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Emerging Writer Member Profile

Austin Donnelly

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I am an Irish vet - qualifying in UCD Dublin 10 years ago. I am Originally from County Armagh but mostly call county Wicklow home these days. Over the decade I have worked in a variety of vet roles - from rural Ireland to the big cities of Australia and New Zealand. I wanted to be a vet from a very young age and I am passionate about my work. I love working with animals and people and all the fun and camaraderie that can arise.
My stories are non fiction - memoir / humour.
Instagram austindonnellywrites

Writing sample

I have a story monthly in the Ireland’s Own magazine
- Animal Tale series -
With a few tasters of stories from the book collection along the way too.
Next will be in the 11th June edition, Enjoy!

Here are some extracts from the vet story collection work in progress....

From the chapter - Becoming a ’Vit’
Thinking back on it, I think that duck was almost certainly one of my first patients, and splinting her leg one of my first “operations.” I must have been all of 7 years old. The duck appeared out of the duck shed one morning with one leg pointing the wrong way. – A quick examination revealed a mid-leg bone fracture. I thought quickly and fashioned a splint using matches I placed in an upright circular fashion around the break, and held them in place with a series of poultry rubber leg rings. It held well, and with strict hospital-shed confinement, she was going strong again in a matter of a few weeks. The leg was always a little bit wonky thereafter, but she got around just fine!

A poignant moment in my school days came when I was eight, and I witnessed the aftermath of an accident between a foaling mare and a car. It was a stormy night, and in the throes of foaling, the mare had spooked and jumped onto the road into an oncoming car. The car’s passengers had a miraculous escape, but the mare and foal weren’t so lucky.
My dad and I were driving that way shortly after the accident had happened, arriving at the scene we pulled over immediately. My dad went to see if the people at the car were ok, as I ran straight over to the mare lying on the road mostly in the dark, she was illuminated only by the headlights of the damaged car. With the icy cold rain and biting wind, quickly I was soaked through and shivering violently.
Checking the mare, her chest, her eyes, there were no signs of life, she had already passed away. The foal had been half-way delivered behind her, I ran to the foal. I began frantically rubbing the foal’s chest, willing the foal to take a breath, but there was nothing. I realised they were both gone, all I could do was stand there looking on at their lifeless bodies, I went into a deep state of shock. This was such a harsh reality, it left me numb for days. At such a young age, I couldn’t really process the tragedy. Those images stayed with me for a long time – I even used to dream about what I could have done had I arrived earlier, saving the foal, etc. I was devastated.

This had happened almost straight outside the gates of the primary school, and (in an act that probably would cause complete outrage nowadays) a few days after their bodies were removed, a teacher and a small group of us kids were sent down with buckets of soapy water and brushes to help clean up the blood! We can start the adult therapy bill calculations from that point onwards. I still can’t decide if that was a crazy move by the school, or if it was one of those mega-lessons about the facts of country life?

From the chapter - The Craic’d Sheep Farmers

Craic pronounced ‘crack’ has nothing to do with the illicit substance but it is just as addictive. Craic happens in many different places. Good craic can give you goosebumps, but mighty craic can raise the hairs at the back of your neck. It is subconscious and joyful, better than just fun and laughter alone - it enlivens an experience . It’s like the monosodium glutamate (msg) seasoning on your chips that elevates them to another level and just like msg- too much craic mightn’t be good for you either! It has similarity to the English man’s banter but Irish Craic is better! You can do certain things for the craic, like an Australian would - for the shits and giggles. There could be craic even at a funeral- if it’s not an overwhelmingly sad one, especially if a previously unannounced offspring of the deceased turns up. There certainly is no craic in misery. A full measure of craic is said to be ninety. Some people have it, some people crave it, unfortunately some people are minus craic and yet other people will never get it. It’s not just drunken frivolity, its more than a gossip’s tale or scandal. Any age group can have it. Irish people can detect and find it – they live for it! The Potts’ farm was full of it, I would come to think of them fondly as the Craic Potts.

