Ronald Ellis Gardner was born in 1938 in Aberystwyth and remained a proud Welshman throughout his life. His father was a butcher and his mother a busy housewife, serving on several committees. He left school and went on to study veterinary medicine at Edinburgh University having always wanted to be a vet. He became skilled at playing darts, winning many trophies and matches, including the News of the World championships. After graduating in 1964, he travelled round Europe with a colleague, Roy, and at one stage worked as a vet in a bullring in Spain, caring for the injured animals there.
An early claim to fame was his time as a backing singer with a local skiffle group, The Streamline Gamblers and briefly with Johnny Duncan & his Blue Grass Boys in 1957. Ron regularly reminded us of this every time their No.2 chart hit song, Last Train to San Fernando, was played on the gold radio stations in our operating theatres.
His first veterinary job was working in mixed practice in Wales, mainly treating farm animals and doing some meat inspection. It was here that he met his future wife, Nora, while playing darts in a social club in Cardiff. He later moved to Windsor, where he developed an interest in horse medicine and regularly treated ponies at the local Guards Polo Club, one of the most prestigious polo clubs in the country. At this time, he became a member of the Inspectorate of Riding Schools, carrying out regular inspections at several riding schools on behalf of the local authority.
He took over the business at Scott’s veterinary practice at 727 High Road, Leyton and set up his own practice at 49 Forest Drive East, Leytonstone in 1972. Two years later, he was offered the premises that is the current practice address at 655 High Road, and moved into the building which was originally an old drinking house at the beginning of the century.
Over the years, he developed a well-respected interest in veterinary dermatology and spent time studying and attending many meetings in the days before continuing professional development (CPD) became common practice. In the late 1970s, he carried out veterinary inspections on behalf of the government and rapidly developed a significant business in meat inspection, an important role in the chain of food health and hygiene. This waxed and waned according to the prevailing government regulations at the time but continued as a separate business entity after he sold the veterinary practice.
In the 1980s he went into partnership with Jerry Moloney, and further expanded the practice by establishing one of the country’s first neutering clinics in conjunction with Tower Hamlet’s Local Authority. The Animal Population Control Clinic (APCC) offered reduced price vaccinations and neutering of pets to the residents of the London Borough of Newham. He developed a strong relationship with the local councils and became an inspector of pet shops, ensuring these maintained high standards of health and welfare.
Together with his wife, Nora, they kept various pets and became involved in several breed societies including those for standard poodles, Devon rex cats and latterly, exotic short hair cats. His veterinary input and advice on show cats culminated in his appointment as president of the Exotic Short Hair Cat Society.
His personal life was equally diverse. He has had an unhealthy passion for Elvis Presley for many years, amassing an extensive collection of his music and memorabilia, and culminating in a trip to Gracelands. He also loved ski-ing and became a coach and instructor in Brentwood, and for many years spent Christmas with his family in Davos, Switzerland. Ron and Nora were both keen dancers, often performing impressive impromptu jives at social events, and later took up line dancing in the 1990s. Only relatively recently, he learned to ride a motorcycle and immediately bought himself a Harley Davidson Road King Classic, which he adorned with all the trimmings. He spent several holidays touring France, Spain and Route 66 in America with Nora and his life-long friend Ray Dorey, a former guitarist in Edison Lighthouse.
In 2001, Ron decided to sell the practice to his two longstanding assistants so that he could continue to focus on other areas of interest. However, he lived for his work and enjoyed his relationships with his clients. He carried on working part-time until 1st October 2010, fully intending to return to work in January after some treatment for cancer. Sadly, he lost this battle less than two months later on 26th November. Only in his last few days did he realise that returning to work wouldn’t be possible and he asked that we apologise on his behalf to all his clients whom he regarded as his friends. A colourful character with a cheerful personality, he will be sadly missed by all those who knew him.
Ronald E. Gardner
1938 - 2010