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Can Vet J. 2010 August; 51(8): 852.
PMCID: PMC2905003

“Pigmented Spectacles.” Conversations with Dr. Ian Ayrton Earle Kirby

Reviewed by Richard Julian, DVM, Professor Emeritus

Chesterton D. 5 Snowberry Court, Caledon Village, Ontario L7K 0B5, 180 pp. $16.00 CDN. 

The first 3 chapters of this book are about Earle’s early years growing up in St. Vincent with an excellent description of Caribbean island life in the 1920s and 1930s. These pages also describe his close relationship with his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who impressed on him that he was special and had much to offer to his small island home. They instilled a pride in his ancestry and heritage that stayed with him for life. As a child, Earle was free to roam the hills, valleys, and forest with his friends and he developed a lifelong interest in the island’s plant, bird, and animal life. He respected the education he received under the Cambridge University system and he excelled at school. Earle loved learning about everything.

Earle received a scholarship to attend the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture and Chapter 4 is about his 3 years in Trinidad, the war years, and his work with the St. Vincent Ministry of Agriculture when he returned home. Earle received a scholarship to attend the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph and Chapter 5 describes his 4 years at OVC, graduating in 1952, the last year of the 4-year Veterinary Degree course. Here, Earle reminiscences about his experiences in Canada, Guelph, and his education at OVC. Comments from several of his classmates of their impressions of Earle are included and we read too about a college romance.

Chapter 6 is about Earle’s veterinary work in St. Vincent as Chief Veterinary Officer, his irritation with bureaucracy, and his developing interest in the archeological history of St. Vincent as he was shown the many artifacts farmers had found.

Earle’s marriage to Monica, their family life, their interest in the welfare and education of the children on the island are outlined in Chapter 7. Earle tried to pass his pride in his heritage on to the children and encouraged them to work to protect the bird and animal species of the island, particularly the St. Vincent parrot.

In 1957, Earle was accepted for a post graduate degree at the Royal Veterinary College, School of Tropical Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland as detailed in chapter 8. He also attended a 10-day workshop in Denmark.

Chapters 9 and 10 revolve around Earle’s deepening interest in the history and the archeological evidence of the prehistory of St. Vincent that continued full time after his retirement from the Ministry. Earle was convinced that people from Mali in West Africa had settled in the area prior to 1400 AD and that the Black Caribs descended from them. He wrote papers on his discoveries, spoke at meetings, and was involved in the founding of The St. Vincent Archeological and Historical Society. He also developed the St. Vincent Archeological Museum.

The people of St. Vincent recognized “Doc Kirby” for his efforts to protect the environment, his willingness to help and guide others, and his promotion of the history of the islands. Earle received the ‘Order of the British Empire’ and was honored in St. Vincent with a stamp in ‘The Year of the Elder.’ He was awarded, posthumously, the Euan P. McFarlane Award for Outstanding Environmental Leadership in the Insular Caribbean. The final 2 chapters include this recognition and testimonials from friends.

The book is available from David Chesterton (ac.ocitapmys@notretsehc.d) for $16.00 in Canada, including taxes, packaging, and shipping.


About the Author. David Chesterton decided someone should write a biography of Dr. Ian Ayrton Earle Kirby. He first met Dr. Kirby in 1972 when he escorted students from Humber College to the Islands. For the next 17 years he and his wife Anne visited Earle when sailing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He and Anne then led Elderhostel groups to St. Vincent for several years and always visited the Botanical Gardens (the oldest in the Caribbean) and the museum to talk to Earle.

Articles from The Canadian Veterinary Journal are provided here courtesy of Canadian Veterinary Medical Association