Colin Richard Barton was born on 24th March 1929, the son of Alfred Quinton Barton and Amy Elizabeth Child. Colin (known as Richard) was the youngest of their three children. He had two sisters, Helen and Margaret, and they were raised at Cinderford in the Forest of Dean, where their father ran a chemists shop.
Richard started school in Cinderford before gaining a scholarship to Monmouth Boys’ School, where he attended as a day boy, and he remembers the outbreak of war in 1939 as he listened to Chamberlain on the radio before walking in to the school. When he was at that school, he used to catch the bus there and back, but on one occasion the bus broke down on a very steep hill and all thirty youngsters had to get out and push!
Being wartime, many of the teachers had been turned down for active service and some had their particular idiosyncrasies. ‘Dicker’ - a very bright man and a maths teacher - had a cat phobia, which was exploited mercilessly by the class and the mere mention of the word ‘cat’ would send him flying out of the classroom. He was even to be seen prowling the school roofs. Richard remembers how another master wore five waistcoats and yet another would walk to school holding a large stone at shoulder height perspiring profusely.
Many holidays were spent in Devizes with Uncle Stewart (Child) and Aunt Rosalie. It was on one of these that Richard acquired his family name of ‘Tadpole’, due to being small, dark and wriggly much as the tadpoles in the dew ponds on the downs. This was shortened to ‘Tad’ and has stayed with him all his life.
Richard had a keen interest in animals - even as a child - and this interest led to him applying to the London Royal Veterinary College before leaving school and they offered him a deferred place, enabling him to do his National Service first. His two years’ National Service took him to Gloucester, Salisbury Plain, Suffolk and then on to Towyn on the Welsh coast. There he grew to love the Welsh mountains and in later years spent many a happy camping holiday at the foot of Cader Idris. After he was demobbed, he walked home across Wales to Staunton, in the Forest of Dean near Monmouth.
Richard attended the London Royal Veterinary College from 1949 – 1954. He had a placement at a field station in Streatley on Thames (Berkshire) and while there he had lodgings with the Abbots, who were retired Indian Civil Service folk. Their daughter taught at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Richard found his first job through her friend, whose father was a vet in Cheltenham. He started there in 1954 and through the same connection he met Karin Mallinson, also a teacher at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Richard and Karin married on 11th August 1956.
By 1958 Richard realised that he would prefer to work in a rural practice and as a result of a letter he placed in The Veterinary Record, he met David Harkness, a vet with a practice in North Devon. Richard joined this practice and he and Karin moved down with their eldest daughter, then aged three months. It was there in South Molton that the family settled.
For most of Richard’s working life vets were a common sight on farms and the practice covered a twenty-five mile radius heading right up the North Devon coast. An example of a working Easter Monday was twenty-two visits, two of which were bovine caesarean sections. Typical call outs involved lambings, calvings, mastitis, vaccination programmes and herd TB testing. In addition, there were twice-daily surgeries for small animal work. Richard was part of a small practice and the partners saw themselves as providing a service rather than running a money-making business.
Alongside his busy professional life ran his family life. Richard and Karin had three children – Ruth was born in 1957, Sarah in 1959 and John arrived in 1963. For many years the family - to all intents and purposes - were an integral part of Richard’s work as a vet. Karin was expected to answer the phone on duty evenings and weekends and so had to be within the phone radius, so the one-in-three weekends that Richard was off duty were spent well away from the phone and surgery. The family remembers many wet, winter picnics on the coast and moorland with hot soup and sandwiches.
Among Richard’s other interests were bird-watching and oil painting. In the early 1970’s Richard and Karin built a house on the outskirts of South Molton and there in the large garden Richard was able to have a pair of Hawaiian geese. He was very fond of them and it was a sad day when a fox killed them.
In the early 1970’s Richard became a vegetarian on the premise that it is ‘bad form to eat one’s patients’!
In 1968 Richard went to Nepal for a month, which proved to be the start of a continuing link with the country and some of its people. Over the years he returned several times and was privileged to attend a sky burial, subsequently the subject of a poem he wrote. Plans to continue his vet work out there after retirement were thwarted with the onset of osteoporosis.
Richard retired in 1990, with poetry writing taking the place of painting and walking, and the family became his focus.