Real story of the man who wrote Lassie

Eric Knight, writer of Lassie Come Home.
Eric Knight, writer of Lassie Come Home.

Earlier this year the Courier told the story of the man who created perhaps the world’s most famous canine heroine in books and films – Lassie.

Eric Knight (pictured), whose family lived at Skircoat Green, Halifax, and then Wellington Street South, went to America and wrote the story of Lassie based on his pet collie, Toots. He become an American citizen, famous and feted in Hollywood.

But there was much more to Eric Knight than Lassie Come Home, as Greg Christie discovered when he decided to delve into Knight’s life.

He was astonished to find a man who was so much more than a writer of escapist canine fiction. He wrote short stories, social documentaries and comic prose. He made movies, was a journalist, film and theatre critic, broadcaster, artist, musician, farmer and horseman.

More than all this, he was a soldier who fought in six major battles of World War I and in World War II was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services – later the CIA – and was a confidant of the American president.

He was posted to North Africa but in January 1943 he was killed when his plane crashed in a disaster that is now known to have been caused by sabotage.

It is an astonishing story that has been virtually overlooked because of that famous collie dog – what Greg Christie calls the curse of Lassie.

After 16 years of studying Eric Knight’s life Greg considers himself the world authority on the man and has embarked on a crusade to tell the world the real story of his hero, Eric Knight.

Next week Greg Christie comes to Halifax to tell the story yet again. His illustrated talk – called The Curse of Lassie – organised by Halifax Civic Trust, will take place at Halifax Town Hall next Thursday, October 17 (7pm). Admission is free and open to all.