Roger Windsor

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine



Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh is the most delightful bookshop with very friendly staff: it was the perfect place to launch ‘A Vet in Perú’, and a great place for a Peruvian party. David not only did all the carrying and lifting he poured out the pisco withy élan. A goodly crowd turned up although attendance was reduced by ill health and personal problems. I read out the publishers blurb on the book and spoke about farming in Perú and a little about the British aid project. Aurora Salazar, the Peruvian secretary to the project, was then introduced to the audience. I presented a copy of the book to her and to Joan Taylor, the widow of the project administrator. Aurora then read an extract from the book in which the laboratory team travelled up into the Andes to report to the campesinos the results of a research project on improving the productivity of their animals. I then read about one of the battles that I had with the Ministry of Agriculture vets, in which I lost my temper and was so rude that I thought I would be deported: however, my barbs had struck home and the Ministry staff realized that I was right. I was not deported. I concluded by telling the audience about my feelings for the beautiful country that is Perú and the party continued as the pisco flowed.

Those who were unable to get top the launch should head to Golden Hare Books to obtain their copy of the book. I must thank the staff of the bookshop for helping everything go with a swing.

A Vet in Peru

In the  second volume of his memoirs,  Roger tells the story of a pioneering British veterinary aid project, established in conjunction with a local farmers’ co-operative, to bring self-financing veterinary services to thousands of dairy, farmers and llama and alpaca keepers in the high Andes in southern Perú.

This heart-warming story tells how a team of young Peruvians under Roger’s leadership built and delivered a new veterinary service to farmers in an area the size of England against challenging odds. A resurgence of the Shining Path terrorist group threatened the safety of the team and the farmers; terrible inflation of the local currency wreaked havoc with an already tight budget – not to mention constant battles with British and Peruvian bureaucracy.

But the book is not just about animal diseases, the challenges of running an aid project, nor how Roger’s wife, Maxine flourished as a concert pianist. It is about the country that he came to love: the art, the Andean music, the coast with its huge populations of birds and sea mammals, the glorious scenery, the many ancient civilizations and above all the delightful people fighting to survive through a period of massive economic turmoil and  terrorism, yet still managing to smile.

‘A Vet in Perú will be published at the end of September and to celebrate this, Aurora Salazar the former project secretary is coming from Perú for the launch parties which are being held in:

Edinurgh – 21st September

Dumfries – 25th September

London – 27th September.

I have tried to send an invitation to all those people who lived or worked near one of the venues: if you have already replied to an invitation please accept my apologies for bothering you again! If you have not received an invitation to a party and want to come to one, please write to Roger on [email protected]


When I was working in Lao PDR,  it was a regular experience, when travelling in a tuk-tuk late at night, to be asked by the driver if I wished to purchase opium. This is the only time in my life when I have been offered the opportunity to purchase non-prescription drugs.  As a result I have never knowingly sampled marijuana.  When I told a colleague in Cambridge that I had never been offered drugs, I was informed that if I wanted them, all I had to do was to go to any college staircase in  the early evening and I would be able to purchase “pot”. I did not avail myself of the opportunity to do so.

However, I have experienced the effects of marijuana.  When living in Botswana we took the family to South Africa to stay with my wife, Maxine’s aunt on the Kinankop.  While we there, Maxine’s cousin arrived with a group of friends and as the bedrooms were full of Windsors they had to sleep on the stoop.  As I was drifting off to sleep with the windows wide open, there wafted in a scent, spicy and exotic and with this in my nostrils, I was away.  It was a wild night full of colourful and erotic dreams and I awoke the next morning wondering where I had been.  Maxine found out from her cousin that they had indeed been smoking “pot” on the stoop before sleeping.  They were all off that morning for the Wild Coast, leaving me to reflect on my wild night.

Life in Botswana was full of parties, where there were a wide variety of nationalities, although Britons and Americans predominated.   A young American woman who taught at the private Maru-a-Pula school informed us that she had baked a special seed-cake for the party and that there was enough for all to have a slice. It was a pleasant enough cake but nothing particularly special and I thought no more about it until I fell into bed, exhausted from an evening of dancing and conviviality. As the night in South Africa, my dreams were both exotic and erotic.  We found out later that the cake has been liberally spiced with marijuana.

Despite these two pleasant experiences, I have never been seriously tempted to go looking for marijuana; had I been offered it by a dealer, who knows…  However I can truly say that I have never knowingly taken “pot”.


“More Sherlock Holmes than James Herriot – The Veterinary Detectives” I describe mounting a production of “Cry the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton and bringing all the Botswana school children studying the book for their school certificate to Gaborone to see the play.  The idea was not new to me: when I was working in Kenya, the Theatre Group in Nairobi regularly staged the “set book” so that children educated in rural towns, where there was no theatre, had an opportunity to see the play before they had to take their examinations.  I had the good fortune to secure the part of Guildenstern in Hamlet when it was staged in the National Theatre, Nairobi, directed by John Eames, who had modelled his production on that by Trevor Nunn in the Stratford Memorial Theatre. The set and cast were basically black and white and at the back of the stage were these three “Toblerones” which could present a total black, white or mirrored backdrop. We did 21 performances: on Monday to Friday we played to school audiences and on Saturday there was a matinée as well as an evening performance for paying customers.  

