Who doeth all things well: Remembering James Herriot
Famed veterinary author, who would have been 100 today, is still remembered through his work, his words and the veterinary profession that shines bright today.
Illustration by Hannah Wagle
“They didn't say anything about this in the books,” Alf Wight, better known by his pseudonym James Herriot, begins in his renowned work All Creatures Great and Small. He then launches into one of the many accounts of his grueling, upsetting and ultimately rewarding experiences of a veterinarian in the fictional town of Darrowby in Yorkshire, England.
Wight's tales are some of the most significant in veterinary literature, not only for his stories of animals and the delight and pride he instilled into the myriad future practitioners of veterinary medicine, but also for the way he perceived and portrayed the human-animal bond before anyone ever thought to call it that.
Herriot's stories inspired a generation of professionals and turned the veterinary profession into a desirable dream despite the … err, mess. Whether he's viewed as a hero of the sweet joys of rural life and practice or a hindrance to the profession that needs to be laid to rest, it's undeniable that Wight changed the world's outlook on veterinarians and left a long-standing legacy behind.
Wight inspired millions of readers and to some degree changed the way the veterinary profession is viewed. Under the name Herriot he made known the express joy, sadness and sometimes triumph that goes on every day in the veterinary world and among its clients, patients and veterinary staff. As his 100th birthday passes on October 3, Wight is remembered through colleagues, friends, family and veterinarians alike who all have found inspiration through Herriot's tales.