Sunderland to finally honour James Herriot with a blue plaque at house where he was born

A long overdue blue plaque to commemorate the birthplace of one of Sunderland’s most famous sons is to finally be unveiled at a house in Roker.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 7:00 am

The vet Alf Wight wrote his world famous books under the pen name James Herriot, selling over 60 million copies. It is hoped that his children, Jim Wight and Dr Rosie Page, will come to Sunderland to perform the unveiling when the plaque is ready some time this summer.

The plaque is being paid for entirely by the Sunderland Antiquarian Society.

James Herriot’s books have been adapted for screen a number of times, including two television versions of All Creatures Great and Small, which also became a 1975 film starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins.

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World famous author James Herriot was born in the house now owned by Julie Graham on October 3, 1916. JPI images.

Alf Wight was born in Brandling Street in 1916. He was soon taken to Glasgow where his father had found work. Alf studied to become a vet there and, after joining the RAF during the Second World War, spent most of his adult life in Thirsk where he lived and worked.

However, his heart was in Sunderland and both his parents were from the then-town. Alf was a fanatical supporter of Sunderland AFC. He once invested a six-figure sum into the club, but still refused free season tickets for himself and his family.

He was made SAFC Life President in 1992 and died in 1995.

There was some uncertainty over exactly which house he was born in. Documents show it was number 111 Brandling Street, but the door numbers were rearranged in 1967.

Julie Graham is delighted that the house she owns has played such a role in literary history. Picture by Stu Norton.

The matter has now been resolved. Current owner Julie Graham has the deeds to prove that James Herriot was born in her house.

Philip Curtis, secretary of Sunderland Antiquarians, is delighted that a plaque is finally being produced.

He said: “We know there’s a plaque in Glasgow where he lived as a youngster and another one in Thirsk where he lived later. So it’s remiss of us not to have one on the house where he was born.

“He’s one of us.

“I don’t think it’s very well known that James Herriot was born in Sunderland. It took a bit of detective work to establish exactly which house it was in Brandling Street. But it’s sorted now and we’re looking forward to the plaque being unveiled."

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The story of James Herriot - the lad from Roker who sold over 60 million books

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