James Herriot (1916 – 1995)

James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, known as Alf (October 3, 1916-February 23, 1995), a British veterinary surgeon and writer.

Wight was born in Sunderland, England, but was only three weeks old when his parents moved to Glasgow, Scotland, where he attended Yoker Primary School and Hillhead High School.

In 1939, at the age of twenty-three, he qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Glasgow Veterinary College. The following year he found work in a rural practice in the town of Thirsk, 20 or 30 miles from the Dales of Yorkshire, England, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1969, he wrote If Only They Could Talk, the first of the now-famous series based on his life working as a vet, and his training in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. In his books, he calls the town where he lives Darrowby, which he based largely on the towns of Thirsk and Leyburn.

The books, which told of many comic and illustrative incidents which either happened to him or people whom he knew, were enormously popular, and by the time of his death he was one of the foremost best-selling authors in both Britain and the United States. Despite his authorial success, he continued practising up to his death with his colleague Donald. Owing in part to the British law forbidding veterinary surgeons to advertise, he took a pen name, choosing 'James Herriot' after seeing the Scottish goalkeeper Jim Herriot play exceptionally well for Birmingham City in a televised game against Manchester United. He also renamed Donald and his brother Brian Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, respectively.

His books were adapted into two films and a long-running BBC television programme; for more information about these adaptations, see All Creatures Great and Small.

The popularity of the books and their adaptations have inspired many to become vets themselves.

Books by James Herriot