About

Welcome to a page about one of the greatest writers of our time, James Herriot. Herriot being his pen name, James Alfred Wight began writing about his experiences as a country veterinarian in England. His stories have touched millions of people. Be sure to check out everything that is at this site, including his books, his life and times and much much more. Also, be sure to leave comments!

11 Replies to “About”

  1. This is a great site. When I was a boy, in 1990, I wrote a child’s fan letter to Mr. Wight. He sent back a form letter, and at the time because of my age, I didn’t realize it was because this man was just that busy. I was already devouring Tolkien by that time so his works were enjoyable, though the 30s era Yorkshire verbiage confused me very often.

    I have always daydreamed of reviving the series, but this time embracing the almost slapstick humor that Mr. Wight used in his writing. I say slapstick in reference; a comic myself here in New York City, I know the value of it and how it can be used to great effect without demeaning the story one bit. It’s all in how the listener/reader interprets it, and Mr. Wight had a gift for disarming depth in the simplicity of his storytelling.

    I miss him, though I never met him, and it’s comforting to know, now that I am a grown man in my forties, that he was just as human as any of us. If one-tenth of his stories can be believed, the man surely earned his seat in Heaven several times over.

    I look forward to reading about Tricki, Tristan, Siegfried, Robert Maxwell, Gobber New house and, of course, Helen with my own children. The stories will awaken in them the same love for animals that I have.

    All the best,

    Dan

  2. Hi
    Can you please let me know where I could find a piece written by James Herriot named ‘ The Recital’?
    Thank you

  3. I don’t think this is helpful to anyone but I’ll write anyway …

    I was a farm animal stockman in the Vale of York during the seventies and early eighties. The Sinclair and Wight Vets were our farm vets Normally, I would dread a visit from the vets because they always found something wrong. Not so with Alf Wight. He looked around the pig unit, declared all was well and asked if I had any coffee? Of course I did!

    We sat for a long while on a bale of straw just talking – well I talked while he munched my sandwiches and drank my coffee. Nice man, very gentle and understanding of a stockman’s life.

    My boss, next day, advised me not to entertain Alf with food as he’d eat anything free.

    On subsequent visits Alf would sign off without looking around and spend his time eating my sandwiches …

    We met on many other occasions and in different circumstances. I didn’t then know he would become a famous writer. When he was famous he still did farm visits. James Herriot. Who? He was just Alf Wight, Vet.

    My next door neighbour for several years was Mrs Hall’s daughter-in-law, a Mrs Weatherall. A sweet elderly lady, she had many kindly memories of Alf as a younger man and always praised him as a vet.

    Believe it or not the above is true, and there’s much more besides, if any one is interested

  4. Hi Terry –
    A lovely tale of knowing Alf Wight!
    I never met him but LOVED his books. As a lad I really wanted to be a vet but ended up a doctor, to my eternal regret!
    We found on-line the house where the woman who inspired ‘Mrs Pumphrey and Triki Woo’ used to live, in Sowerby just outside Thirsk. So we visited yesterday, for want of anything better to do in lockdown! The field opposite the house is full of dogs being walkedthese days. Very nice to see.

  5. Hello Ed, I hadn’t realised my comment had been published.

    Sadly, most people who knew Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair have either moved away or passed on. The influx of tourists and new comers wanting to live the legend have destroyed the very things they came to experience. The Dales farms no longer exist in any numbers and so an historic way of life Alf Wight crystallised in his books exists now only in our imaginations. But, for various reasons, I experienced that Dales farm way of life.

    Livestock farming is an all consuming way of life. Moving to Thirsk I had no idea there was a living legend in the making. Even some years later the Herriot industry and TV programmes had passed me by. Such time off I contrived to get we went to York.

    30 odd years ago I was on a hike through the Hambleton Hills to raise money for some local children’s camps. We came across a red brick hall set in those rolling hills; isolated and stark. There were horses in paddocks; the path took us close to an elderly couple sitting under umbrellas in their garden. ‘It’s Donald Sinclair,’ someone said as a tall, very well dressed gentleman strode over to us.

