Everything you need to know about James Herriot

Everything you need to know about James Herriot

Learn more about the original Yorkshire vet, James Herriot.


Who was James Herriot?

He was a British veterinary surgeon and writer whose books inspired the 1978 TV series 'All creatures great and small'. 

What was James Herriot's real name? 

His birth name was James Alfred Wight, but he wrote under the name James Herriot. He chose his pen-name after seeing a Scottish goalkeeper called Jim Herriot on TV!

When was James Herriot born? 

He might be famed for his connection to Yorkshire, but funnily enough he was actually born in County Durham! He was born 3rd October 1916 in Sunderland. 

  • DId you know...? He was a lifelong Sunderland Football Club supporter and was named a Life President of the club in 1992!

When did James Herriot move to Yorkshire? 

His family moved to Glasgow when James was just three weeks old. Later he moved to Thirsk, Yorkshire in 1940 after fully qualifying as a vet at Glasgow Veterinary College. The town featured in his books, Darrowby, is fictional, but a mixture of Thirsk, Richmond, Leyburn and Middleham.

All creatures great and small 

All creatures great and small 

What are James Herriot's most famous books?

James Herriot has written numerous books including children's books, but his most famous include 'If only they could talk and 'It should't happen to a vet, which both inspired the TV series, 'All creatures great and small'. He often referred to them, modestly, as his 'little cat and dog stories' - but we think they are marvellous. They were loosely based on his real life, but incorporated a lot of fictional elements.

Is there a James Herriot museum? 

Yes. The world of James Herriot museum is located in Thirsk, Yorkshire and is open seven days a week! The museum has a bit for everyone with a behind the scenes tour of 'All creatures great and small', a look into life in the 1940's plus interactive activities for children.   

Who was James Herriot's wife? 

His wife was Joan Catherine Anderson Danbury. The two married 5th November 1941 and had two children - James Alexander, known as Jim and Rosemary, known as Rosie. Joan appears in his books under the name Helen Alderson! And in fact he owed his writing career to her - at the age of 50, in 1966, he was challenged by Joan to write a book. And the rest, as they say, is history...


When did James Herriot die? 

James Herriot passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer in 1995, aged 78. His wife Joan died some years later in 1999. 

Along with tributes including a museum and a statue, James had a train named after him in 2009, which travels from his hometown of Sunderland to London King's Cross, and calls at Thirsk. A lovely tribute to a wonderful man.

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