James Herriot's books about life as a country vet in the 1970s sold 60 million copies worldwide. Later many of the stories were made into feature films and a very popular TV series, 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Herriot's real name was James 'Alf' Wight, and he was known as 'Alf' by local people. He practiced as a vet in Thirsk, a small market town just a few miles from the North York Moors, as did his son, Jim Wight. Felicity Evans visits 'Herriot Country' to meet Jim Wight and talk about his father, the changes there have been in veterinary practice since the 1940s and the legacy 'James Herriot' left both the town and the local farming community.
Jim Wight takes Felicity to the old surgery in 23, Kirkgate, Thirsk where Alf served the local community as a vet, initially working with Donald Sinclair, who became Siegfried Farnon in the books. Jim lived here until he was ten and later when he followed his father into the practice, it was also his place of work. Now it's 'The World of James Herriot Museum', where the rooms are lovingly preserved and visitors can see the old dispensary and the veterinary instruments used in the post war era. The visit brings back many memories for Jim including sharing some of the humorous stories that made his father's books so famous.
The farming industry has also changed since Alf Wight's time and Felicity visits John Bowes and his son Jonathan, one of the few remaining dairy farmers now left in the area who remember Alf Wight's visits. She also meets the Town's Mayor, Janet Watson who talks of the 'Herriot effect' on business in the town and proudly shows her the newly laid cobblestones in the Market Square and the restored town clock.
Felicity ends her visit to Thirsk by observing a veterinary consultation at the Skeldale Veterinary practice. Peter Wright talks about the loss of many family run farms who kept livestock which has given way to a veterinary practice that is now dominated by small animals. Happily both Peter and Jim Wight believe that the changes, particularly in disease control, are very much for the better.
Producer: Sarah Pitt.