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Video: From Illinois to Thirsk in search of Herriot

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When American teenager Rose Wright was given a chance to have her wish come true she opted to travel thousands of miles from her Illinois home and 
visit a museum dedicated to one of Yorkshire’s most familiar names.

The young animal lover hopes one day to become a vet and fell in love at an early age with the stories of Yorkshire author James Herriot.

So it was an easy choice for Rose, 15, diagnosed with a brain tumour two years ago, who has travelled with her family to Thirsk, where Alf Wight practised for more than 40 years and where his experiences in the 1940s shaped the best-selling books he penned using his literary alter ego.

Yesterday she was shown around The World of James Herriot, housed in the former home of the late Mr Wight, in Kirkgate, Thirsk, by his daughter Rosie Page, a retired GP.

Rose said: “I love the books, I have read the books since I was very small.”

During her visit to the region she will also get a chance to go horse riding in some of Yorkshire’s spectacular landscape – just like Siegfried Farnon, one of the most famous characters in the books was often seen doing in the TV adaptation.

The teenager, who has undergone a difficult but successful period of treatment, said it would be “just wonderful” to one day return to Yorkshire and work as a vet specialising in large animals.

She added she was enjoying her visit, saying: “I just love everything here, it’s just so charming.”

Dr Page, who still lives locally, said Rose’s visit had moved 
her and she offered to come down and show her around the practice where her father had worked.

“It astounds me all the time quite how fanatical people still are about my dad’s books all over the world, especially in America.

“What is nice for me is the age that Rose is and that she is such a fan because the TV series that made the books so famous has long been off prime time television.

“For me its lovely to think that younger generations are appreciating dad’s books.”

Rose and her mother Trisha, dad Aaron and 13-year-old sister Emma, have travelled over 3,000 miles to make the visit. During their week long trip, the family will also visit London.

It was all made possible thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, a charity which grants wishes to children living with a life-threatening condition.

Mrs Wright said her daughter enjoyed reading the books and watching the television series, and her dream was to visit Yorkshire: “This is the one place in the world that she really wanted to see.”

Mr Wight became one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century. His books, a series of stories based on his experiences as a young veterinary surgeon working among the farming community of North Yorkshire, sold in their millions throughout the world.

His success spawned two feature films in the mid 1970s, followed by a BBC television series, All Creatures Great and Small, which enjoyed global success in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The glimpse of the vet’s old car crossing a bridge over Arkle Beck before negotiating a moorland watersplash as the signature tune played was a familiar one as families up and down the land settled down to watch the antics of the vet and the independent, spirited farmers of the time on their TV screens.

The TV series and the novel also helped to put Yorkshire’s beautiful landscape on the map and today still continues to draw in the tourists.

Mrs Wright and her family have never been to Yorkshire before but she said of the county: “It looks even better than it looks on TV.”

She said her daughter, who has had to endure so much during her treatment, is now doing well.

“Rose had a brain tumour two years ago and she is cancer free now.

“She has some lifelong effects having had radiation treatment but she’s still the top of the class at her school.”

Last year a new tourism company took on the day-to-day running of the World of James Herriot attraction. The museum was previously managed by Hambleton District Council, which agreed a 20-year lease with World of James Herriot Ltd for a peppercorn rent, an arrangement which will mean annual savings to the council of £60,000.

Ian Ashton, the centre’s managing director, said the museum continues to draw people from around the world.

“The books bring the beauty of Yorkshire to life,” he added.

joanne.ginley@ypn.co.uk

 

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