Pioneering veterinary expert from Westmorland farming family

Date: Friday 26th May 2017
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior (Ernest Jackson Lawson Soulsby).
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior (Ernest Jackson Lawson Soulsby).

A MEMORIAL service is set to take place in the summer at St. Edmund’s Church, Newbiggin, Temple Sowerby, for Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, who has died, aged 90.

He was born Ernest Jackson Lawson Soulsby at Haltwhistle, and the family moved to Hall Farm, Newbiggin, in 1928, and on to Williamsgill, Temple Sowerby, in 1940.

Lawson’s ambition in life was always to become a vet. He attended Kirkby Thore Primary School and Penrith Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and was honoured to be invited back to the school in 1998 to open the new science block.

He started out on his veterinary journey at the Royal Dick Veterinary College, Edinburgh, while his practical training was done with Penrith vets Barr and Macmillan — now known as Rowcliffe House Vets.

After completing his doctorate following his graduation, he became Edinburgh’s municipal veterinary officer.

Dr. Soulsby then be-came a lecturer in parasitology at the University of Bristol before moving on to Cambridge. He and his wife spent the next 16 years based in Pennsylvania, but travelled so much with his work that he became known as the Pan Am Chair of Parasitology.

He returned to the UK in 1978 as professor of animal pathology and became Dean of Wolfson College, the vets’ school in Cambridge. He was created a Conservative life peer in 1990 and in 1998 he became president of the Royal Society of Medicine — a first for a non-medical person.

However, he always strived to promote the concept of “one world-one health” and his lasting legacy was, with the help of family and friends, to establish the Soulsby Foundation, which offers an opportunity and financial help to young veterinary and medical students to travel, research and promote this concept.

In 2015, Lord Soulsby was awarded the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Queen’s Medal, which he received in London. This has now been bequeathed by his family to Penrith and Eden Museum.

He published 14 books and numerous articles in veterinary journals, was a freeman of the City of London, and visited, and was awarded, honours in many places worldwide — all of which are listed in Who’s Who.

Lord Soulsby was in his 70th year of membership of the freemasons and was a member of lodges in Appleby, Cambridge and Ely and a Grand Lodge Officer in both the Craft and Mark.

He still kept up his Cumbria connections and was proud of his roots. Before his health deteriorated he liked nothing better than to visit, meet old friends and see the fells where he used to run as a boy.

Lord Soulsby was married first to Margaret McDonald with whom he had a daughter, Katrina, and son John.

In 1962, he married Annette Williams, who died in 2014. He is survived by his children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, as well as three brothers, Willan, who has retired from farming, and Taylor and Gerard, who are still on the family farm at Williamsgill.