The Yorkshire Vet: A pint at the pub featuring in All Creatures Great and Small

I couldn’t remember having visited Askrigg before. Sitting by the fire in The Kings Arms, waiting for some vet friends, I wracked my brains – it seemed odd that I hadn’t.

Then it came to me. Of course, I had been; but, at that time, my brain was addled by exhaustion and hypoglycaemia.

Some years ago, I’d entered an epic bike race called The Yorkshire Beast. The route looked amazing, taking in all the best bits of North Yorkshire’s Dales and Moors.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Three hundred and thirty kilometres and five thousand metres of ascent made this a big day for any cyclist. My passing through Askrigg, just before the penultimate huge climb, pretty much passed me by in a haze of delirium.

Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.
Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.

Today’s Askrigg experience was already shaping up to be very different. Still unable to drive after my knee injury, I’d managed to arrange a lift and had secured a cosy place, right in front of the fire.

As the pub filled, I cautiously ordered my second pint. The other vets were late. But this didn’t matter too much, because there was a lot to do and see in this pub.

Its main claim to fame was its alter ego- The Drover’s Arms in the original BBC series of All Creatures Great and Small.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This was the reason a group of vets were convening here this afternoon. The walls were adorned with framed, nostalgic photos of Christopher Timothy (James Herriot) and Peter Davison (Tristan Farnon), dressed in tweed jackets and woolly jumpers. In one, each clutched a pint of dark brown beer, obviously discussing fictitious veterinary cases.

There was a whole host more. James and Helen, smiling into the lens, another of James and an armful of day-old piglets. And the illustrious Robert Hardy, tending to the foot of a lame thoroughbred. There is no doubt that Robert Hardy’s portrayal of Seigfried Farnon should be described as anything other than iconic.

I had the great fortune to meet him, briefly, once. All he could do then was pour praise on Peter Davidson’s performance. “What an actor!” he effused.

The TV series was deservedly popular. Brilliant actors, bucolic story-lines, animal magic by the bucket load set in God’s own countryside. And the timeless theme-tune didn’t do the programme’s success any harm. I remember the stories well, because I watched each episode intently every Sunday evening.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Whilst munching on a slice of pork pie or a tongue sandwich, the whole family would hang on every word, every storyline, every sick cow. Like all vets of my era, this is what nudged me towards the profession.

One episode I remember vividly. James was struggling to work out the problem with a farmer’s herd of cows. High up the dale, he eked out a subsistence living, but the endemic ill-thrift of his cattle was threatening his livelihood. I can recall in detail the machinations of James as he struggled to find a diagnosis. After several negative test results, it finally struck James what was going on.

The cows were suffering from copper deficiency, which explained the illness and peculiar coat-colour changes. He took a young boy in Castleford with him that Sunday evening on his diagnostic journey. Like an animal detective, Mr ‘erriot had solved the conundrum and could instigate the cure, save the cows and help the farmer.

What a vocation! What a job, if you can call it a job. Surely that couldn’t be called work, could it? At the age of about eight, I knew where my life would be heading.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Today, my friends were still nowhere to be seen. It was time for pint number three. I dare not predict where this afternoon might be heading. Was my second trip to Askrigg heading to a different type of haze and delirium?

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.