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On Being a Writer (and Vet) in Wales: Siôn Rowlands

17 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Siôn Rowlands and his book ‘Letting the Cat Out of the Bag’

Siôn Rowlands

Before attempting to untangle what being a writer, or even a vet, in Wales means, I thought it best to first try and identify and wrestle with what being Welsh is to me.

Poets, historians and numbered folk, more erudite than me, will concede, I suspect, that being Welsh is as tangible as it is abstract, its passionately quantifiable and yet, for many, undefinable. 

Being Welsh is having a name people think they recognise but mispronounce, its a sense of exposure when youre singled out for plaudits and, above all, its a warmness, a comfort, a reassurance that spreads across your body when you come home after time away.

Yes, being Welsh means something to those who want it to, the feelings need no invite, they are always there, lapping at your feet or in white horse waves ready to drown you.

For many years I sought an ambivalence about my nationality, and yet wherever I went in the world it followed and embraced me.

Today I embrace it back, and readily and repeatedly challenge my sons to carry their nationality in whatever they do.


In my job and in writing my book about my years as a vet Ive never been overly conscious that my nationality has been an influence.

Yes, Ive been plagued by a sense of imposterism, and, conversely, matched by a wilful determination, could I attribute these to a Welshness?

What about my mastered dichotomy of confidence: with effusive hubris in the face of pet loving clients, matched by a paucity of self-confidence on my value and achievements.

Ive learnt that these opposing forces are commonly found in my peers. Vets who work tirelessly to walk tight ropes of trust, remaining vulnerable at all times.

Nurture and nature

With both parents being natural communicators, my mother a speech therapist and my father a GP, I must have benefited from the influences of both nature and nurture.

Ive become very comfortable in understanding how to engage on sensitive subjects and Ive spent over a quarter of a century delivering difficult messages.


And what of my writing style? Where did my interest with language and storytelling start? 

I attended Bro Myrddin in Carmarthenshire in the 80s and 90s. I write about my time at this school in my book, a place which significantly shaped my youth.

I decided not to capture some of the stories from my seven years in this old boys grammar school, they would simply have been hard to fathom.

Overall, however, I cannot but smile when I think about my experiences at my school, and knowing that many wouldnt be as gleeful about their experience, Im grateful.


What of any literary influences? I, like many other tortured teenagers, was forced to scratch our heads whilst our tired eyes tripped, dragged and limped their way over the pages of Romeo and Juliet.

Prepare to have your eyes opened’, proclaimed the relatively new English teacher to our 4th year class as we embarked on the first day of reading Shakespeares tail of star-crossed lovers.

Whilst I admired the teachers gusto, offering free laxatives with every plate of vindaloo’ would have been received with more interest.

I think Ive got the French version of the book Miss’ shouted Dafydd Edwards from the back of the class. Our English teacher loosened her silk neck scarf, this was not to be her Dead Poets Society’ year.

Mature readers

Before Im roundly condemned for excoriating The Bard’ let me try and justify my thoughts.

Shakespeare doesnt need me to laud his achievements, or his undoubted impact on current and future generations of mature readers, and heaven forbid a one-time lowly author from Wales should question his place on secondary school curriculums.

But am I the only one to think how much easier the job of our poor teachers would be if we were to replace Romeo Juliet, M…th and others with books that our children could relate to and engage with?

As my book collects dust on shelves, becomes a colouring book for toddlers or helps raise the level of computer monitors in makeshift home offices, I wonder whether I would have written the book if I wasnt Welsh.

It’s impossible to say, but, with certainty, I can recognise that being Welsh has given me an indefatigable spirit to share, to speak out about the things that are, at times, unjust, and in the veterinary profession, when thinking of protecting those that have no voice, that has merit.

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag: The Secret Life of a Vet by Sion Rowlands was published on 15thFebruary 2024, and is available from all good bookshops or to buy here

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