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In memoriam: Duncan McMartin

Duncan McMartin, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist emeritus in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, died Jan. 14. The following obituary was provided by his daughter Shona Hilton.

Duncan McMartin
Duncan Alexander McMartin passed away peacefully at home on Jan. 14, 2017, from complications following routine surgery.

Duncan was born on March 30, 1932, to Alistair and Jean McMartin, at East Lodge on the Rannoch Estate at the west end of Loch Rannoch, Scotland, where his father was head gamekeeper. Duncan, along with his siblings Betty, Jessie and David, enjoyed a country childhood. Some of his best days were spent out on the moors or loch, hunting and fishing, more often than not with a dog by his side. His stories of growing up in such a wild and beautiful environment during a bygone era have kept friends and family entertained and inspired for many years. 

He attended the tiny primary school Georgetown School at Bridge of Gaur and then Breadalbane Academy, Aberfeldy. He boarded in the hostel with other remote-living pupils and during the week he continued his fiddle lessons with Miss McGregor. Duncan first began these lessons earlier in Rannoch with John Robertson, and playing Scottish fiddle music became a lifelong passion for him.

After leaving school, he spent two years in the Army doing his National Service.

In 1957, he graduated in Veterinary Medicine at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Following this he was employed as assistant specialist in the Experiment Station at UC Davis and received his doctorate in Comparative Pathology from UC Davis in 1961.

During these years in Davis he met and married his loving wife of nearly 50 years, Hyla Tinklepaugh (who passed away in 2007). The couple soon moved back to Scotland where he worked for the British Ministry of Agriculture Veterinary Laboratory at Lasswade, near Edinburgh, becoming Head of Microbiology there. For his outstanding work on eradication of M. gallisepticum from commercial poultry in Britain, he was awarded the Hall Gold Medal by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London, in 1969.

During this time Duncan and Hyla raised four children  - Christina, Duncan, John and Shona - at their home in the small village of Edgehead, Midlothian. Here he enjoyed the idyllic life of a small country village with many great friends and neighbors. He was active in the local community and had great times and memories of local social events and gatherings. 

In 1980, Duncan was appointed as a Cooperative Extension specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis and he and his family emigrated to the U.S. His career was focused on the impact of diseases on large and small commercial flocks of layers and broilers, but he also had interests in pet and exotic birds. Duncan considered it his privilege to travel throughout California liaising with individual farmers, practicing veterinarians and poultry companies and applying the latest scientific research and knowledge to the health and welfare challenges facing the agricultural community. He developed a dynamic applied research program aimed at eradicating and controlling bacterial and viral diseases that confronted the poultry industry. His research and leadership contributions to avian health and food safety were recognized both nationally and internationally with numerous invitations to speak at professional conferences along with providing his expertise to state and federal regulatory/governmental agencies. Additionally, Duncan enthusiastically and readily shared his knowledge about poultry care and health with his colleagues, veterinary residents, college students and many young people. He retired from UC Davis in 1993.

Duncan was well-known and loved, especially within the Scottish community in California. An accomplished fiddle-player and Gaelic speaker, he brought joy to people as he shared his love of Scottish music and culture, often with a wee dram in hand. He was a longtime member of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco and a founding member of the Dixon Scottish Cultural Association in which he participated in many activities. He was involved in helping with the sheepdog trials and fiddling, and was well known for his dramatic and inspirational rendition of Burns' “Address to the Haggis.” He had an amazing memory and often regaled others with music, songs and his vast historical knowledge. Duncan was also known for his kindness, wit and humble nature; he always saw the best in others and went out of his way to be there for family and friends around him. He will be greatly missed.

Duncan is survived by his sons Duncan and John, daughters Shona and Christina, sister Betty, grandchildren Laura, Andrew, Lex and Jake, and will also be lovingly remembered by many extended family members and friends.

There will be no immediate service, but a celebration of his life will be held this summer in Davis and a service will be held in Scotland. Both will be announced in due time. Although he lived in his adopted home of Davis for many years, his heart was always back in Scotland. His family will be returning him home to Rannoch, along with Hyla, to be buried there.

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 4:18 PM

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