James Herriot

veterinary surgeon and writer (1916-1995)

James Herriot was the pen name of James Alfred Wight (1916-10-031995-02-23), a veterinarian and writer. His best-known works are his semi-autobiographical stories, often referred to collectively as All Creatures Great and Small.



On his fame

On writing

  • "For years I used to bore my wife over lunch with stories about funny incidents. The words 'My book,' as in 'I'll put that in it one day,' became a sort of running joke. Eventually she said, 'Look, I don't want to offend you, but you've been saying that for 25 years. If you were going to write a book, you'd have done it. You're never going to do it now. Old vets of 50 don't write books.' So I purchased a lot of paper right then and started to write."[1]

On being a vet

  • "I love writing about my job because I loved it, and it was a particularly interesting one when I was a young man. It was like holidays with pay to me."[1]
  • "Years ago, farmers were uneducated and eccentric and said funny things, and we ourselves were comparatively uneducated. We had no antibiotics, few drugs. A lot of time was spent pouring things down cows' throats. The whole thing added up to a lot of laughs. There's more science now, but not so many laughs."[1]

On retirement

  • "There was no last animal I treated. When young farm lads started to help me over the gate into a field or a pigpen, to make sure the old fellow wouldn't fall, I started to consider retiring. The great moment was one day when I was stitching up a cow's teats--they often get cut, you know--and my glasses were sliding down my nose. Suddenly I thought, Wight, you're too old for this. But it was a gradual transition. I just did less and less. It must be terrible to have a job you very much love chopped off."[1]

On cats

  • "Cats are connoisseurs of comfort."[2]

On Geoff and Alfred

  • He straightened up. This was a tough one. He folded his arms across his chest as he stared into space and took the long inhalation I remembered so well, I could see that he was a big man again, his shoulders spreading wide, his face ruddy and well-fleshed.
Nothing having evolved from his cogitations, his jaw jutted and he turned his face upwards, seeking further inspiration from the Ceiling. Alfred, I noticed, looked upward, too.
There was a tense silence as Geoff held his pose, then a smile crept slowly over his noble features. He raised a finger, "Madame," he said, "I do fancy I have it. Whitish, you said…something pink… rather squashy… May I suggest to you… marshmallow?"
Mrs. Hird thumped the counter, "Aye,that’s it, Mr. Hatfield. I just couldn’t think of the t’name."
"Ha-ha, thought so," boomed the proprietor, his organ tones rolling to the roof. He laughed, the ladies laughed, and I was positive that Alfred laughed too.
All was well again. Everybody in the shop was happy — Geoff, Alfred, the ladies and, not least, James Herriot.

Quotes about James Alfred Wight

  • [Wight] failed many of his classes on the first try: surgery, pathology, physiology, histology, even animal husbandry (which he failed twice)


  1. a b c d e Margolis, Jonathan (Dec. 12, 2002). "But It Did Happen To A Vet". Time Magazine
  2. Herriot, James (1994). James Herriot's Cat Stories. ISBN 0-7181-3852-X.  (in the introduction and in "Moses Found Among the Rushes")
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