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Neill McCormick obituary: Dundee Lancaster bomber pilot and vet who hosted Red Rum

Neill McCormick with his beloved Lizzie.
Neill McCormick with his beloved Lizzie.

Andrew Neill McCormick, a veterinary surgeon in Dundee for more than three decades and wartime Lancaster bomber pilot, has died aged 97.

He practised at 121 Nethergate from 1959 until his retiral in 1994.

Over his long career he drew the respect of fellow vets, farmers and pet owners.

Also well known in the equestrian world, horses responded positively to his quiet and confident approach.

War vet Neill McCormick, right, with some of his Lancaster bomber crew.

In 1982 the owners of the famous racehorse Red Rum trusted Neill to stable him at his small yard near Longforgan during a promotional visit to Dundee.

Neill was born and raised in Newton Stewart in 1924 with two brothers, Donald and Peter, and a sister Margaret.

Red Rum leaves the McCormick family stables watched by vet Neill’s wife Marjorie and son Donald.

He was educated at Douglas Ewart School and then boarding school at Worksop College, Cumbria.

During the war he joined the Royal Air Force in 1943. He gained his wings in a Gypsy Moth before finally flying Lancaster heavy bombers.

Red Rum during his 1982 visit to Dundee city centre.

Like many of that era he preferred to retain those memories to himself. Neill was never one for pomp and ceremony.

He was seconded to the Naval Air Training Centre, Pensacola, Florida, to train on PBY Catalina Flying Boats where he successfully became an aviator of the United States Navy.

Following the war, Neill resumed his education, successfully qualifying from the Royal Dick Veterinary School, Edinburgh, in the 1950s.

Yorkshire

As a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons he first saw practice in North Yorkshire where he developed his skills in large and small animal veterinary medicine.

Neill married Marjorie in 1955 and they finally moved to Dundee in 1959.
They had four children, Andrew, Iain, Donald and Jill.

He quickly established himself as a highly respected vet and was known for his calm approach to medical challenges, no matter the time of day or night.

Mentor

Many young vets gleaned valuable veterinary and surgical experience from his expertise.

His remarkable work ethic continued when he and Marjorie moved to Galloway, supposedly for retirement.

Not Neill. He continued to don his white coat and stethoscope in Gatehouse of Fleet for several more years, just in case any local small animals needed help.

He finally retired when they moved to Castle Douglas having completed a remarkable 50 years as a vet. He continued to wear his Dick Vet tie with great pride throughout his life.

Home life

Away from work Neill and Marjorie were home makers and enjoyed the challenge of restoring houses and producing beautiful gardens.

He was the hard landscaper and she the soft landscaper. They returned to Fife in 2004. Marjorie died in 2007.

He continued to carve out a quiet life and enjoyed visiting his family and eating Laura’s Lemon Drizzle cake at Harbour House in Elie.

Active

Neill maintained a rigorous walking ritual every day to exercise and pick up his Courier.

He also insisted that he still did his press ups and star jumps every morning.

Neill’s love of animals never waned. His beloved Spaniel Lizzie was at his side for 18 years and latterly he had to carry her around.

Former vet Neill McCormick at his 90th birthday celebration.

His son Donald said: “He remained self sufficient until 2019 when he required more care.

“This changed his daily lifestyle. He survived the pandemic but its impact was detrimental upsetting his secret to longevity: routine.

“He remained happy to the end and was grateful to his team of carers at Craighead nursing home.

Friendship

“His best friend Baird Matthews, a childhood pal, still lives down in Galloway aged 97. They had a true and lasting friendship of more than 90 years from school days to two spirited old men.

“Neill McCormick was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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