Bill Naughton

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Bill Naughton [ 1910 - 1992]

William John Francis Naughton. Born in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, Ireland on 12th June 1910. His father hailed from Carrowkeel, Ballyhaunis and his mother (nee Fleming) came from Tubber, Aghamore. The family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, England in 1914. Educated during World War II. at St Peter and St Paul School, Bolton, Lancashire. Worked as a lorry driver, weaver and coal-bagger before achieving literary success. Recipient: Screenwriters Guide Award 1967,1968; Italia Prize for Radio Play (The Mystery), 1974; Children's Rights Workshop Other Award, 1978. Portico Literary Prize 1987; The Hon. Fellowship, Bolton Institute of Higher Education, 1988.

Died January 1992 on Isle of Man, where his widow Erna continues to live.

Plays: My Flesh, My Blood (broadcast, 1957), London, French, 1959; revised version, as Spring and Port Wine (produced Birmingham, 1964; London, 1965; as Keep it in the Family, produced New York, 1967), London, French, 1967. She'll Make Trouble (broadcast 1958); Published in Worth a Hearing: A Collection of Radio Plays, edited by Alfred Bradley, London, Blackie, 1967. June Evening (broadcast, 1958; produced Birmingham, 1966), London, French, 1973. All in Good Time (as Honeymoon Postponed, televised, 1961; as All in Good Time, produced London, 1963; New York, 1965), London, French, 1964. Alfie (as Alfie Elkins and His Little Life, broadcast, 1962; as Alfie, produced London, 1963), London, French 1964. He Was Gone When We Got There, music by Leonard Salzedo (produced London, 1966). Annie and Fannie (produced Bolton, Lancashire, 1967), Lighthearted Intercourse (produced Liverpool, 1971).

Screen Plays: Alfie, 1966: The Family Way with Roy Boulting and Jeffery Dell, 1966: Alfie, Darling: Spring and Port Wine.

Radio Plays: Timothy, 1956; My Flesh, My Blood, 1957; She'll Make Trouble, 1958; June Evening, 1958: Late Night on Watling Street, 1959; The Long Carry, 1959; Seeing a Beauty Queen Home, 1960; On The Run, 1960; Wigan To Rome, 1960; '30 - '60, 1960; Jackie Crowe, 1962; Alfie Elkins and His Little Life, 1962; November Day, 1963; The Mystery, 1973; A Special Occasion, 1982.

Television Plays: Nathaniel Titark series, 1957; Starr and Company series, 1958; Yorky series, with Allan Prior, 1960-61; Looking for Frankie, 1961; Honeymoon Postponed, 1961; Somewhere for the Night, 1962; It's Your Move, 1967.

Novels: Rafe Granite, London, Pilot Press, 1947. One Small Boy, London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1957. Alfie, London, MacGibbon and Kee, and New York, Ballantine, 1966. Alfie Darling, London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1970; New York, Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Short Stories: Later Night on Watling and Other Stories, London, MacGibbon and Kee, 1959; New York, Ballantine, 1966. The Goalkeeper's Revenge and Other Stories, London, Harrap, 1961. The Goalkeeper's Revenge and Spit Nolan, London, Macmillan, 1974. The Bees Have Stopped Working and Other Stories, Exeter, Wheaton, 1976.

Other: A Roof Over Your Head (autobiography), London, Pilot Press, 1945. Pony Boy (for children), London, Pilot Press, 1946). A Dog Called Nelson (for children), London, Dent, 1976; Puffin Books, 1976; translated into Japanese, 1976. My Pal Spadger (for children), London, Dent, 1977. Spring and Port Wine (play), New York, 1964, London, 1967-70. Alfie (film), The Writers Guild of Great Britain Award for the Best British Screenplay, 1966; nominated for an Academy Award of Merit, Los Angeles, 1966. The Family Way, The Writers Guild of Great Britain Award for the Best British Comedy Screenplay, 1967. Alfie (novel), translated into six languages including Russian, 1976. On The Pigs Back, An Autobiographical Excursion, Oxford University Press, 1987. Saintly Billy, An Autobiographical Excursion (Second Volume), Oxford University Press, 1988. Derby Day 1921 (a play for radio in two parts), 1991. The Goalkeeper's Revenge, Heinemann Educational Books, 1993, (twenty-first printing). Alfie (novel), published by Allison & Busby, Twentieth Century Classics Publication, 1993. Neither Use Nor Ornament, An Autobiographical Excursion (Third Volume), Bloodaxe Books, 1994. Late Night on Watling Street, Longman Imprint Books, 1994, (seventeenth printing). Derby Day 1921, adapted for the stage and directed by Laurence Till, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, 1994. Children's Hospital Stories, Greene Print, Ballyhaunis, 1994. Alfie (Musical), new adaptation for the stage, book and lyrics by Eden Phillips, music by John Camden, Oldham Coliseum, 1997. The Day My Dad Ran Away (Story), The City Life Book of Manchester Stories, Penguin Books, 1999. Alfie (Abridged version on tape), Clive Stanhope Productions, 1999. Following changes in the National Curriculum, Bill Naughton included with eight other authors on the first ever suggested reading list to be used in all English secondary schools, 1999. Book: Voices from a Journal, Dublin, Lilliput Press, 2000. Award: The Spoken Word Award 2001, for the television and film adaptation of Alfie.

He is buried in Rushen graveyard near Port Erin, Isle of Man. The Naughton genealogy has been studied at some length.

