Based on the books of the Yorkshire veterinary surgeon Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot, the BBC TV drama series All Creatures and Small was a popular draw on TV screens between 1977 and 1990.
Amassing over 90 episodes, the series, initially telling the story of Yorkshire veterinary surgeonin 1930s North Yorkshire prior to the outbreak of World War Two, made household names of not only James Herriot but also the series cast Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Peter Davison and Carol Drinkwater. However, despite the series success, several repeat runs on satellite TV channels and strong DVD sales, little has ever been told about the making of the series, until now.
31-year-old Oliver Crocker from London has seen all the episodes of the show and is the author of All Memories Great and Small, a celebratory guidebook to the series. The book published by MIwk was released as part of the 100th birthday celebrations for James Herriot last December and was inspired by several trips to the Yorkshire Dales during 2015 where All Creatures Great and Small was filmed.
“My wife and I went to The World of James Herriot museum in Thirsk where they’d unveiled a bronze statue of Alf Wright,” Oliver tells Andy Howells, “I was chatting to the marketing guy and he was saying there’s a big centenary coming up. I was really charged with enthusiasm, so I went into the bookshop to buy a behind the scenes book, then looked online to see that there had never been one.”
Oliver then set about researching the series and contacting cast and crew for their personal anecdotes about the series.
“Once it started it just snowballed,” continues Oliver, “People were saying “Well if you want to chat to so and so, I’ve got his number”, The first person I interviewed was the actress Madeline Smith of Live and Let Die and Hammer Horror fame who did a couple of guest parts. A friend made a recommendation and Madeline very kindly said yes and once I had her as the first interviewee it suddenly had a bit of clout. I then worked my way up to the regulars and they were all incredibly supportive.”
Christopher Timothy (James Herriot), Robert Hardy (Siegfried Farnon), Carol Drinkwater (Helen Herriot) and Peter Davison (Tristan Farnon) all got involved with the project along with guest stars and technical crew allowing Oliver access to many previously unheard anecdotes which appear in the guide book alongside facts, figures and episode details.
Oliver has deliberately made the book a guide book for fans rather than a critique of the series.
“I haven’t reviewed the episodes like in some guide books where authors give scores out of ten. I think “who cares what I think? it’s up to the reader.” I thought the series deserved celebrating and it’s nice to celebrate the cast and crew involved with it. There’s a nice review for it, it says “it tells the story through the eyes of the people that made it” and that’s what I wanted.”
The guide book gets the definitive seal of approval from Rosie Paige, Alf Wight’s daughter who describes the book as “A must for all Herriot fans”.
“I wanted her to be happy with it because it’s her father’s legacy,” says Oliver.
- All Memories Great And Small by Oliver Crocker is published by Miwk, priced £17.99 and available from all good bookshops.