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James Herriot: Dearest vet that ever lived!
By Randall Davis Barfield   


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James Herriot is the pen name of former vet Alf Wight (like the Isle). James Alfred Wight, he was actually. Alf was born on October 3, 1916, and lived to be almost 80 years old. He was a British veterinary surgeon and, later, famous writer. His wonderful animal stories are often referred to nowadays as All Creatures Great and Small. But it is possible to find them under different names and in different books.
Alf was born in Sunderland, County Durham, England, because his parents considered the town as their home. But they had been living and working in Glasgow, Scotland, where, after just 3 short weeks of life, Alf and his parents returned.
At 23 years old, Alf graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College. He had different jobs until July, 1940, when he began working in Thirsk, Yorkshire, later becoming a partner of the surgery there (vet’s offices in American English). He would work and live in and near Thirsk the rest of his life.
In 1941, during World War II, Alf fell in love and married Joan Anderson Danbury. They had 2 kids, Jim, born in 1943, and Rosemary, born in 1947. Alf had to serve in the RAF for a time during the war, so the couple were separated for a while during Alf’s required absences.
Alf and Joan and the 2 kids lived in different houses over the years, finally settling in a house in the village of Thirlby, very near to Thirsk. If Only They Could Talk was Alf’s collections of animals stories that got published in the UK in 1969. Sales were slow, actually, until a publisher in the USA, who had received a copy of Alf’s stories, arranged to have them published in New York as All Creatures Great and Small, already mentioned above.
From 1991 to 1995 doctors treated Alf for prostate cancer. He died at age 78 in 1995 at home in Thirlby.
Alf’s stories of vet life are narrated mostly by the character, James Herriot, in the first person (when we use I). Why have they been so popular around the whole world? Maybe because they are funny, tender, warm, and sad. Maybe because they are stories that deal with lives—people’s and animals’ lives. And maybe because the stories are based on many true adventures Alf himself experienced. Alf always referred to his writings as his “little cat and dog stories”. As a person who has read and enjoyed practically all of Alf Wight’s stories, I can say this: Thank you Mr. Wight! Thanks for sharing your great and wonderful stories with the whole world!     


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