The market place in a Yorkshire market town…. A street off the market place….A front door…. but not just ANYbody’s front door….This is a very special front door because a very special man lived and worked here. Better known to most people as TV vet, James Herriot, Alf Wight (front left) was a vet here in Thirsk for many years. The surgery where TV vets Siegfried Farnon and James Herriot, in real life Donald Sinclair and Alf Wight, practised their veterinary trade has now been converted into a museum and we were keen to take a look.
I keep forgetting how long it is since All Creatures Great and Small appeared on our TV screens, and that a whole generation has grown up since then, but I hope the show will be remembered. The tour guide who welcomed us to the house had known Alf the vet, and laughed as she pointed out the waiting room. “I’ve lost count of the cheques I have written in there!” she told us. One of the funniest characters in the series was Mrs Pumphrey and her very spoiled Pekinese dog. Here they are, waiting to see “Uncle” Herriot!
This was the Wights’ sitting room, and there was “Alf” sitting in the corner reading his newspaper, cup of tea on the little table just to hand, and his feet surrounded by the toys of his children Jimmy and Rosie. It had such a homely feel to it.
I could see plenty in the kitchen that we’d had in ours when I was a child in the 1950s.
Out of the back door buildings have been added or converted for the purpose of the museum, but the old car is the one Alf used on his farm visits around the Yorkshire countryside. I remember the days before flashing indicator lights at the back and front of cars, when a little orange arm-lever flicked up and out from the side of the car to show your intended direction of travel! Seeing this brought it all back to my mind!
The rest of the house was given over to a museum of veterinary tools and equipment, and a children’s activity area, but for me the house and living rooms had been the most interesting part. Apparently, around Christmas time there is to be a TV programme about the young James Herriot, “Young James”, based on the “real” Alf Wight’s life as a boy and a student at Glasgow university, so I look forward to that. Some of it will have been filmed here in Thirsk. It will bring back memories of when I lived in Swaledale and we watched the filming of some episodes of All Creatures… starring Christopher Timothy, and Robert Hardy, with Peter Davison as Tristan, Siegfried’s young brother.
I met the real James Herriot once, at a book-signing in Darlington. The big bookshop, Dressers, has gone now, but was a great place around 30 years ago. There was a long queue waiting to have Alf write his name in their book, and when it came to my turn to meet the man himself we had a grand conversation about the dales and Scotland – he never lost his gentle Scots accent, I’m glad to say!
Click on Youtube All creatures great and small and this will take you to Part 1 of Against the odds. It’s in several parts, but in Parts 1 and 2 you’ll find Mrs Pumphrey and the spoiled dog Tricki Woo! The parts end abruptly but you’ll find enough parts – 5 in all - to make up the episode! Hope you enjoy it!
Talk again soon.