In 2005 I had the pleasure of speaking at the Annual Conference of the British and Irish Association of Law Libraries held in Harrogate, England. Located in North Yorkshire, Harrogate might be familiar to those of you who have watched the BBC program Last Tango in Halifax. Harrogate is also where Agatha Christie was found when she mysteriously disappeared in 1926. And, yes, I did visit the hotel, now the Old Swan, where she was found.
More importantly for me, it is only a short drive from Harrogate to Thirsk, the home of James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small. As a fan of both James Herriot’s books and the television show which premiered in 1978, this speaking commitment gave me the opportunity to engage in a bit of All Creatures Great and Small fandom.
So as PBS is set to air a remake of the 1978 show, I thought I’d share some photos and thoughts on my visit to Herriot Country.
A thirty-seven minute drive from Harrogate, Thirsk is a lovely market town in North Yorkshire and was the home of James Alfred Wight who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot. While there, I visited the home and surgery (Skeldale House in the books) of this famous veterinarian. And of course the experience would not be complete without some stereotypical English weather, as evidenced by my photos. For me, the rain was no deterrent.
The World of James Herriot is a museum where fans can visit the Herriot home, view the sets used in the television adaptation of the books, and see Herriot Memorabilia.
Of course, I took full advantage of my visit to be the ultimate tourist, so here I am with one of the books’ most endearing characters, Mrs. Pumphrey (portrayed by the late Diana Rigg in the reboot), and her beloved Pekingese, Triki Woo.
On display to view (and at that time sit-in) is the 1934 Austin Seven Tourer used in the show’s opening credits.
While Dr. Herriot took care of a myriad of animals, from the smallest of kittens to the largest of cows, it was his veterinary partner, Siegfried Farnon, who had a love of horses. As luck would have it, on the day that I was visiting Thirsk, there happened to be races at the Thirsk Racecourse. As a proud lifelong Kentuckian, I of course headed to the races to place my bet, and to see how different a track in England might be as compared to our own Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
Perhaps right now, as the Pandemic has given us all a sense of weariness, James Herriot’s books, for me, bring to mind a time when things seemed simpler and kinder, and we moved at a slower pace. Of course, that may be looking at history through a rose-colored lens. Or, maybe because I currently do not have a pet, having seen my 20-year-old cat Gracie pass away in early December, I enjoy reading about the animals under the care of the veterinarians at Skeldale House.
If you too are already a fan of All Creatures Great and Small, I hope my trip to Herriot Country has inspired you to reread the books or to watch the series. If you weren’t a fan before, I hope that I’ve brought you on board. Through Boone County Public Library, you can search the catalog to find the books and DVDs, as well as eBooks in our Digital Collection.
So, brew a cup of tea, grab a biscuit and sit back and enjoy the antics of James, Siegfried, and Tristan as they traipse across the Yorkshire Dales taking care of all creatures great and small.
In addition to the many options in BCPL’s collection, the PBS series premiere is Sunday, January 10, 2021 on Masterpiece.
Amy Beckham Foster is the Scheben Branch Manager. Prior to working at Boone County Public Library, she was a Law Librarian having most recently worked at the University of Kentucky College of Law Library. When not working, Amy loves to exercise, read and travel…especially to Great Britain.