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Fethers, Geoffrey Ernest (Geoff) (1897–1988)

by D. C. Blood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Geoffrey Ernest (Geoff) Fethers (1897-1988), veterinarian, was born on 2 April 1897 at Malvern, Melbourne, son of Victorian-born parents William Fethers, accountant, and his wife Edith Mary, née Clarke. Educated at Caulfield Grammar School, Geoff spent a year at Longeronong Agricultural College before attending the University of Melbourne (B.V.Sc., 1918). He was registered to practise veterinary science in Victoria on 5 August 1918. On 29 July he had been appointed a captain in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps, Australian Imperial Force. He arrived in Egypt on 19 October and was attached to the 5th Light Horse Regiment before returning to Melbourne, where his appointment terminated on 25 November 1919. His four brothers had also joined the AIF. In 1921-37 he served in the Militia, rising to major (1929). On 6 November 1924 at St John’s Church of England, Camberwell, he married Annie (Nancy) Browne Cassady.

Fethers’ first veterinary practice was a partnership at Box Hill. In 1925 he opened his own practice at Mont Albert. Until his retirement in 1958 he provided a conventional emergency service for horses, cats and dogs. He also—unconventionally for that era—visited farmers in all States except Western Australia to perform surgical procedures and offer appraisals of farm management, with a particular interest in feeding and breeding regimes as they related both to the health of stock and the profitability of the enterprise. He was a pioneer in the tuberculin testing of dairy herds.

Simultaneously with his thriving practice, Fethers became closely involved with the development of his profession, as a member (1924-42) and president (1933-39) of the Veterinary Board of Victoria, and honorary secretary (1924-29) and president (1932-33) of the Veterinary Association of Victoria. He was a part-time lecturer (1927-40) at Dookie Agricultural College, a founding council member (1961-69) of Marcus Oldham Agricultural College, Geelong, and a veterinary consultant to the Royal Agricultural Society, the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, the Sir Colin MacKenzie sanctuary at Healesville, and the Victorian Graziers Association. He strongly supported the reopening in 1962 of the University of Melbourne’s veterinary school, which had closed in 1928.

Agricultural and veterinary journalism provided Fethers’ most public face: for decades he offered valued advice, tailored to the animal-loving urban community as well as to the dairy, sheep and cattle industries. He wrote a regular column for the Weekly Times for fifty-five years, a selection of which was published as An Elephant in My Garden (1980); he also provided much material to six editions of the Weekly Times Farmers Handbook (1934-78) and for fifty years contributed to the Pastoral Review and Graziers Record. His many radio appearances included frequent items on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s `Country Hour’.

In 1980 Fethers was awarded the Gilruth [q.v.9] prize by the AVA. He had also received King George VI (1936) and Queen Elizabeth II (1953) coronation medals. In 1942-57 he was a member of the Royal Society of Victoria. He was also a member of the Australian Club, the Rotary Club of Melbourne (president 1936), and the Peninsula Country and Metropolitan Golf clubs. In his later years he was a lawn bowls enthusiast at the Glenferrie Hill Recreation Club, where he was president, super-veteran and honorary life member. A modest man of conservative bearing, Geoff Fethers died on 26 September 1988 at West Heidelberg and was cremated. Predeceased by his wife (d.1983), he was survived by two sons and a daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Veterinary Journal, vol 56, no 9, Sept 1980, p 450
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 5 Oct 1988, p 2
  • AVA News, 9 Dec 1988, p 5
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

D. C. Blood, 'Fethers, Geoffrey Ernest (Geoff) (1897–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fethers-geoffrey-ernest-geoff-12486/text22461, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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