“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs…. They are an obligation put on us, a responsibility we have no right to neglect, not to violate by cruelty.” — James Herriot

Scottish writer James Herriot was born in Glasgow on this day in 1916.

When he was 50, Herriot, who was born James Alfred Wight, started sketching out his life as a country vet in Yorkshire in a series of stories. When his book, All Creatures Great and Small, was published in 1972, it rapidly became an international bestseller. There would be many more books.

The Yorkshire Dales he wrote about continue to be a mecca for his millions of fans. The Yorkshire Tour Company has this to say about the native son and tourist attraction:

You may have heard of our much loved Yorkshire vet who became internationally famous as the author of whimsical, mostly autobiographical, tales of the life and work of a country vet in the Yorkshire Dales. Translated into 18 languages and with over 60 million copies sold worldwide, James Herriot’s books and the film and TV series “All Creatures Great and Small”  are hugely successful and retain an enduring appeal.   

But James Herriot was a pseudonym. The real James Herriot was in fact a Scottish goalkeeper for Birmingham City football club, and it’s an interesting story as to why the name was chosen.

James Alfred Wight (Alf to his friends) was born in 1917 and grew up in Glasgow, and qualified as a vet in 1939. After a short spell as a vet in Sunderland, he applied for a position in a country practice in Thirsk, meeting the inimitable Donald Sinclair (who became Siegfried in the books). In 1940 he was offered a job in the practice where he was to stay for the rest of his career except for a short spell in the RAF during World War II.

Alf married Joan Danbury, a secretary at a local corn mill in Thirsk (Helen in the books) and had a son and a daughter who later went on to become a vet in the same practice and GP, respectively.

It was Joan who prompted Alf to take up writing, which he did at the relatively late age of 50.

The full story is here.


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