Nephew of breeder killed by cow pays tribute at inquest

John Hooks


John Hooks


THE nephew  of an Armagh cattle breeder who died after being trampled by a cow last September has warned other farmers to stay vigilant around livestock.

Gareth Gibson was speaking after an inquest last Thursday in Armagh into the death of his aunt Thelma Gorman (67).

Mrs Gorman, a retired nurse, was a well-known and popular member of the local farming community. She was director of Armagh County Agricultural Show and a respected Simmental breeder.

She was trampled by an animal she was leading into a pen to be seen by an inspector.

The inquest concluded that she died from chest injuries after losing control of the cow.

Mr Gibson said his aunt’s death had been a “big, big loss” to the family, describing her as a person who thought always of others.

 On the day of the incident Mrs Gorman’s cows were being inspected by vet Colin Calvert for tuberculosis. He noted that the cow in question was showing aggressive tendencies and warned Mrs Gorman to be careful.

On leaving he warned animal inspector Ruth Strain, who had just arrived, that some of the animals were acting "flighty", which she took as a warning to be on her guard. Two cows were led into the crush for inspection with no problems.

For the third cow, Mrs Gorman told the inspector to hide behind a wall as the animal had just calved and may react badly to a stranger.

After waiting, Ms Strain became concerned something was wrong and looked round the wall to see Mrs Gorman being dragged on her side as she held on to the harness.

It is believed that Mrs Gorman had been about to lead the cow into the crush when it moved suddenly to try and get towards its calf.

Ms Strain raised the alarm and Mrs Gorman`s husband Peter was able to move the cow away from his wife, being injured in the process.

Mrs Gorman suffered a collapsed lung and died while she was receiving treatment at the scene.

Coroner Paddy McGurgan said Mrs Gorman was a highly respected and experienced cattle breeder who was well able to handle the animals.

Despite this, he said, her method of leading the large animal by a harness into a pen to be placed in a crush was "an unsafe practice" that left her vulnerable.

He also asked why an animal inspector from the Department of Agriculture present at the time had not challenged Mrs Gorman's method, adding that the official may have shown misplaced deference to her experience with cattle.

After the inquest, Mr Gibson called for experienced farmers not to become complacent and to take the opportunity to reassess their handling practices.

 He said: "My auntie was a highly esteemed person in the farming industry and loved her animals.

"She was aware of the risks and what could happen. Unfortunately there can still be times when you lose control.

"That's why I think farmers need to be extra vigilant on farms every day and not to drop their guard.

"I think the findings do help the family to find out exactly what happened. It also sends out an important message to farmers dealing with animals and machinery.”

He added that the family would remember his aunt for her loving nature towards her husband, her nieces and nephews, her livestock and during her nursing career. 

Mrs Gorman and husband Peter had provided respite care for young people with learning disabilities.

In 2012, she received the Armagh City and District Council’s Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2016 her kindness and generosity were further recognised when she was named the winner of the Farming Life Unsung Hero Award and at the time was described as a “committed Christian” who had “worked tirelessly” for the local community.

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