Professor Charles Grunsell

Distinguished Bristol University veterinarian
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The Independent Online

Charles Grunsell, after a peripatetic childhood, rose to become a distinguished veterinarian, from 1957 until 1980 as Professor of Veterinary Medicine at Bristol University. He combined this with being a lay reader in the Anglican Church and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England.

He was born on Epiphany 1915, the son of Stuart Grunsell and his wife, the former Edith Grant, in the Holts Wharf Compound in Shanghai, where his father was in business as a wharfinger, an agent for the Blue Funnel Line. In 1916, he returned in a convoy to Britain with his mother, to stay out the remainder of the First World War with his maternal grandparents in Bournemouth. In 1918 the family went to Hong Kong, living in Kowloon, where Charles started at the Diocesan Preparatory School.

Around 1923, the family moved back to Holts Wharf and Charles went to Shanghai Public School. After three years, a year was spent back in the UK, then in 1927 the family returned to Shanghai.

In 1928 Charles Grunsell's parents' health failed and for the final time they returned by sea from China. At the age of 13, Charles had the worry of travelling with his parents, who both needed nurse companions, and with no idea of what would happen when they arrived in Britain. It was during this six-week journey that his faith was both tested and strengthened. Whilst his parents lived in Salisbury, he was sent to school in Brockenhurst in the New Forest. In 1930, he moved to live with guardians in Flax Bourton and settled at Bristol Grammar School.

In 1932 he entered the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in Edinburgh, qualifying in 1937. Charles Grunsell then bought a partnership in a mainly large animal practice in Glastonbury. In 1939, he married Prue Wright, the daughter of a distinguished psychiatrist. His wife, trained in domestic science, acted as nurse, receptionist and bookkeeper for the practice, as well as bringing up three children. He remained there happily for 10 years.

In the cold winter of 1947, Grunsell made the brave decision of uprooting his growing family and returning to academic life at the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College. Whilst doing research on the state of the bone marrow during the spring helminthic rise (the springtime increase in parasitic worms) he also worked as a Junior Lecturer. After obtaining his PhD, in 1952 he became Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Hygiene and Preventative Medicine.

He then moved to Bristol, where a new veterinary school had been founded in 1948, as Professor of Veterinary Medicine. He was later Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university. He also became the first chairman of the Veterinary Products Committee in 1970, and remained so for 10 years. The committee was established to give advice with respect to safety, quality and efficacy in relation to the veterinary use of substances governed by the 1968 Medicines Act. In addition, it monitors and collates evidence for any adverse reaction to drugs. For his services to the veterinary profession, Grunsell was appointed CBE in 1976.

The Grunsells were very hospitable and enjoyed entertaining students, especially those from overseas. Their house was full of interesting things from all over the world that grateful guests had given them. Charles Grunsell enjoyed sports and played squash well into late middle age, and he was known to play a mean game of croquet.

He retired in 1980. However, he continued editing The Veterinary Annual, a book with innovative articles on all aspects of veterinary medicine, for another 10 years.

As a lay reader in the Church of England, Grunsell was much in demand for taking services, especially during interregnums. He enjoyed being a member of the General Synod, 1980-85, and had mixed feelings when he had to retire on reaching the limit age.

In retirement, he enjoyed his wonderful garden, embraced the computer age in his seventies and continued to enjoy walking and playing table tennis until heart trouble two years ago curtailed this. However, he remained incisive and full of anecdotal stories to the end.

Mary-Elizabeth Raw

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