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One of these specialists was a young Swiss veterinary surgeon, Dr Arnold Theiler, who became the stock manager and veterinary surgeon on Irene farm. He later became a state veterinary surgeon and established the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Laboratory and Teaching Hospital just north of Pretoria. Theiler gives a detailed description of the farm in one of his letters home: ‘Imagine an undulating terrain’, he writes, ‘through the lowest part of which a river flows. Everything, as far as the eye can reach, is part of the farm … All is grass and only grass, with trees only along the river. Yet there are also gardens, practically wild, in which peaches, oranges, pomegranates, figs, almonds etc. grow.’

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