“Aleen Cust has been forgotten. Her legacy needed to be remembered, and her name kept in perpetuity. Her resting place was unrecorded and only discovered in December 2021.”
Those are the words of vets, Brendan Gardiner, Ascinta Kilroy and Donal Connolly, organisers of two-day Aleen Cust Centenary Conference.
The conference will occur at ATU Mountbellew, Co Galway, on August 11th, and August 12th, 2022.
They desired to find a way to honour the life and work of Cust, the first woman to work as a veterinary surgeon in Ireland and Britain in the early 1900s.
They joined forces early last year with the aim to “remember and honour a brave, courageous woman, who suffered tremendously, both personally and professionally, to achieve her dream to become the first female vet surgeon in Ireland, England and indeed, Europe”.
The pioneering Tipperary-born Anglo-Irish aristocrat was admitted to the Royal College register one hundred years ago (1922), two decades after she first commenced practice in Athleague, Co Roscommon.
Galway and Roscommon
Cust held the controversial post of a veterinary inspector in the Mountbellew district for Galway County Council from 1905-1915.
Firstly, she practiced initially with William Augustine Byrne MRCVS from Castlestrange near Athleague, Co. Roscommon, and took over his work after his untimely death in 1910.
Then, she drove her own car to France in 1915 to help colleagues treat wounded horses during the Great War 1914-1918.
After the Rising in Ireland, the atmosphere changed with nationalism supporting “very rigid” ideas of one’s place, gender, and race.
Furthermore, in 1924, Aleen, at 56, sold her property and moved to southern England to an area of the New Forest near Southampton.
She continued her interest in veterinary, travelling widely, talking to schools and visiting abattoirs on behalf of the RSPCA.
She died while on a visit to Jamaica in 1937 and rested there, unrecorded.
That was until Mountbellew, Co. Galway vet, Brendan Gardiner, an Aleen Cust Memorial Society member, located the grave last December.
He cited the assistance of Brian Denning, the Irish Consul in Kingston and “a sheer stroke of luck”.
Furthermore, now, records of her grave is in the official registry of St. Andrew’s Church, Kingston, Jamaica, “for the first time”.
The trio of vets want to make Cust’s name and struggle “better known” by her fellow Irish, in general, and those in her profession.
They say, “she has been totally forgotten about and has been written out of history”.
In the previous article, That’s Farming wrote about Cust’s work.
Image source: Wikipedia, which states: “This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and its author is anonymous.”
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