UCD Vet Alumnus Austin Donnelly Publishes Debut Novel

Austin Donnelly graduated from the Veterinary Medicine programme in UCD in 2009.  He initially worked in mixed practice in Ireland before travelling to Australia where he worked primarily in companion animal practice.  Austin has recently returned to Ireland and is now back working in mixed practice in Co Wicklow.  As well as being a busy vet, he enjoys writing articles for magazines, newspapers and has just published his debut novel, Whiskers, Feathers & Fur: Veterinary Tales.  In this edition of our Alumni Newsletter, Austin shares some of his tales with us.

'I grew up on a mixed farm (horticulture, fruit farming and beef cattle) on the shores of Lough Neagh, in the orchard county of Armagh. My Dad was a great storyteller and I used to love accompanying him to all the places where farmers would congregate and share stories, like the cattle mart canteen or the co-op. There would always be lots of laughter, no matter how bad the weather or the farming economy was, and I loved to hear their tales. As I grew up and later started work as a mixed practice vet in Ireland and later the southern hemisphere, I started to gather a few stories of my own. 

About three years ago, I found myself in New Zealand with a few spare evenings whilst travelling. I had a story that I felt was worth sharing, so I sat down and started to write. This one I called John, Mamo and the Three Michaels. This story is about a 35-year-old pet cow, Mamo, who surprised an entire village by delivering a calf (with a bit of help from me). There was a bit of a whodunnit as to the paternity, the source of much laughter as a few local bulls were on the suspect list. I really enjoyed writing that story and so I started another.

The next story I called Peadar and the Lads.  This one was about a postman who went on holiday one spring and came back to discover his substitute had missed out on emptying a rural post box for a few weeks. The postman came to me in a bit of a panic as when he had discovered the post box almost overflowing and taken all the mail out, he had found a nest of young robins in the middle of it. The nest was beyond saving. After that, under top secret conditions, he went on to raise the robin chicks in a hat in the glove compartment of his post van. I couldn’t keep a straight face at the vet’s when a few letters turned up with bird droppings on them. Even the receptionist joked about how the birds must be going in the post boxes, little did she know they were in the post van!  (Photo: Austin and Missy the pony, Tasmania)

Then I had more inspiration, the story of our childhood pet piglet that came from an indoors pig farm and how much she went on to adore outdoor living. Then some of my Aussie vet  adventures, and so on. With a tendency towards humour in my stories, I like to make people laugh. I think as vets we enjoy hearing the funny things, the mishaps and the misheard things, that can arise in our work and make us laugh.  In mid-March I published my debut illustrated / humour veterinary story collection Whiskers, Feathers & Fur: Veterinary Tales.’ (Photo: Austin with farmer John Byrne, Roundwood, Co Wicklow)

Austin’s book is available to order through bookstores and online (Ebook & print).  Further information can be found on https://www.austindonnellywrites.com/

You can also read Austin's recent Irish Times Article here and a piece he wrote for the Vet Record here

Austin recently featured on the CountryWide show on RTÉ Radio 1.  Listen back here