Tribute to a Church Lawford vet - and legend

Paddy pictured on his 95th birthday with wife Jane and his three sons, from left, Warwick, Walter and Simon. NNL-170314-150142001
Paddy pictured on his 95th birthday with wife Jane and his three sons, from left, Warwick, Walter and Simon. NNL-170314-150142001

Patrick Sweeney, the well- known veterinary surgeon who practised at Wheatfield, Church Lawford, from 1951 until his retirement in 1992, has died aged 95.

Mr Sweeney, or ‘Paddy’ as he was known, was born in Donegal in 1921 and qualified as a vet in Dublin in 1946.

After working as a locum in Wales, he worked in Warwickshire where he was called out at night to see a very sick cow.

He correctly diagnosed that the cow had swallowed a foreign body.

Working under paraffin lamps and helped by the young (female) farm manager, he opened up the cow and discovered a rusty nail embedded in the fourth stomach.

The cow made a good recovery and a month later, Paddy proposed to the farm manager, Jane Dent, who accepted.

The couple were married and initially settled in Dublin, where their first son Walter was born.

They then moved to Wheatfield, a smallholding in Church Lawford, with 10 acres of land leading down to the Avon.

They kept Guernsey cows, donkeys, Welsh ponies and rare breeds of pigs and hens. For a short time, they had Highland Cattle, but they kept escaping and had to go.

Jane grew vegetables, opened a village shop and took over as postmistress. Two more sons, Warwick and Simon, were born and all three sons attended Church Lawford School. Later on, Jane qualified as a teacher and for a short time, was head teacher at Church Lawford School.

Paddy built up a thriving general practice, but soon specialized in his true love, which was the treatment of greyhounds.

He developed new techniques in bone surgery and often operated in the early hours of the morning to treat dogs which had been injured at evening race meetings.

Later in his career, Paddy gave illustrated lectures both at home and abroad to teach young vets.

He also wrote many articles and published booklets on the treatment of greyhounds and campaigned tirelessly for improved track safety.

Meanwhile, he developed an international reputation, treating many famous dogs.

His clients included British and foreign royalty, but he also provided free treatment for the pets of people who had fallen on hard times.

He was keen on a variety of sports and in younger days played Gaelic football, boxed and loved cycling.

After he moved to England, he frequently attended football matches, horse races, dog races and hare coursing.

A staunch campaigner for field sports, he lobbied Parliament against the hunting ban.

Paddy built goal posts at Wheatfield and allowed Church Lawford School to use the football pitch as there was no facility at the school.

He also loved organising sports days at Wheatfield and on one occasion at Rugby Town Football Club. When the couple retired, they moved to North Yorkshire to be nearer family.

Paddy made three lengthy trips to Australia, spending weeks on each occasion visiting dog tracks for research in support of his campaign for improved track safety.

Paddy had been married for nearly 69 years. He died on January 25. A natural burial took place at Terrington, North Yorkshire on February 28, with no funeral in accordance with his and wife Jane’s wishes.

He is survived by Jane, son Walter (a solicitor and former MP) and daughter-in-law Dr Nuala Kennan, son Warwick (a photographer) and daughter-in-law Fiona, son Simon (a senior lecturer at York University) and daughter-in-law Lyn, seven granddaughters and one grandson.