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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Book to celebrate life of Ireland’s first female vet

The “first-ever” work of historical fiction about the life of Ireland’s first female vet will hit shelves in October 2022.

Sourcebooks will release the publication, which South African journalist turned author, Penny Haw has penned, on October 4th, 2022.

The Invincible Miss Cust is based on the real-life of Aleen Isabel Cust. She defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon.

Its release coincides with the commemoration of the 100th-anniversary of Cust finally receiving her diploma from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

First female vet

Through Penny Haw’s meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen’s story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life.

It is a story that, even today, women will recognise, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one’s dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, the publishing company states.

Sourcebooks describes The Invincible Miss Cust as follows:

“Aleen Cust has big dreams, and no one ― not her family, society, or the law― will stop her.”

“Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals. The idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career appalled her family.”

“Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father’s death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A I Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear.”

“At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon. Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.”

Help of Irish vet

Penny explained that in addition to the research required, writing the book involved imagining and describing related thoughts, conversations, emotions, and relationships, the accuracy of which only the people involved could verify.

She described creating historical fiction as like “reading between the lines and filling in the gaps with speculative delight”.

“Firstly, Miss Cust’s story is so remarkable that my retelling of it did not call for large-scale embellishment.”

In addition to working through available information, Penny relied on the technical expertise of her friend, Sussex-based Irish veterinary surgeon, Richard Lyons MVB MRCVS.

“Mr Lyons is a recently retired— but as passionate as ever—veterinary surgeon with more than forty years’ experience. He is also Irish.”

“Firstly, he helped me treat dogs, hoist horses, save cows and deworm sheep. He guided me through the technical aspects and on all things Irish,” she concluded.

Other news:

A two-day Aleen Cust Centenary Conference will take place at ATU Mountbellew, Co. Galway, on August 11th and August 12th, 2022.

Read more in this news article.

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