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All Creatures Great and Small: what happened to the real James Herriot? 

James Herriot sadly passed away in 1995 

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Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
September 14, 2021
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James Herriot, also known as Alf Wright, was the amazing writer behind the hugely popular series of books based on his experiences working as a vet in Yorkshire. 

MORE: Patricia Hodge reveals what it was like to replace Diana Rigg on All Creatures Great and Small

Now the inspiration for Channel 5's hit show, All Creatures Great and Small, viewers have praised the charming new series while fondly reminiscing on the books and the BBC version of the show. So what happened to the famous author? Find out here...

WATCH: All Creatures Great and Small's James takes emergency measures with Tricky Woo

James originally graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College before heading to his first placement as a vet in Thirsk, Yorkshire. He quickly fell in love with the Dales and met his wife, Joan Danbury. His series of books - including If Only They Could Talk and Vet in a Spin - never went out of print and have sold 60 million copies worldwide

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The vet and author retired in 1989 and was sadly diagnosed with prostate cancer just two years later. He died in February 1995 aged 78. His wife Joan died four years later. 

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Nicholas Ralph portrays James in the hit show

Speaking about the TV show based on his life, James' son Jim Wight gave it his seal of approval, saying: "I hope and believe this could be a breath of fresh air to the population at the moment. Would my father have approved of it? Oh, I think so." 

His daughter Rosie added: "We feel that there is a very big generation gap between those brought up with Herriot and those who have never heard of him and we think there is a whole new generation who has never read those wonderful books. They are animal books, but they are predominantly about people and their animals. Not just the animals. 

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"Dad was a great observer of people and in his books he is never really the star part, he is observing the farmers and the wonderful characters that he had the great good fortune to be able to write about - like Tristan and Siegfried who you couldn’t make up."

The series, which returns to screens for season two on Thursday 16 September, stars actor Nicholas Ralph as James. Joining him in the cast are Anna Madeley, Samuel West, Rachel Shenton and Patricia Hodge, who has taken over the role previously played by the late Dame Diana Rigg.

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