Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday's Memories: The World of James Herriot

I gave you an excerpt from one of James Herriot's books when I wrote about our drive through Yorkshire.  Since then, I started re-reading All Creatures Great and Small, and it has been so fun.  It's such enjoyable and charming story-telling, not to mention the laugh-out-loud factor that his stories have.

We got up early Friday morning and drove through the Lake District to the town of Thirsk in Yorkshire, which is Herriot's fictional town of Darrowby.  It's been so fun to read Herriot's descriptions of the house, including the vines growing profusely along the front and be able to picture it exactly.

We parked on the street, somewhat uncertainly trying to figure out if we needed to put money in a meter or not, when a brisk British gentleman walked up and introduced himself, asking us if we were the Americans he was supposed to meet with that morning.  I wrote about meeting James' Herriot's son, Jim, on our trip.  It was definitely a highlight and a fun providence.  He was born during WWII and grew up in this house, on this street.  It's amazing to think of all the changes he has seen there through the years.

I didn't learn until reading Jim Wight's biography of his father that James Herriot was really James Alfred Wight, and Siegfried Farnon was really Donald Sinclair.  Though he changed Sinclair's name, we were told that his portrayal of him in Wight's books was spot-on.

 Mrs. Pumphrey and Tricki-Woo, mentioned in the previous post

  The Dining Room, along with the desk where Mrs. Hall
imperiously set up camp

We paid for audio guides, narrated by Jim Wight, that we listened to as we walked through the house.  It was hard to believe I was in the house where all those stories I'd read took place.

 The living room with the French doors leading to the garden

   Collection of pipes and the famous mug, where Siegfried haphazardly deposited all his funds

The house was huge with a looong hallway of tiled floors with little rooms shooting off from it.  You can well imagine just how cold it would have been without central heat.

 Pill Boxes

 Dispensary with all the old-fashioned remedies

 Operating Room
This was the warmest room in the house according to Wight, snug and warm with a roaring fire.  It was used by his mother as a sewing room and where Jim and his sister Rosie would do their schoolwork.

 I love a big, old-fashioned kitchen.

 I would not have loved the amount of work laundry was back then.

The old stable and outbuildings were converted into a museum filled with memorabilia from Alf Wight's writing and veterinary days, as well as a model of the set used on the BBC's television show based on his books.

Finding the famous Austin there was definitely the biggest highlight after meeting Wight's son.  This car was Alf Wight's transportation to all the farms on his veterinary visits and is almost its own character.

  Walkway leading to the french doors in the living room

 KJ and I on set

There are a lot of fun activities for children, and the museum is a popular field-trip destination for schools.  Adults can have a good time, too. 
Even in its fakeness, this is gross.  Am I right?  But this was the true world of James Herriot, always with his arm stuck up the inside of a cow, untangling the legs of calves, bringing them into the world.  He describes it as long, back-breaking work, because you know, normally cows lie down to give birth.

 Thirsk's church, where the Wights were married

After our tour, we walked down the main street of Darrowby, ducking into a sandwich shop to get some lunch to-go, where I learned that the Brits spread butter on their sandwiches, much as we do mayonnaiseInteresting, I thought. 

This boxed set of James Herriot's books would make a great gift for someone, I'm sure!


  1. The cow thing was nasty! But, I have to know, who was the strongest?

    1. I think we pulled about equal weight. ;)

  2. Thirsk is really just around the corner from us- it's where our kids have swimming lessons. Funny to think you were there! :-)

    1. That is so funny! We are so excited to come again and can't wait to meet all of you.!