James Herriot, who shared his experiences as a country veterinarian in the best-selling memoir “All Creatures Great and Small,” died Thursday in the Yorkshire Dales where he had ministered to animals for half a century. He was 78.
Herriot died of prostate cancer at his home near Thirsk, his granddaughter, Emma Page, said.
Herriot - the pen name and alter ego of James Alfred Wight - wrote 15 books. They sold some 50 million copies in 20 countries.
But he continued his veterinary practice long after his books had made him famous.
“If a farmer calls me with a sick animal, he couldn’t care less if I were George Bernard Shaw,” Herriot once said.
Despite the pen name and Thirsk’s disguise as Darrowby, many fans tracked him down at Skeldale House, the ivy-covered home and office familiar to his readers and viewers of the popular television series based on “All Creatures Great and Small.”
Wight started writing when he was 50. “I was dumbfounded by the reaction to that first book, absolutely dumbfounded,” he said.
His first two books in Britain were “If Only They Could Talk” and “It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet.”
In America, they were published in 1972 as one volume under the title “All Creatures Great and Small” - a phrase borrowed from an English hymn for children.