No time for standing still…

No time for standing still…
Pictured (from left) are Lesley-Ann Lyons and Lisa Bibby, vet nurses; vet Rebecca Martin and receptionist, Alison Galbraith.

Now part of the IVC network, Hollygate at Carryduff has established itself as a growing small animal practice with plenty of potential still to be tapped. Vet Rebecca Martin talks to NI Veterinary Today…

Vet Rebecca Martin has seen good growth since she took the reins at Hollygate Veterinary Clinic in Carryduff just over a year ago.

The burgeoning small animal practice has enjoyed strong local support since it was founded in 2002 by vets Rachel and Gregg Dunlop. But in recent years – and particularly since becoming part of the Independent Vetcare Group in July last year – Hollygate’s community profile has surged.

Much of that renewed activity is down to the enthusiasm of Lisburn-born vet, Rebecca, who came to the practice in July 2017 from a post at Advance Veterinary Care.

Before that, Rebecca, who graduated from Liverpool in 2012, had been working at Vets4Pets in Craigavon, but her ongoing study for the certificate of advanced practice in small animal medicine had left her searching for a practice with a busier and more diverse workload.

From Advance, she relocated to Hollygate 15 months ago, attracted by the promise of a more intimate practice:

“I love the idea of working in a practice where you are able to get to know your clients and build up a relationship with them,” she tells NI Veterinary Today. “I’m able to know them when they come in through the door and everything that’s going on with their animals, and they know me.”

Practice founders, Gregg and Rachel Dunlop established Hollygate in 2002, a short time after their return to Northern Ireland from three years spent working in London. The pair had met during their time studying at Cambridge. Gregg, who comes originally from Annahilt, subsequently went into small animal practice in the capital and Rachel took a research post at University College London.


The couple came back to Northern Ireland so that Gregg could be closer to his family and because they were after a cleaner and more rural environment in which to raise their first child. Rachel says that the intention had always been to open a veterinary practice here and Gregg wasted no time in canvassing potential sites.

A former florist’s shop on Church Road in Carryduff drew their attention:

“We knew that there were very few other places in that area at that time and we thought that it would be an ideal location,” recalls Rachael.

Significant effort and investment was required to create a small animal practice in the old flower shop, but Gregg and Rachael opened Hollygate as planned in July 2002.

“It took us about a year or so to really get going, but we have had great support from our local clientele. I’m not there very often these days, but you do still meet people who have been coming in to us from the start,” says Rachael.

“The ethos at the practice really hasn’t changed over the years, but the practice itself has developed. Obviously, we have more specialised equipment now, we have things like ultrasound and digital x-rays which we didn’t have when we were starting out.”

Development in the practice was also greatly assisted after Gregg’s evolving interest in orthopaedics led to the establishment of a partnership between Hollygate and Earlswood Veterinary Hospital in east Belfast about seven years ago. Those ties have had a profound effect on the development of Hollygate and the services it offers in the years since.

“We work very closely with Earlswood and I am down there with them for a day each week,” says Rebecca Martin. “We have a good working relationship with them and we’re able to liaise with them on cases if we need to, which is very useful if I’m unsure about something.”


Hollygate became part of the Independent Vetcare (IVC) network in July last year – a development which Rachel Dunlop says has worked out well for the practice:

“There are lots of advantages to this. It hasn’t really changed the ethos of the practice at all and how it works. From a clinical point of view and from the clients’ point of view, it’s all much the same, but there are obvious benefits to being part of a large network; you have more support for investment in equipment and in terms of general business management. If you’re a vet on your own, those things can be very challenging.”

Thanks to IVC’s involvement, Hollygate has also been able to employ another vet. Rebecca was recently joined in the practice by vet, Kirsty Morrison.

“I feel that at Hollygate, things are worked up to a very high standard,” says Rebecca. “Things get done here the way that I was trained to do them at university, corners are not cut. And the nursing staff here are outstanding, they know their jobs back-to-front.

“In my time with Hollygate, the business has certainly grown,” she adds. “The vet that was here before me, Fiona McFarland, did a really good job and we have a really loyal client base. Things are continuing to grow and that’s been helped by joining IVC.”

As for the future, Rebecca is keen to see Hollygate grow its client base and take on an increasing workload of cases:

“I am currently doing my medical certificate, so I would hope to soon be working on more complex cases. Kirsty is particularly interested in surgical work, so we make a good collaboration.

“We’re also trying to develop our nursing consultations. I have always felt that in places that I’ve worked before, nurses were very under-utilised. They have a wealth of knowledge and clients love having nursing consultations. They will tell the nurses things that they would never tell the vet. So, I’m hoping we’ll be able to provide a more all-round service going forward.”