Author of the All Creatures Great and Small series
Photos from the Hillman Archive

James Herriot

Location of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, UK

The World of James Herriot

Visit 1: Hillman Gig Notes Excerpt
GALLERIES: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | Tributes
See the descriptive links to this tour below:

A bronze statue honouring James Herriot at the World of James Herriot Centre

Click for full-screen collage
The World of James Herriot Museum is housed in James Herriot's original home and surgery, Skeldale House, at 23 Kirkgate in Thirsk, North Yorkshire - the real Darrowby. This is the only veterinary science museum in the UK. There are over 4,000 objects in the collection and most visitors are amazed when they discover just how much the profession has changed since the days of James Herriot. 

This year I took my vacation leave to coincide with a trip to Europe sponsored by Disney Theatrical NY and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. CA. In my free time I serve as Web master and editor for all the ERB, Inc. Websites and Webzines and have also worked on promo Webpages and written bio notes for Disney's Broadway playbill. After attending the gala opening of Tarzan the Musical in Holland we found time for a reunion with our old bandmates in England and revisit some of the places we had come to know so well during our three music tours a few decades ago.

We first visited James Herriot's Skeldale House in the summer of 1976.  Sue-On and I were in the middle of a six-week performance tour of Northern England and one of the venues on the tour was a country club just outside of Thirsk. See the accompanying sidebar for backgound on this.

Our First Visit to the World of James Herriot
From the liner notes of the Bill and Sue-On Hillman CD Album No. 12
featured at the Hillman Musical Odyssey

"Our strangest and perhaps most memorable night occurred at Thirsk - a village in Yorkshire. Throughout the tour, we spent most mornings and afternoons being tourists - traipsing through castles, cathedrals, and pubs and across highlands and moors. Thirsk, however, offered a special reward because it is home to Alf Wight, aka James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small fame.

"We visited his veterinary office and toured his small museum just down the street. Fittingly, the club we were to play was on the outskirts of town surrounded by a meadow or cow pasture. It was a 1920s pavilion-style hall. 

"Our opening act for the night arrived late - surrounded by an entourage of people in formal wear. He was a singer who had been married just a few hours before in Newcastle. This set the mood for the whole evening - the place seemed to explode and although the club should have been emptied by 11:00, the management barred the doors to keep out the local constabulary and the party continued into the wee hours. When Sue-On wearied of the drums, a succession of people - our agent, the bartender and even the groom - took control of the sticks. Something right out of the fictional Darrowby. 

The Return: April 2007
On our return to Skeldale House after an absence of over 30 years we found many changes. 

What had been a working veterinary surgery and practice back in 1976 has now been converted into a £1.4 million museum. The various rooms have been restored to what they had been back in the 1940s. 

We were given special permission to go beyond many of the roped off areas so as to take better photographs for this project. As a result we were able to obtain shots from some very interesting angles as we explored the many displays: Dining Room, Sitting Room, Dispensary, Consulting Room, Breakfast Room, Kitchen and Skullery, Garden, Garage and Stable, TV Studio and Sets, and the Interactive Science Gallery on the upper level.

The result of this photo session is the following virtual tour consisting of the 300 photos that are showcased in this project.

A Short Biography ~ Ref:
James Herriot - Alf Wight: All Creatures Great & Small
1916 - 1995
Alf Wight, the creator of James Herriot, was born in 1916 in Sunderland. The son of a shipyard welder he grew up in Glasgow, where he qualified at the Glasgow Veterinary College. He returned to England in 1939 and began his career as a vet’s assistant. He worked from the now famous Kirkgate Surgery in Thirsk, which achieved renown as the fictional town of Darrowby.

In 1941, Alf met his wife Joan and they soon married at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Thirsk. After years of listening to Alf relate the amusing tales of his days in the dales attending to animals, it was his wife that finally pushed him into putting pen to paper. He bought himself a typewriter and each night, whilst watching television, he would type out a chapter. Within a short time, his winning style and amusing anecdotes were being read avidly all over the world in the 'James Herriot' stories we've come to know and love.

In 1970 ‘If Only They Could Talk’, Alf’s first book was published under the pseudonym of James Herriot. Alf came to choose his pen name whilst typing his book in front of a televised football match against Birmingham City. Jim Herriot, Birmingham’s star player and a fellow Scot, caught Alf’s attention and from then on, all his stories of life as a Yorkshire vet were told by James Herriot.

These wonderful books relate years of real-life experiences - he tells his readers affectionately of the animals he dealt with and expressed his admiration of the farmers he met during his years as a vet. In 1978 his fame grew even more when the BBC created the popular series, “All Creatures Great & Small,” a programme which ran for a total of 13 years and spread the name and popularity of James Herriot even further. Two feature films were also produced.

Alf Wight has made this area of Yorkshire that lies between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales into “Herriot Country” famous worldwide. Selling over 10 million copies of his books, translated into over 40 languages, it is no wonder that millions of visitors come to visit this beautiful area each year. 

For more join us in the World of James Herriot Display below:
Bill Hillman's World of James Herriot Project
1. James Herriot I: Thirsk, North Yorkshire
       All Creatures Great and Small Museum - Skeldale House
2. James Herriot II
       The Sitting Room and Dispensary
3. James Herriot III
       Rooms: Consulting ~ Breakfast ~ Kitchen and Skullery
4. James Herriot IV
        Garden ~ Garage ~ Stable
5. James Herriot V
      The Alf Wight / James Herriot Story
6. James Herriot VI
      TV Studio and Sets
7. James Herriot VII
      Tools of the Trade
8. James Herriot VIII
       Upper Room Displays
9. Tributes and Bibliography
     First edition titles & dates ~ Article ~ Obituary ~ Photos
Hillman First Visit to Herriot's Yorkshire Country
Music Tour Gig Notes Excerpt (from Chapter 5)

WEB REFS (Off-Site)
World of James Herriot Museum


All Creatures Great and Small (1975)
The story of a young veterinarian's apprenticeship to a 
somewhat eccentric older vet in the English countryside, 
and the young man's hesitating courtship of the daughter of a local farmer.
Simon Ward: James Herriot
Anthony Hopkins: Siegfried Farnon
Brian Stirner: Tristan Farnon
It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1975)
aka All Things Bright and Beautiful
Director: Eric Till 
Script: Alan Plater
John Alderton: James Herriot
Colin Blakely: Siegfried Farnon
Lisa Harrow: Helen
James Herriot's Yorkshire: The Film (1993)
This documentary showcases the breathtaking scenery of 
Wensleydale, Swaledale, Coverdale, Thirsk, Sutton Bank, Captain Cook country, 
Scarborough, Robin Hood's Bay, York and Harrogate 
as well as featuring the people and animals so often associated with Herriot's novels. 
James Herriot (also plays himself as Alf Wight)
Christopher Timothy (also narrates)
The BBC series ran for seven seasons, starting in 1978.
Episode Lists are featured at
Christopher Timothy: James Herriot
Robert Hardy: Siegfried Farnon
Peter Davison: Tristan
Carol Drinkwater: (series 1-3) & Lynda Bellingham (series 4-7): Helen Herriot

Click for full size promo collage

Visit 1: Hillman Gig Notes Excerpt
GALLERIES: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | Tributes

Photos by Bill & Sue-On Hillman - ©Copyright 2010/2017/2020
Bill and Sue-On Hillman