All Creatures Great And Small: Did the cast meet the real James Herriot’s family?

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All Creatures Great And Small is about to air on Channel 5 and the light-hearted series follows the story of James Herriot. James Herriot was the character name given to the real-life vet – Alf Wight- who worked in Yorkshire from the 1940s onwards. The cast of the series spoke exclusively to and other media about how they met the real Alf Wight AKA James Herriot’s family.

Did the cast meet the real James Herriot’s family?

The series stars up-and-coming actor Nicholas Ralph as the keen vet James Herriot, who moves from Glasgow to the Yorkshire Dales for work.

The 2020 adaptation also features Callum Woodhouse as Tristan Farnon, the younger brother of James’s boss Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West).

In real life, Siegried Farnon’s name was Donald Sinclair, and his younger brother was called Brian Sinclair.

Herriot’s love interest, Helen Alderson, is played by Rachel Shenton and her character is based on the real-life Joan Catherine Anderson.

Herriot wrote a series of books documenting his life as a vet in the Yorkshire Dales, and the cast were lucky enough to meet his family.

He has a son, called James “Jim” Wight, and a daughter called Rosie, and actor Ralph said it was a pleasure to speak to them both.

He said: “We met Rosie and Jim, Alf Wight’s son and daughter, before the read-through, so really early on in the whole process.

“They were just lovely, they were really excited, really passionate about the new series and they were engaging.

“They spoke a lot about Donald and Brian, the real Siegfried and Tristan. They said to me that I had the hardest job because Alf is a kind of observer to these bigger, larger than life personalities.”

He said he was in awe of Alf’s passion for the job, as well as his compassion towards the animals.

Ralph said: “You’re not just treating the animals, you are treating the owners, especially if you have one cow and that’s the livestock of this family.

“It all comes down to this one cow so… you get the whole hands-on-deck community feel.”

Alf’s son Jim wrote a book about his father’s life, called The Real James Herriot – The Authorized Biography.

Actor Woodhouse said: “Jim wrote a book about his dad and he bought each of us a copy and had bookmarked at every point in the book where our character pops up.

“He wrote a little blurb in the front detailing his experience with that character, it was individual to each one of us cast members and it was such an amazing gesture as well.”

Actress Shenton was also able to meet Jim and Rosie, and she learned a lot about their mother and how she was such a strong woman.

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Shenton said: “It was a real privilege to chat to Jim and Rosie actually because you felt like you got to peek behind the curtain.

“With the books, it’s from James’s perspective so it was really nice to hear from her children what they thought.

“I got some really nice nuggets which I used in creating her character, and one being her wicked sense of humour and keen eye for mischief.

“They said that if there was ever a cheeky joke their mum would be the one to tell it.

“She was also the first woman in the village to wear trousers, that said a lot about her as well.”

Alf Wight, or James Herriot, was born in October 1916 and he was from Sunderland.

He moved to Scotland and studied at Glasgow Veterinary College before taking on his job with Sinclair in Yorkshire in the 1940s.

He died in February 1995, aged 78, and he had become a renowned vet and author.

His published works include If Only They Could Talk from 1970, The Lord God Made Them All in 1981 and Every Living Thing in 1992.

He also wrote a number of children’s books in his lifetime and remains a much-loved character.

All Creatures Great and Small starts tonight, September 1, at 9pm on Channel 5

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