Stories from the people of Herriot country captured in a new podcast

A podcast created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Herriot’s first book has been released early to give people a boost during lockdown.

The series of podcasts captures the spirit of the North Yorkshire James Herriot knew

Voice from Herriot Country has been compiled by writer Helen Leavey and filmmaker Simon Collins who are both based in York.

It features characters from the Dales, many of whom knew Alf Wight, the real life vet behind the All Creatures Great and Small books.

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Having been the ghost writer for Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright’s two books, Ms Leavey said she had loved the books as a child and working with Peter Wright – who knew both Alf Wight and his partner Donald Sinclair (Siegfried Farnon) – had reignited her interest.

“It was lovely to hear these stories from people who knew them,” she said.

“I had been wanting to create a podcast for a while. Peter’s second book was completed and I was deciding what to focus on next.

“Having heard so many Herriot related stories and met so many endearing Herriot country folk, I knew there were tales and people that the public weren’t hearing about.”

Ms Leavey said Mr Collins, who she met when they both worked as Yorkshire Wildlife Trust media volunteers, was also wanting to work on a big project. “When we realised that in April 2020 it would be 50 years since the first Herriot book was published, the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place, and we got cracking.”

The podcast features interviews with 85-year-old farmer, Chris Greensit, whose family vets were Alf Wight and Donald Sinclair. Still farming with his ‘lad’, Brian, who is in his 60s helping him out, Mr Greensit also reveals the story behind a hoard of old coins unearthed at his farm.

In the second episode we meet Rose Dawson, a pensioner with a passion for helping injured and sick owls, with more than 50 now resident in her garden and retired butcher Ray Ballard whose customers included the wealthy Marjorie Warner, better known to Herriot fans as the owner of Tricki Woo, Mrs Pumphrey.

“It has been such a lovely project to work on, chatting to fascinating people in magical places with, naturally, lots of cups of tea and a fair few scones,” Ms Leavey said.

“It was wonderful to find the spirit of Herriot lives on. It’s clear there are still plenty of characters around and we’re looking forward to meeting many more.”

Mr Collins and Ms Leavey had planned to release the podcast later in the year but with lockdown decided to release the first three episodes early.

The aim was to “put some smiles on faces” with the hope that anyone enjoying the podcast will donate to the NHS mask appeal.

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