Thursday, 31 May 2012

Thirsk

Until recently, all I'd ever seen of Thirsk was the small train station; it is one possibility to get to Ripon, taking a bus from there, although it is a lot more convenient getting off the train at Harrogate, with bus services being more frequent and reliable there.

The day after my sister and I had been to Newby Hall, we wanted to do somehing else; we had now visited two stately homes in the space of two days and were ready for a different activity.

Maybe Thirsk is known to some of you as the home of Alf Wight, who became famous under the name of James Herriot, writing about his life as a country vet in Yorkshire from the late 1930s on. He was a vet in real life, and the house where he lived and had his surgery has been turned into a very pleasant museum.
You can find out more about the museum on their website.

For a change, we were allowed to take photos as much as we wanted, and I really took advantage of that permission! No guided tours there (unless you make an appointment, I suppose); instead, visitors wander around the house, garden and into the barn at will. Inside the barn, a half-hour documentary about Alf Wight, his books and the BBC TV series made from it can be watched. The whole place is so nicely set up, looking as if the family has just gone into the next room and would be back any minute.
After our visit at the museum, we walked around Thirsk for a bit. There is the church where Alf Wight got married, and inside, there was a small crafts exhibition going on, with stalls where people were selling hand-knitted dolls (I didn't see any socks) and other such things.
We spent some time in a very cosy book shop and browsed some other shops, but didn't buy anything.
It was very cold and rather windy, otherwise we would have liked to see more of the town; there is, I gather, quite a nice stretch of green along the river, but we were very much ready for the bus when it arrived to take us back into Ripon.

PS: My Mum has added some new socks to her Etsy shop; you can click here to see them.

31 comments:

  1. I purchased my first James H book with my own money when I was 15... as I was already passionately wanting to be a vet... and thoroughly enjoyed them all as they were written.
    I am sure his legacy has been cursed by many vets as the enduring belief that the profession should still function that way while methods and technology marched on.
    He did capture the human face of vet practice - the personalities of the clients.
    I often tell my classes snippets from his books - and point out that his cyclical mood swings and ongoing depression were due to Brucellosis, caught from his cow work.
    I am never sure if the rumour that he killed himself was just an urban legend amongst vets - I shall always think of the modest, smiling, warm and endearing person he portrayed to the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the first time I've heard of a rumour that Alf Wight committed suicide. There is no specific information about his death at the museum, apart from the date (he was 78), and I never enquired.
      I suppose the human face of vet practice has not changed, in spite of new methods and technologies!

      Delete
    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Sinclair_(veterinary_surgeon)

      Urban legend based on half truths.... the inspiration for Siegfried, Donald Sinclair, did kill himself, after his wife, and Alf, and Tristan had died. Alf apparently died of prostate cancer.

      Delete
    3. Thank you for getting back to me on the subject, Fi - and even more thank you for writing such an informative and interesting blog about the topic of veterinary profession, and linking to my blog in it!

      Delete
  2. Thirsk is a nice town. I was last there in the snow, staying in a nice old inn ... very cosy. James Herriot's books were so readable. I once interviewed his son. he said his dad was great but fairly tough and when they were cold they had to run up and down the corridors of that house rather than put any heating on! It certainly is an interesting museum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His son happened to be at the shop, where we bought our tickets. He was signing books but we didn't know who he was (and did not intend to buy any books anyway), until the lady behind the counter told us afterwards. One of the signs on the wall said that the small room between dispensary and kitchen would often be the only one that was heated on a cold day, and it was used as breakfast room for the family.

      Delete
  3. Hello Meike:
    It is these small, quite intimate museums, such as the one which you describe here at Thirsk, which so often can have a particular magic and thrill not necessarily to be found in somewhere larger and grander. And it is always such a pleasure to be allowed to wander at will and to absorb everything in one's own time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I usually prefer exploring a place on my own, although a guided tour can be very good as well - especially if you are lucky enough to get your personal tour and are not stuck in a group, just like my sister and I had the pleasure at Newby Hall.

      Delete
  4. It strikes me as rather strange to have a museum dedicated to a TV programme. All Creatures Great and Small was fine in its way but hardly a work of art. I suppose, an old vet's surgery might be of interest, but certainly not without the TV show which made it famous.

    I've actually never visited Thirsk, perhaps not so much of an oversight?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Friko,
      as far as I know, was Mr. Herriott a real existing person. You can look here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Herriot

      And the TV show came after his life.

