Larger-than-life Johnny was a pioneer for change -- we will all truly miss him
Now and again in the agri-sector you find a person who is delightfully different and who makes a difference. Johnny Vaughan, a Gorey-based vet, who died earlier this year, was such a person.
Large in stature and intellect, Johnny was equally capable of tongue lashing the powerful and uplifting the underdog. His career brought him to the top in Irish veterinary bodies and livestock breeding. He could quote Shakespeare, history or philosophy as easily as talk on breeding or animal health.
Born in Dublin in 1937, Johnny moved to Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, when his father, Martin, became manager at St Senan's Hospital farm.
His first agribusiness venture was in the 1950s when he and his father established a cattle market in Enniscorthy. This was the forerunner to the large mart which is now operated by the Wexford Farmers' Co-op group. Johnny was the mart auctioneer, a post he retained during his veterinary studies in Dublin. Given his sharp wit, and his disdain for messing, I can imagine that his performance from the podium was entertaining.
His fellow students recall Johnny as being in the top two or three in the year. After qualifying as a vet in 1961, he spent a year in UCD's vet faculty surgery section before joining the Larry Kinsella practice in Gorey.
In 1972 Johnny branched out with his own practice. His business flourished on the back of long hours and utter dedication to the calls from his clients. One farmer remarked how Johnny could calve a cow at 3am and then head to the airport for a plane to Brussels. He did not spare himself. During this time he also farmed cattle and sheep in his own right on rented land. His family recall being wakened on summer mornings at 4.30am to move livestock before the tourist traffic hit the roads. He also bred pedigree Herefords.
Johnny's involvement in veterinary politics began in 1970. Vets felt under siege from the Department of Agriculture over TB testing, and the Wexford vet was a prime mover behind the establishment of the Irish Veterinary Union (IVU). The Veterinary Association was seen as too gentlemanly to tackle this challenge so negotiating rights were transferred from the association to the union. Joe Connolly, the first IVU president, got that job "when my close friend Johnny Vaughan ordered me to take the chair at the first meeting".
Attempts by the Department and Farm Minister, Mark Clinton, to bring in lay TB testers later in the 1970s led to further rows between the IVU and the Department, plus a cessation of testing. More recently the IVU and the Veterinary Association amalgamated to become Veterinary Ireland.