Three of Lassie author Eric Knight’s grandchildren are backing a campaign to have a lasting memorial set up in his Yorkshire birthplace.

The drive to get a blue plaque put up in Menston to celebrate its connection to the writer is being led by Knight’s biographer Greg Christie, of Malton, who has spent years researching his life and works.

Mr Christie has already received the in-principle support of the parish council but now, following an article in this newspaper, three of the late author’s American descendants have spoken of their delight at the idea.

Granddaughter Diane Gehringer said: “I am one of the granddaughters of Eric Knight. I am thrilled to see you honouring my grandfather.

“My cousins, sister and brothers are all excited about this. If there is anything that we can do here in the US please let me know.”

Mr Knight’s grandson, Frank Moore, from McKinney, Texas, also left this comment on our website: “I am Eric Knight’s oldest grandson and would like to help with this project.

“I visited his house in Menston a number of years ago when I toured Yorkshire. I suspect my siblings and cousins might want to help also.”

Granddaughter Betsy Cowan, a special education teacher from California, has spent 15 years carrying out research into the 1943 plane crash that claimed her grandfather’s life.

Mrs Cowan says she will also be fully supporting Mr Christie’s efforts to restore the reputation and fame of a writer he believes should be held in the same high esteem as JB Priestley.

She said: “I am very thrilled to know that the good people of Yorkshire will soon know well one of their very own!

“I was born in a very snowy winter in 1944 while my family was living on Eric Knight’s farm in Pennsylvania. My mother and father and two older siblings had moved there in 1943 shortly after my grandfather was killed in the tragic plane crash in Dutch Guiana, on January 15, 1943.

“So as you can see, I never got to meet him personally. However, through the gift of his books which are semi-autobiographical, I am able to read his words and read his thoughts. He is Llewlyn Tregan, Joe Carraclaugh and some of the other characters in his books.

“I have discovered he was a talented musician and studied art and music in the US. I was a music major at UCLA and am a soloist in local community choruses, and have composed two CDs of original music, one entitled Legacy of Love which is dedicated to my grandfather.

“My family moved to California in 1947 when I was two-and-a-half. I first became interested in my grandfather when my fourth grade teacher read Lassie Come Home to my class, chapter by chapter. We could hardly wait to come in from recess and sit down to hear the next exciting part.

“Then, as life goes on, I did not think much about him. That is, until I learned in 1995 of a woman whose father had been the pilot of the plane that crashed in the swamps of South America – the same plane that Eric had been on.

“Just last month, my ten-year-old great-nephew, Wesley, needed family information for a school country/genealogy report. It was with great pride that I sent him some old photos, dates and anecdotes about his family. And now his teacher is reading Lassie Come-Home to his class.

“I am so thankful that Greg Christie found Eric Knight. I am grateful that, through Greg and your efforts, many more people will be able to enjoy his stories.”

Born in Menston on April 10, 1897 Knight fitted night jobs in with attending school and at 15 had saved enough to travel to the US.

He had a varied career which included serving in the Canadian Army during the First World War and spells as an art student, newspaper reporter and Hollywood screen-writer.

His other books include Song on Your Bugles, about the English working class, and the Second World War-based This Above All, but it was Lassie Come Home, published in 1940, that proved his biggest success.

His tale of a heroic collie was made into a film in 1943, the year of his death, and has gone on to inspire 26 more Lassie movies and TV shows and been translated into more than 100 languages.

Mr Christie, who is discussing his plans for a Knight plaque with the Civic Trust, can be contacted by e-mail on