James Herriot

by Stephanie from Edmonton

"I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must be that we will be kind and take care of their needs"
James Herriot (
James Herriot (

James Herriot is the pen name of James Alfred Wight, who was born on October 3,1916, in Glasgow, Scotland. At age 23, in 1939, he started training as a veterinary surgeon at Glasgow Veterinary College. In 1940, in Sunderland, he took a job at a veterinary practice, but then moved into a rural practice based in the town of Thirsk, Yorkshire. He married Joan Anbury on November 5, 1941 and they two kids. Their son, James Alexander was born in 1943, and also became a veterinary and was a partner in Herriot's practice. Their daughter Rosemary was born in 1947, and she became a medical doctor. Herriot eventually moved with his family to the village of Thirlby, where he lived until he died.

James intended to write a book, but with all of his time taken up by the veterinary practice and his family, he didn't get to it. In 1966, he finally began to write. He wrote many books that weren't successful, but then in 1969, "If they could only talk" was published and that was a success, it being 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. James Herriot wrote a lot of books. He created picture books and non-fiction books. Some of the picture books he created include "Moses the Kitten," "Only One Woof," and "The Christmas Day Kitten." Some of the non-fiction books he wrote include "If Only They Could Talk," "It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet," "Let Sleeping Vets Lie," and "Vet in Harness."

When James Herriot was talking about his books he said, "On days when I miss the members of our animal family who have died, I comfort myself with a childish vision of a heaven where there are endless fields and woods in which to run." In one of his stories ("The Card Over the Bed"), a woman's worst fear is that she may never be reunited with her animals after death because some people say animals have no soul. Herriot says to her, "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You've nothing to worry about there."

In the stories, James sometimes steps out of fiction, to comment on the benefit of observation and on the primitive state of veterinarian medicine. Among the different stories included in his books are memories of his first hysterectomy on a cat, and his first stomach surgery on a cow.

In 1991, James was diagnosed with prostate cancer and received treatment at the Lambert Memorial Hospital. He died on February 23 1995, at age 78, at home in Thirlby.

James Herriot isn't just a hero to me, he is a hero to all those animals he has helped, cared for, and loved. When I'm older, and become a vet, I hope that I can help animals as much as he did.

Page created on 5/3/2009 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 8/21/2018 9:19:33 PM

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