Our popular WHS Talks are held at the Balsam Centre, Balsam Park BA9 9HB (accessed from Memorial Hall Car Park), usually on the last Wednesday evening of the month.
Doors open 6.30pm with the talk starting at 7pm. Our 9 talks throughout the year range widely, covering local and national topics such as the Roman Villa at the Newt, life of a local vet in 20th century, restoration of Earl of Shaftesbury’s house, the Nuremburg Trials.
A brief round-up of previous talks are available if you click the “Previous Talks” button further down this page.
The programme is being constantly developed so do revisit this site, check out our Instagram or Facebook and look out for our eye-catching posters in various locations around the town advising forthcoming subjects.
Entry Charges (per person):
Members and under 18s: free
From time to time Special Talks are being booked. The venue for these is the Memorial Hall. Last year we heard from John Blashford-Snell, and enjoyed a live performance of Flamenco dancing. Charges for these talks differ from the standard Talks charge. Keep an eye on this site for details.
Special Talks (per person):
Members: free (donation welcomed)
Non-members: See listing for prices
Marcus Giles: A Country Vet (based on Wincanton)
27 September 2023 @ 19:00 - 21:00
For those whose only connection to a veterinary surgeon has been taking their pet cat/dog/rabbit/budgie for a consultation and treatment, or watching “All Creatures Great and Small”, Marcus Giles’ reflections on his life in the profession was an absorbing talk, packed with information and observations.
He started by giving us background to the origins of the practice in Wincanton, based on South Street. In times past much of the work was with horses, whether working, riding or racing types. Then, many farmers had their own remedies, made up on the farm, for the cattle and other livestock and only called in the vet when all else failed.
With family connections to the area, after University, Marcus joined our local practice and worked his way through people’s prejudices of being “the boy” not the senior partner until he himself occupied that position. During these times there has been a significant shift in the practice from farming and horse work to small animal, domestic patients, now primarily covered by insurance.
Another major change, we were told, has been the distances travelled by animals. Once upon a time there was a market in Wincanton, and a local abattoir. As local markets and nearby abattoirs have steadily dwindled in numbers, firstly the train took the strain of transporting livestock, to be superseded by lorries, gradually larger and longer, and these days double storied. The observation was made that diseases seem to have increased with greater animal travel, and, in the opinion of several present, the product at the end of the food chain is of a different quality.
A selection of interesting old implements was produced, some of which made some of the audience wince. An anecdote of local history (that had nothing directly to do with a vet’s work) was that the barn at the South Street site was used as the assembly point for the roll-call of locally billeted Napoleonic PoWs who had to be checked on a regular basis.
Alongside his veterinary work, Marcus became involved in showing animals in the ring, initially at local and county shows, but in time at national events also and has garnered a significant number of prizes. Horses have played a significant part in his personal life; a home-bred had a successful career in racing, another was his partner in his fund-raising ‘LEJOG’ trip from Lands End to John O’Groats.
There were several exchanges between Marcus and audience members, some of it on a “do you remember” basis, which gave us the authentic voice of local history, others on potentially contentious country topics, which everyone had the grace to stop before things could become heated. Maggie Giles, Marcus’ wife, also gave us her view of the effects of the ups and downs of dealing with sometimes wayward and wilful animals on those whose life is wrapped around them.
One felt Marcus could have gone on much longer than was allowed by the time allotted and there was a palpable sense of regret among the audience when he drew the evening to a close.