    He and his lady invited us all into their garden and a tray of soft drinks was passed around the youngsters. We adults, however, were treated to a Donald special. A large tumbler of decent cognac.

    Now, I seldom drink and so after a few sips tipped mine on the grass before easily getting several sheets to the wind. Donald gave us three tenners toward the camps. Knowing what we were doing he treated my dogs at no charge for quite a while. In the surgery he was the irascible Siegfried. I wouldn’t want to cross him, not even today!

    In nearby Ripon there was another vet practice. I’d better not name it here. The practice owner and senior vet was an out and out businessman. Whereas Alf trained to treat animals we all thought the other vet was in it solely to make money. I don’t know of their relationship, but the Sinclair Wight practice remained very popular indeed.

    Finally, my first employer in Yorkshire ran an intensive pig unit – essentially a factory farm. Alf Wight utterly deplored the way we so liberally used drugs to manage the animals. 20cc Streptopen before a farrowing along with Pituritrin and something I can’t now name to cleanse on time. 20cc more after farrowing and medicated feeds on top of that. Alf point out to me we were helping build up an antibiotic immunity in meat eating people. Of course, that is now so evident.

    A wise man and a good vet.

  6. For quite a few years I lived in a hamlet with a bridge across the Swale and just a few miles from the A1- the Roman Watling Street. We were six miles from Thirsk in a small village whose centre piece was a Wesleyan Chapel which is now an animal crematorium.

    In my time the chapel steward was a fine Welshman from the Valleys, a dear friend and brother in the Faith whose eldest son was at school with Jimmy Wight. Jimmy went on to be a vet and Graham became a pharmacist, and a missionary in the Sudan. As far as I know they remain friends.

    We occupied one of a terrace of three houses adjoining the bridge keepers house. The very elderly lady who occupied that bridge keepers house was Mrs Weatherall. As said above she was the original Mrs Hall’s daughter-in-law and had worked at the Kirkgate practice from time to time. That, as I understand it, was around the time Alf Wight arrived in Kirkgate.

    At the time Alf was just becoming famous but would find time to visit Elsie who would say, you must meet my little friend – I’m quite small – but of course he and I knew each other quite well. We would take afternoon tea in a treasured Victorian china tea set with biscuits and fancy cakes she had baked for the occasion. A million miles from the Yorkshire brew!

    Even with the weight of fame piling up upon him Alf was a jovial chap with a ready laugh or a tale or two. He was out of the lime light and with people he knew. In my memory a nice man. Generous and kind hearted. I learned a lot about life from him and that has served me well.

    Wherever I farmed in Yorkshire Alf Wight seemed to turn up, even after he was famous. I believe he grounded himself in what he knew so well, just being a vet.

    As I look back, the inherent goodness of people, the open-heartedness and generosity of people of those , and earlier times has been supplanted by greed and selfishness. No one seems to need anyone else! Personal loyalty and life long friendships have disappeared. Everything is about money now but it wasn’t then. But that was forty odd years ago, when there was a kindness of mind about, the heart for people and animals that characterised Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair. The last gasps of a dying way of life. That saddens me to this day.

    My last words to Alf Wight in Mrs Weatherall’s living room were, ‘did you really need to eat all my sandwiches? Doesn’t Joan feed you?’

    I’ve retired now and fetched up in East Anglia near my birth place. In farming I met many fine men and women but Alf Wight stands out for his sheer humanity. Fame didn’t diminish him as a person, no, it enhanced him as a farm vet.

    I was in Kirkgate for his funeral service. The crowds were endless. It was a truly sad day. As to where he’s buried I know not. Sufficient I knew him in passing.

  7. Hi Terry – Thank you for all of your comments. I come from a rancher and farmer background and have very fond memories of reading all of Mr. Wight’s books with my mother and then watching the original series – the new one is ice but the original I watch whenever I need to see something that calms me down and is relaxing. What an era! Times, life, etc. was simple and shows so many things I miss. Anyway – thanks again! One day I want to go to Thirsk (have been to England but not that way).

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