Tributes paid to 'legendary' North Devon vet Brian Crawford

Image of vet Brian Crawford with a mare and foal

Brian Crawford worked as a vet in North Devon for almost 60 years - Credit: Crawford family

Tributes have been paid to a legendary North Devon veterinary surgeon at the end of a long and distinguished career. 

Brian Crawford BVM&S MRCVS passed away on January 11 at North Devon Hospice, aged 86.

He leaves his wife of 60 years Jill, four children and five grandchildren. His family and his work were his whole life.  

Brian was born in Enniskillen, and educated in Northern Ireland before reading for his degree at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh University, graduating in 1957.  

The late Brian Crawford at North Devon ANimal Ambulance with Koda, who he helped nurse back to health after he became...

The late Brian Crawford at North Devon ANimal Ambulance with Koda, who he helped nurse back to health after he became paralysed, and owner Ian Coote, on the day Koda could finally go home - Credit: Archant

He began his practising career with two years in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, where he met Jill, and in 1959 joined Bernard Phillips at his Ilfracombe practice, where they were joined in 1970 by David Pepper.  

In 1979, Crawford and Pepper expanded into their own farm and equine practice at Bittadon, and then with another partner, established Mullacott Veterinary Hospital in 1986.  

Later still, in 1999, Brian was heavily involved with other equine colleagues in Western Counties Veterinary Hospital, Tiverton.  

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Brian specialised in equine medicine and surgery and was highly respected in the field. Horses had always been his passion, from a young age and he and Jill owned and bred many horses during their years together.  

Jill said: “He always said that he was so lucky to have his work as his hobby. Our children all rode and some of our grandchildren – they were his pride and joy.” 

She recalled how his first mount was a donkey he rode to his music lessons, aged five. 

When he eventually began to slow down, he continued in his longstanding role as vet to the Vauterhill Stud, High Bickington.  

He also managed to find time to be the voluntary vet for North Devon Animal Ambulance, where he helped hundreds of people and their beloved pets, until he became too ill, two years ago.  

Brian Crawford at North Devon Animal Ambulance with Abigail from High Bickington, who raised money for the charity's...

Brian Crawford at North Devon Animal Ambulance with Abigail from High Bickington, who raised money for the charity's clinic at a school fair in 2018. - Credit: NDAA

A tribute from the charity hailed him as a legend, saying his death would be a huge loss to North Devon’s animal lovers. 

It said: “It was an honour to call him a friend and have his trust in our charity. He was a gentleman, and a vet of the old school when his profession was a vocation.  

“As well as his great knowledge and experience, he brought kindness to the creatures he dealt with, and an equal understanding to their owners in need of both practical advice and gentle empathy.”  

His private funeral will take place on Monday, February 1 at 1.40pm at North Devon Crematorium, with WS Gayton the funeral director. It is family only but the service can be viewed online at https://www.obitus.com by entering username Fulu2069 and password 695417. 

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