James Herriot, the vet who became a publishing phenomenon and inspired the popular television series All Creatures Great and Small, died at his Yorkshire home yesterday, aged 78.
His daughter, Rosie Page, a doctor, said: "He's had cancer of the prostate for three years and he's borne it very courageously and privately. He died quietly and peacefully at home with his family around him."
Herriot's real name was Alf Wight, but he wrote under the pseudonym to avoid allegations of advertising for work. His autobiographical novels about Siegfried, James and the pugnacious pekinese Tricki Woo, set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Darrowby, made him the world's most famous vet.
The most well-known were If Only They Could Talk, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Creatures Great and Small, and their tales formed the basis for the television series.
"I knew and loved him very much. I had the highest regard for him as did everybody else," said Christopher Timothy, who played James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small over 13 years. Robert Hardy, who played Siegfried, said: "It was a release for him. He had been in such terrible pain. I thought of him very highly. He was a modest man, a private and honourable man. He was also a fine vet."
The son of a shipyard worker, Herriot began writing by accident, but chose to be a vet at the age of 13 after reading about veterinary surgery as a career in a Meccano magazine. …