From the chapter
The Tassie Twins and the Orgling Debacle

“You are not serious? Surely you are having me on Rose?
I just can’t quite believe it,” I said
We were standing on the patio at the front of Rose’s cottage. Rose was stroking Butters, her podgy Russian blue cat. He was freshly brushed and mostly asleep on the garden bench enjoying the attention.
“It’s like some kind of perverse cycle of life right here,” I said, still trying to get my head around it.
“It’s as if Butters hunts the wild birds (I presume)
You brush Butters and peg the little tufts of his excess fur to your clothes line for the birds.
The birds pick it up for their nests, and then the cycle perpetuates.
Butters eats the birds… The premise of some sort of horror movie perhaps?”
I had a chuckle! Rose just looked at me kind of funny.

The birds were now in a frenzy to get the fur, no more than a couple of metres away from us. Looking on at Butters and his close proximity to the birds, my laugher slowly changed to horror as I started to worry there could to be a show down right there!
An avian massacre in the making.
Discretely I started tapping my foot, to try shoo the birds away from Butters, my attempt to avert the impending bloodbath. My theory was quickly dismantled alas, when in the rush of birds grabbing beaks full of fur off the clothes line, one of them, a yellow throated honeyeater, landed right beside Butters and helped herself to a few tufts of fur directly from Butter’s rump, perhaps not fully realising this fur was still attached to the cat! Butters just sat there in a sleepy indifference, looking at the bird. I don’t think Butters was into the bird hunting after all.

Taken from the chapter - The hairy fairy goat Dairy

Arriving at the main courtyard, in the centre of the farm buildings, I parked up and was out getting my kit organised when I heard an exuberant,

Helllloooooo!! ! Welcome to Kiwi land! You must be the new vet! You are most welcome!
as Ian appeared from one of the nearby doorways and introduced himself with a firm handshake.
Ian was tall and slim, with a shaved head, and I quickly picked up on a northern English (Jordie) accent; he appeared to be in his early forties. It was a nice sunny morning and he was making the most of it, wearing some ( sawn off arms and legs) dungarees and a pair of hobnail boots. I remember thinking it really was quite a fashionable look, for a goat farmer!

Enthusiastically, he asked, “So, do you like it? My new sign! It’s just been installed yesterday!”
I said, “You know what Ian, I think it’s great!”
I added, “Coming all the way from Ireland, I feel privileged to visit a hairy fairy goat dairy!”

Ian replied, “Oh my God you are Irish!”

He said, “I bet you are wondering where the fairy is? and he stood back and did a little dance, somewhere between the floss dance tossed up with a bit of ballet, performed with a beaming smile and occasionally cupping his hands about his face, much like petals on a flower. He then loudly exclaimed, “It’s me!” And with a quick spin and a curtsey, he said, “I am the hairy fairy!”
I smiled and said, “I am most humbled to meet you, Mr. Ian the hairy fairy!
And we both had a giggle.

Ian then said, “Wait to you meet my husband Dave and he finds out you are Irish!
He is going to die!
He loves Irish people, – what with his ancestors being Irish convicts back in the day!”
He made these comments with a cheeky grin and it all sounded funnier in Ian’s Jordie accent than it should have;
again we both laughed.

Current project

My current project is a book of short vet stories. These are tales from my journey into veterinary medicine starting at childhood and vet school right through to working as an international travelling vet Locum ( working short term contracts / providing maternity cover etc). The stories are set in a wide variety of locations and with a range of animal and human characters from a Galway postman that hides out and raises a nest of baby robbins in his post van, to live fish falling from the sky during an agricultural show to a farmer’s lost wedding ring whilst lambing a ewe. This has been a huge amount of fun to put on paper. The first collection is called Whiskers, Feathers & Fur Veterinary tales by Austin Donnelly - there’s a story behind that name too!





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