The son of an orchestra leader who played background music for silent films, Wight was born Oct. 3, 1916, and grew up in Glasgow. He trained at Glasgow Veterinary College, arriving in Thirsk in 1940 for a now-famous job interview with Donald Sinclair–Siegfried Farnon in the book. At age 50, he was persuaded by his wife to write down his collection of anecdotes.
Herriot — the pen name and alter ego of James Alfred Wight — wrote 15 books in the time that he could wrest away from his practice. They sold 50 million copies in 20 countries. But he continued his veterinary practice long after his books made him famous. “If a farmer calls me with a sick animal, he couldn’t care less if I were George Bernard Shaw,” he once said.
In the 22 years since “All Creatures Great and Small,” his first work, appeared, Mr. Herriot produced a dozen other best-selling books. Each was filled with heartwarming stories, told in simple prose, of ailing animals and their owners and the veterinarians who tramp across the muddy fields of North Yorkshire at all hours of day and night.
“James’s unique blend of warmth and joy and skill as a writer made him perhaps the most personally beloved storyteller of his time,” said Mr. McCormack, the chairman of St. Martin’s Press and Mr. Herriot’s editor since 1972. “When people ask me what he was like, I say, ‘If you know his books you know James.’ More than any other author I’ve met, he was his books.”
“For years I used to bore my wife over lunch with stories about funny incidents.”
“I think it was the fact that I liked it so much that made the writing just come out of me automatically.”
“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
“I have felt cats rubbing their faces against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love.”
SOURCE: Britannica; Goodreads: PBS TV; NY Times