Celebrated animal behaviourist Professor Temple Grandin to deliver talk at Aleen Cust Centenary conference hosted by Atlantic TU (11 & 12 Aug, Mountbellew)

Thursday, July 21, 2022 Press Office
-Donal Connolly at Roscommon Town Sq memorial.

Pioneering Aleen Cust held controversial post of Veterinary Inspector in Mountbellew district for Galway Co Council from 1905 - 1915


Celebrated American scientist, neurodiversity exponent and respected animal behaviorist Professor Temple Grandin comes to Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Mountbellew next month (11 August) to speak at the centenary conference honoring the life and work of Aleen Cust, the first woman to work as a veterinary surgeon in Ireland and Britain in the early 1900s.

Some 16 talks by academics, veterinarians and historians will examine the life, times, pioneering work and death of the Tipperary-born Anglo-Irish aristocrat who was admitted to the Royal College register one hundred years ago (1922) two decades after she first commenced practice in Athleague, Co Roscommon. The two-day event is organised by Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary County Council Heritage Officers and the local Aleen Cust Memorial Society supported by Atlantic TU.  

Aleen Cust held the controversial post of Veterinary Inspector in the Mountbellew district for Galway County Council from 1905-1915. She practiced initially with William Augustine Byrne MRCVS from Castlestrange near Athleague, Co Roscommon, and took over his work after his untimely death in 1910. She drove her own car to France in 1915 to help colleagues treat wounded horses during the Great War 1914-1918. After the Rising in Ireland, the atmosphere changed with nationalism supporting very rigid ideas of one’s place, gender, and race and in 1924 (aged 56), Aleen sold her property and moved to southern England to an area of the New Forest near Southampton. As she left Ireland she remarked: ‘I have known the world at its best, in what was the best country in the world, Ireland. I have also known the world at its worst, alas.’  She continued her interest in veterinary, travelling widely talking to schools and visiting abattoirs on behalf of the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). She died while on a visit to Jamaica in 1937 and rested there, unrecorded, until a Mountbellew veterinarian Brendan Gardiner, a member of the Aleen Cust Memorial Society, located the grave last December with the assistance of Brian Denning, the Irish Consul in Kingston.

Marie Mannion, Galway Co Council Heritage Officer, speaking on behalf of Tipperary and Roscommon Heritage Officers, says: “By undertaking this commemorative project, it will assist in creating a greater awareness and knowledge of what Ireland was like one hundred years ago and the hardships, difficulties that people endured and how Aleen’s perseverance triumphed over adversity. It will also shed light on the life of one of Ireland’s unsung heroes and ensure that her work, sacrifices and her determination are known by those of us who live in the Ireland of 2022.”

“This conference and related projects would not have been possible without the funding and support of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under their Decade of Centenaries Local Authority Funding, the various project partners and our local heritage groups in Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary.” adds Marie.

Head of ATU Mountbellew Dr Edna Curley and Dr Mark McCarthy, Senior lecturer and Programme Chair in Heritage Studies ATU Galway-Mayo, said “This public event coincides with our Golden Jubilee celebrations of fifty years of technological higher education in the west of Ireland, 1972-2022.The university is delighted to be supporting the conference, which will cast new light on the accomplishments of a pioneering figure in the history of Irish science.”

The idea for the Aleen Cust Centenary Conference was first mooted by local vets Ascinta Kilroy Donal Connolly and Brendan Gardiner who said: “Aleen Cust has been forgotten. Her legacy needed to be remembered and her name kept in perpetuity. Her resting place was unrecorded and only discovered in December 2021.”

Guest speaker Professor Temple (born August 29, 1947) is a prominent proponent for the humane treatment of livestock for slaughter and the author of more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. She is a consultant to the livestock industry, and is also an autism spokesperson. A faculty member of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University, Professor Grandin will deliver the keynote address, on Thursday 11 August, 1.30pm, titled,  “Let’s look at it from their point of view!” followed by an open panel discussion.  

MEP Maria Walsh will open the conference and speakers include Professor Siobhan Mullan, first ever Chair of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the UCD Vet school; Meta Osborne, the first female Senior Steward of the Turf Club in the world and first female President of the Veterinary Council of Ireland; Dr Orla Flynn, first president of Ireland’s newest university, Atlantic Technological University.

Other speakers are Mary Fanning, RTE producer of the Nationwide programme ‘In the footsteps of Aleen’; Professor John Dalton, NUI Galway; Michael Gottstein, Teagasc; and Dr Natashcha Meunier, Animal Health Ireland. Local historians Des Murnane of Tipperary will deliver a talk on the Tipperary background of Aleen Cust and Albert Siggins of Roscommon on “Cures, ailments and potions on the farm long ago”. Retired vet Brendan Gardiner from Mountbellew will talk about the search to find Aleen’s resting place. Dr Laura Kelly of University of Strathclyde will speak on “Irish women’s experiences in the medical profession in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century” while Dr Martina Moloney, Chairperson of the Heritage Council will discuss “Celebrating untold stories”.

Dr Rita Gately and Dr Joanne Perry, vets with Galway Co Council, will talk on “Galway County Council Veterinary Service. 1905 and 2022”. Aleen Cust was one of the earliest vets — and the first woman — to work within the Council; Rita and Joanne were the next and continue in her footsteps.

Veterinary surgeon Elizabeth Clayton, Department of Agriculture, a native of Athleague, will discuss “Mr William A Byrne (Willie), MRCVS – A profile”(qualified in London in 1890, died in 1910); Mary Burke, historian and Tuam Herald contributor will give a talk on “The d’Arcy Diary: A short sojourn on Lough Mask with Aleen Cust and friends”. A final open discussion on remembering and commemorating the life and work of Aleen Cust will be moderated by Dr Carmel Connolly of NUI Galway.

Talks on the second day of the Centenary Conference, Friday 12 August, are open to the public. To book your place, please emailhttps://aleencust.clr.events/event/132453#

For further information on this two-day conference, please visit: https://heritage.galwaycommunityheritage.org/content/people/aleen-cust-3

To book the Scientific Day of the conference 


To book the Heritage Day of the conference



Regina Daly, Atlantic TU Communications

 +353 (0)91 742826 Mob: +353 (0)879618355

regina.daly@gmit.ie  www.atu.ie/news