Category Archives: Chat

James Herriot … All Creatures Great and Small

James Herriot … All Creatures Great and Small

James Alfred “Alf” Wight, (1916~1995), known by the pen name James Herriot, was a British veterinary surgeon and writer, who used his many years of experiences as a veterinary surgeon to write a series of books each consisting of stories about animals and their owners. He is best known for these semi-autobiographical works, beginning with All Creatures Great and Small in 1972. The British television series adapted from the books is also titled All Creatures Great and Small.

Wight intended for years to write a book, but with most of his time consumed by veterinary practice and family, his writing ambition went nowhere. Challenged by his wife, in 1966 (at the age of 50), he began writing. After several rejected stories on other subjects like football, he turned to what he knew best. In 1969 Wight wrote If Only They Could Talk, the first of the now-famous series based on his life working as a vet. His first approach brought a phone call from Anthea Joseph who was deputy chair of a publishing house. Owing in part to professional etiquette, which at that time frowned on veterinary surgeons and other professionals from advertising their services, he took a pen name, choosing “James Herriot” after seeing the Scottish goalkeeper Jim Herriot play for Birmingham City in a televised game against Manchester United. If Only They Could Talk was published in the United Kingdom in 1970 by Michael Joseph Ltd, but sales were slow until Thomas McCormack, of St. Martin’s Press in New York City, received a copy and arranged to have the first two books published as a single volume in the United States. The resulting book, titled All Creatures Great and Small, was a huge success, spawning numerous sequels, movies and a successful television adaptation.

Herriot’s veterinary surgery was at 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk in North Yorkshire. He worked here with brothers Donald and Brian Sinclair. In his books he renamed the town Darrowby, the surgery was at Skeldale House and the brothers were called Siegfried and Tristan Farnon.

He later moved with his family to the village of Thirlby, about four miles from Thirsk, where he resided until his death. At Thirlby he wrote in a spacious attic study on a large working desk and computer keyboard. Computing was in marked contrast with Alf’s early writing career. When he penned the first of his highly-successful Herriot books about the life of a vet in the Yorkshire Dales, he had half-hour fireside stints at the end of working days.

It was twenty years ago today …

It was twenty years ago today …

MUGGLES PRESS HERE

Mr Dahl & Mr Fox …


Mr Dahl & Mr Fox …

Fantastic Mr Dahl

Fantastic Mr Fox

My old typewriter pal …

My old typewriter pal …

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I wrote my first three books on a Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter just like this one. 

Number of fingers available : 8
Number of fingers used : 2

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I wonder what happened to it. If there is a typewriter heaven then I hope it’s somewhere up there hanging out with the Remingtons and Olympias.

I should mention one of my favourite blogs on WordPress which is dedicated to all things typewriter –  Writelephant.com – well worth following.

Zzz … writer at work

Zzz … Writer at work

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Pencil me in …

Pencil me in …

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Number 6 was a driven man …

Number 6 was a driven man …

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One of my all-time heroes is the late great actor Patrick McGoohan. He was well-known for playing secret agent John Drake in the 1960s British television series Danger Man and for starring in films such as Ice Station Zebra (1968) and Braveheart (1995). But he will be forever associated with the iconic 1960s TV masterpiece The Prisoner in which he played the title role as well as being the creator and driving force behind it.

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Patrick McGoohan had a punishing and self-imposed schedule while working on The Prisoner. The schedule for the exterior work, shot on location at Portmeirion, North Wales was 8am to 10pm. McGoohan himself, now in his late thirties, was continually working a 16 hour day. He was a very early riser and his day began with a 5.30am run along the beach.

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Interior scenes were filmed at MGM studios, Borehamwood.
He lived in nearby Mill Hill. He worked alll day, early morning to 7.30pm. Then he had a game of squash, a few drinks and was back home for 10pm. He went to bed around midnight, got up again at 3am to write correspondence, letters or scripts before returning to bed for an hour and was back at the studios about 7am.

One weekend he filmed interior scenes at MGM until 7pm on Friday, drove up to Portmeirion, worked all day Saturday, drove back at 9.30pm, reaching his office at 4am on Sunday, did some paperwork and returned home for breakfast. Now that’s dedication for you! And the result was one of the best series in the history of television.

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