      Delete
    2. Yes, Friko, Alf Wight was indeed a real person; he had to choose a pen name for his books because it would have been against the rules of the UK's vets association (or some such institution) to "advertise" his work through the books. He chose the name of James Herriot; his books were very popular already before the TV series came about. The museum focuses very little on Mr. Wight as a person but much more on what life used to be like in the Yorkshire dales in those days.
      By the way, there are museums (they like to call them "experiences"...) about several TV series, such as "Where the Heart is" and others.

      Delete
  5. Looks so lovely. Was that man an actor? Lucky job! And was that food real? Did you sneak some? : }

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sonia, the "man" is a mannequin, but he looks quite real in that lighting, doesn't he? The food wasn't real - I didn't need to try it to know that ;-)

      Delete
  6. Meike what a treat to see this. I have been taken with him and his story, books and then the show since it all began and am thrilled to know there is a museum in his honor. Its all such a positive story, his dedication, work ethic, friendships and the times he lived in and wrote about with so much heart. Thanks so much for this fascinating post and pictures~
    xx
    julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome, Julie - I am glad you like it!
      I must admit I never read any of the books, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the series aired in Germany, and it was something the whole family liked to watch together. Little did I know back then that one day I was going to marry a man coming from that area!

      Delete
  7. What a great place to visit!! Of course, I read the books and watched the TV series and I love that there's a museum where you can see how he lived and where he practiced! Thanks for sharing that with us!!

    Hugs, Silke

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure, Silke :-)
      Hugs back!

      Delete
  8. Hello Librarian, thank you for sharing your interesting expedition with us

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by, Marco Pasha!

      Delete
  9. Lovely photos :o) Being from Yorkshire I have been to Thirsk, but not for many many years, and had totally forgotten we'd been to Newby Hall! Thanks for the lovely reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This show was something our family watched together as well, and several of us read the books. My oldest daughter really loves them and I'll have to let her know about your post, here. I do very much appreciate this kind of small museum and one where there is freedom to look about at will and not be distracted by too many other people or guards who think you're about to slash the Mona Lisa. (Though I quite understand that sometimes they are necessary.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristi, I kept thinking of how odd it must be for Alf Wight's son and daughter to come to this house and seeing it preserved pretty much as it was when they were children. I wonder whether a lot of stuff gets nicked; after all, there are plenty of small objects lying around, as you can see, and I guess it is not beyond some people to make sure they get some "memorabilia" for themselves...!

      Delete
    2. This is a small out of the way place, and perhaps the things don't have a lot of the sort of value thieves are looking for......One can hope. I prefer to think that people who would be interested in James Herriot are not the sort of people who steal things, but I'm probably naive!

      Delete
    3. It can't be a big problem for the museum anyway, otherwise they would have stopped letting people wander about a long time ago. I am glad the museum is the way it is!

      Delete
  11. You know I love this post!
    And how exciting to see your Mum has her own Etsy shop!
    I will send you a proper thank you note soon, but please let her know how much I love the knitted socks that she made, they are beautiful!!!
    Tried to send you an email but could not get it to work!
    Thanks for those beautiful socks that you mailed to me tied up in your favorite colored ribbon!
    Love,
    KAY

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad they got there, Kay! And much as I wish for you to have nice weather over there, at least on a chilly day you'll get to wear your new socks :-) My Mum will read your comment and be well chuffed, no doubt about that!

      Delete
  12. Hello Kay,
    I am glad you like the socks Meike sent you! Yes, it is exciting for me, too, to have this brandnew Etsy-shop! Thanks for your compliment, I enjoy it very much! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm not sure I ever heard of Thirsk - and I always forget the real name of James Herriot. (I'll probably forget it again before tomorrow!) But I love the TV-series and I have the first three seasons on DVD! So I found this post very interesting; thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome!
      The first thing I thought when I heard the name "Thirsk" for the first time was, "This sounds very much like a place in Denmark". Well, this is Viking country, after all; there are many place names going back to those days. It is a small town, so I am not surprised you have never heard of it :-)

      Delete
  14. Oh, I so loved this. A wonderful house. I've read his books and watched the tv series. I have a book written by his son but haven't read it yet. I wonder if that is what he was signing. It's a biography of his father.

    ReplyDelete