Thursday, 8 January 2009

All Creatures Great and Small.


In 1978 the TV series hit our screens in the UK and was an instant success. The first three series ended and later, in 1988 I think, another four series were made.

Alf Wight, the vet who wrote the original book, became James Herriott; Askrigg in The Yorkshire Dales became the fictional Darrowby and Skeldale House, originally in Thirsk, was re-created in Askrigg.

Askrigg is just down the road from us - maybe five or six miles away. It was certainly put on the map by the series and has been visited by fans from all over the world. Situated in the very heart of Wensleydale it was really an unknown gem before television brought it to our screens. Then the whole of the dale became known as "Herriott country".

What is perhaps less well known is how the series came to be made in the first place.

Some years ago I went to a lecture given by the original producer of the series and he told us this story:-

He had to make a journey from London to Manchester by train. He was running late and as he reached the station he realised that he had forgotten his book for reading on the train, so he dashed to the platform bookshop, grabbed a copy of "All Creatures Great and Small" and caught his train.

By the time that train reached Manchester he had mapped out in his note book a series of programmes, so taken was he with the stories he had read.

I suppose most events hang by so tenuous a thread. What if he had remembered to bring his book - would we never have enjoyed the programmes, would they in fact never have been made?

But then, so many things hang on that same tenuous thread don't they? If I hadn't moved to this area then I wouldn't now be a farmer's wife writing this blog. If you had been called to the phone before you clicked on my link you wouldn't be reading this now. Of such small incidents is life made up!

The photograph, taken last week-end is of the house that was used as Skeldale House in Askrigg.

25 comments:

jinksy said...

Synchronicity, my friend, that's what it is - a combination of being in the right place a the right time and making the right choice while you're there. A special life skill that can be such a blessing (thinking along the lines that mostly things turn out well if you're the kind of person that wishes well to others)- Enjoyed this synchronous moment!

Sal said...

It has to be my fave series..absolutely brilliant..so well cast too! Especially Robert Hardy ;-)

Arija said...

Ah, I've just caught up on your blog posts again and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Love the James Herriot story. Loved the boks and later the seris.
When we read the books we never imagined we would actually one day be up to our armpit in cow fishing for the right secession of parts to come out, and extricating stuck lambs! Thanks for posting about it.
Sorry I was too late for toasted crumpets, maybe next time.

mand said...

Did you know he chose the pen name more or less at random: football was on the tv while he was writing, the goalie's name was James Herriott, and he thought it sounded good.

Teresa said...

Wonderful post, Weaver. It's remarkable how things that seem so small and inconsequential at the time (such as forgetting a book) can cause a major shift in our lives. Loved the photos and the bit of trivia... All Creatures Great and Small is still running over here in the US - on a public TV station that is much classier and more selective in their programming than the commercial stations.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

How wonderful - I hadn't known that! (I'll never worry about forgetting things again ...)

I read the books many years ago and loved them.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for visiting jinksy - I agree and I agree about being a positive person too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, Sal and he was good as Winston Churchill, too.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It is funny Arija, how the Herriot thing took off and made our Dales so famous - I think the fame is dying away now - and many people will be pleased as it did get a bit hectic in Summer round here.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It is funny Arija, how the Herriot thing took off and made our Dales so famous - I think the fame is dying away now - and many people will be pleased as it did get a bit hectic in Summer round here.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I had no idea about that Mand - thanks for the information.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It is often the small things that change our lives, isn't it Teresa.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Fortune favours the prepared mind, as Koestler said, Raph.

Reader Wil said...

Oh Weaver, thank you so much for telling this story, for I am a great fan of James Herriott. I read all his books and watched the series and so did my husband. We enjoyed the series greatly.

Poet in Residence said...

If that man sticks his arm up the backside of one more cow.....but seriously I was hooked. I think I must have watched them all. The scenery was what got me I think. That car wending its way around the countryside from farm to farm. The odd bit of chaos and panic thrown in for good measure. Strangely, I never got to grips with the books. Odd that.

elizabethm said...

I am another like poet who loved the television series but never really read the books (and mostly I am a reader rather than a watcher). Love the synchronicity.

The Weaver of Grass said...

If you saw the series reader wil, then you know what the scenery is like where we live.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Poet in residence - I would agree about the books - they are not my cup of tea at all, but I suppose they had lots of incidents which made "good" television in those days.

The Weaver of Grass said...

synchronisity has made me think, too elizabeth.

Robin Mac said...

Loved the photo - we stayed there in 1990, and couldn't believe that when we looked out the window of the B & B, they were filming an episode of All Creatures Great and Small! Of course we had to wait several months after we returned to Australia to see that episode!

Rowan said...

I discovered 'James Herriot' on a train journey too. I picked up the first book at a railway bookstall and laughed ouit loud so many times that I ended up having to explain to the rest of the carriage why I was laughing! Askrigg has another literary claim to fame too - have you read any of the books about the Dales by Marie Hartley? My favourite is Yorkshire Cottage but all are a wonderful record of Dales life in bygone days.

Woman in a Window said...

To be sure...a series of coincidences. Now that would make an interesting book. Maybe it will be born of me from here.

Mistlethrush said...

Synchronicity... If I hadn't happened upon a former Guider I wouldn't be doing the job I do now. Makes you wonder how many things in life are meant to happen and how many are just 'just life'.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Our local Public Broadcasting Station re-ran this delightful series in the years right after my husband and I were married. It became our tradition to order a pizza to be delivered and eat it in front of the television as we enjoyed "All Creatures". We still watch the Christmas episode with the sick little donkey every season!!

BT said...

Thought provoking post Weaver. I loved the series too and used to have some on tape to listen to in the car. I didn't know the story of the 'forgotten book'. How amazing that the series may never have come into being if he'd remembered.