a minor business matter. This would have gone unremarked if the media had not had its spotlight on the BBC governors at the time and Parry was caught in the glare.

In the broader world of agriculture, he served on the Government's Agricultural Advisory Council and the AFRC, chairing its Animals Research Committee. He chaired the Hill Farming Research Organisation, Edinburgh, and the governors of the Institute of Grassland and Animal Production. In 1986 he he began a five-year stint as the BBC's National Governor for Wales.

Closer to home was his setting up of a control scheme for hydatid disease in Wales. This disease is caused by eggs of the tapeworm, carried by sheepdogs and foxes, becoming cysts in the body. It can be fatal in humans if the cyst forms in the brain, and it causes economic losses in sheep and cattle.

His personal interest in field sports and horses led him to membership of international committees on horse identification as well as promotion of the Pony Club. A former player, he retained an interest in rugby throughout his life.

Edward Boden

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