The play was an artistic triumph for Andrew Warwick as Hamlet as well as for John.  But it was an unlucky show: at the dress rehearsal Claudius made a lunge and tore the ligaments in one knee; by the second night Polonius had lost his voice to a fungal infection and was informed that if he went on the stage he would permanently damage his vocal chords: we were able to find a replacement at only a few hours’ notice. On the second Friday night my foot was so painful that I was unable to put on my boots and so played the show in my stockinged feet. That night I was in severe pain and so on the Saturday morning I went to the doctor. He informed me that I had an infected jigger under my big toenail, (a jigger is a burrowing flea that bores in under a toenail and deposits its egg sac: as the larvae develop the increasing size puts on pressure and it becomes very painful).  The doctor, cut back the nail and removed the sac, dressed and bandaged the wound.
“You must not put your foot to the ground for 48 hours or you might get sepsis.”

I phoned John to say that I could not go on but would sit in the wings and say my lines while someone walked my part.  John had a better idea and from where he got a Victorian basket wheel chair I never found out,  but it enabled Rosencrantz to push me round the stage.  Nobody thought it odd.  By the following Tuesday I was able to get my boot on and gave up the wheelchair.

I enjoyed being part of the team and was often on the stage with little to say and I was able to watch the audience.  Many of the children knew the play well and I could see them mouthing the words.  There was no need for a prompt; should an actor dry up then a voice from the audience set him on his way. I like to think that our productions for the African children helped them with their studies and possibly imbued them with a love of Shakespeare.

Snake Man

Constantine Ionides moving a Gabon viper

Constantine Ionides moving a Gabon viper

“Conan Doyle was a great writer but he knew nothing  about  snakes.”

The voice broke my revery: I was standing in the Nairobi  Snake Park, looking at a Gabon viper. I turned and saw a scruffy little man with a cigarette drooping from the corner of his mouth;  he was wearing an old bush hat, a dirty shirt and a pair  of shorts that did not require a belt;  on his feet were an old pair of tackies but no socks.

“The Sherlock Holmes  story called the “Speckled Band” is full of errors.  To start with  this snake, being one of the heaviest venomous snakes,  is not capable of climbing down a bell-rope  and even less could it climb back up.  But the biggest error is that this is a venomous  snake that kills with a haemolytic toxins and so the animal bitten will  take days if not weeks to die as the red blood cells are destroyed. The victim would not be found dead within 12 hours ”

I did not know who was this man who was so badly dressed and yet spoke in the clipped tones of an English public school. He was Constantine Ionides – “The snake man”, one of the world’s leading authorities  on snakes, who at the time was living in Tanzania but was making one of his regular visits to Nairobi to bring snakes that he had caught.  The snake park was not just a tourist attraction: the snakes were regularly “milked” for their venom which was used to produce anti-serum to treat people bitten by these creatures.

This one of the many stories that did not get into the final volume of “More Sherlock Holmes than James Herriot – The Veterinary Detectives” . However, I might be able to work it into a later volume.


Louis Armstrong


louis-armstrong-1956I am a great traditional jazz fan and when Louis Armstrong and his All Stars came to Britain,I went to Earls Court and after a wonderful evening I knew I had to go and meet this man and so went to the Stage Door and after about 20 minutes the group of us were shown into his dressing room.  I was amazed at how small he was in his white dressing gown with a towel wrapped round his head.  He was charm and grace personified and I have that signed programme to this day.  Louis was coming to Nairobi and would be playing in the New Stanley Hotel.  I got up a party and about a dozen of us went off to dine and hear the cabaret.  Among our party was Don deTray, an American vet working on the rinderpest campaign.  Louis and his band arrived on stage (A low cabaret dais really) to tumultuous applause and started to play.  Don turned to me and said

“Do you know that I used to play with Louis when I was a student in Chicago;  I was always broke and playing second cornet to Louis paid a lot of bills.”

“You must go and say hello to him” I said.  After much exhortation from all the party, Don, finally went up to the stage.  Louis took one look at this unexpected figure climbing up onto the stage.  “Duuuuuunnnnnnn”  he exclaimed,  flung his arms out and embraced Don and dragged him off to the dressing room and returned with Don bearing his second cornet and they played together for the rest of the evening: Don was not in practice and his lip was not up to playing much at a time but it got better the longer the evening went on.  It was a wonderful evening.  Louis Armstrong died while we were in Kenya and the East African Standard gave him a marvellous editorial obituary which ended with those memorable words “Blackbird Bye Bye.”


Looking after Leopards

Feeding the baby leopard

Feeding the baby leopard

When the Nairobi Animal orphanage experienced an outbreak of feline enteritis it struck with a vengeance and we had leopard, cheetahs and lynxes dying in large numbers.  We took the babies home to try and  make them better. We could get them over the acute disease but then they refused to eat and they died of starvation, despite our best efforts at hand feeding.  The only way that the outbreak was brought under control was by using vaccine: the normal dose of FEV vaccine was totally useless! We finally succeeded by giving a double dose of vaccine followed by a double dose three days later then another a week later and after a fortnight they were given a quadruple dose. Once they had received this they were safe!!


Just getting started


this is a test post written by my son Guy, who is helping set up the website for me. We are just getting started, but stay tuned for some stories of the bad old days…

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