Additional Information

The Bill Naughton Archive was purchased in July 2000 by Bolton Metro Borough Council with the help of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Friends of the National Libraries, the Duchy of Lancater Benevolent Fund and Bolton Insititute. Mrs. Erna Naughton offered the archive for sale via Sotheby's, giving Bolton Metro first refusal on the collection due to the great local significance of the papers.

Taken together the materials of the archive represents the huge variety of the author's work and give a detailed picture of the changes and developments in his interests and writing methods. A popular and professional writer, his work reflects significant changes in consciousness and society in the 1950s and 1960s and documents with great insight, humour and understanding the interior history of an Irish working class family in Lancashire in the period between the first and second world wars. The archive is of immense local and regional interest as a record of the complex history of northern working class life and culture.

Lottery funding not only secured the purchase of the material, it also provided money for storage, conservation, publicity and an archivist to catalogue the collection. The catalogue is available electronically over the Internet - Naughton Archive.

A Note on Bill Naughton by his friend John Boyd.

"I met Bill Naughton for the first time over forty years ago. It was in London and Frank O'Connor, one of Irenland's greatest writers was responsible for out meeting. It happened like this. I was then a producer in the BBC and a close friend of O'Connor's. One day he invited me to a meal in Soho, telling me that his other guest was Bill Naughton. He was sure I'd like him for Bill was Irish, a good talker and struggling to make his way as a writer. Bill certainly looked Irish and our chat was about Ireland, but to my disappointment he spoke with a curious English accent which seemed out of character with the man opposite me. I didn't know that Bill's parents had left Ballyhaunis when he was only four years old for Bolton in Lancashire and that his upbringing and education there was partly responsible for his accent. Still, his English accent was flavoured with phrases and words from County Mayo. Bill's retentive memory and ear cherished the speech of his mother from Tubber, Aghamore and his father from Carrowkeel, Ballyhaunis.

Bill had a genius for friendship and a great sense of loyality to his friends. And they were many, particularly Bolton people, Londoners, and of course the Irish. Like Frank O'Connor he was a born writer; but to possess an inborn talent is of course only a beginning. Talent has to be nurtured. Both Frank and Bill had an enormous capacity for work; a dedication to their art. Both had little formal education, but that apparent deprivation they turned to an advantage, for both continued their auto-didactic course until the end of their lives.

When I met Bill he was living in a two-roomed flat in St. George's Square. Though sparsely furnished it was elegant, a writer's flat made beautiful by Erna, Bill's Aurtrian wife. Both were hardworking. Bill at his daily writing, Erna at her hospital nursing. Yet they somehow always made time to entertain their friends - Irish and English writers, artists, BBC producer anda wide variety of people.

What kind of writer was Bill Naughton? The first thing to say about him was that he was a professional. He made his living from his writing, and he mastered many forms of literature - plays for the stage, for radio, television and films, novels and short stories, autobiographies, documentaries, stories for children. If I were to compare him with another Irish writer the name that springs to mind is Oliver Goldsmith, for he has Goldsmith's versatility, his humour, his simplicity of style, his love of humanity. But it would be false I think to consider Bill Naughton as a writer belonging to one country; his work is universal and his work has been translated into many languages including Russian and Japanese. But he was proud of his roots in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland and that town, that country, that country should be proud of him."

[John Boyd died in June 2002. ]


Extract from Bill Naughton's Private Papers.

Early Writing Life

Coming to writing as I did rather later in life than most writers, and being without education, or training so to speak, or indeed any of the usual literary familiarity which even working-class writers may get a touch of in London, and at the same time deeply longing in my own seemingly tinpot way to avoid becoming a hack writer, no matter how successful, but rather hoping perhaps to write one book or even one story that would be of itself alone I must now say that I had a difficult road ahead of me. But at the time, by the blessing of God, I could not see the road ahead, but only where I stood (it hasn't changed of course as I write) and that didn't seem too bad. But there was not question of making big decisions, being full of determination or much of that sort of thing (although to tell the truth I did occasionally indulge myself in day dreams) for I was still by nature lazy, and not given to summoning up that obsessive effort, which most writers find necessary to get
a thing done, so what I had to do, and which I believe I learnt to do naturally, was to learn to love writing. Or perhaps what I mean is that I made the daily practice of it become second nature to me, as it were, so that any day in which I didn't write or at least turn to my writing was a sort of cipher day, marked by a sense of emptiness. I also surrounded myself with numerous minor disciplines - such as setting my writing things and a bicycle lamp beside my bed, and told myself I was to
sit up and write in the way I could get up in the night - and at the same time I tried to free myself from my many bad habits, such as being too soft with myself, putting things off, and being content with a page or so of writing and nesting back as it were. But i could not have done it with effort alone - I feel it needed love, a muddling along discipline, and the Holy Ghost.

(Anyway, although the following has just come to me as sort of afterthought, and has perhaps little place now, I would most earnestly plead with any young writer starting out, or any already along the way, do not give them your all. By that I mean do not pour every drop of yourself into some medium for immediate use, such as journalism or the like - people do this with a plan to become independent and then write their big book: this connot work - or even novels for your public. Always put aside some special offering of writing for God, a writing that will never be read by others whilst you are alive, and which may in its way contain your simplest yet purest and fullest thoughts - orbetter still your words and deeds. This will not only be a practical help in the long run, but is a sort of moral reservoir from which one can draw strength to go on.)

Family Background

The character of our family's home life - a way of life which, despite our now being in an industrial town retained the essence and many signs of its peasant origin - was much different in tone from that of our Lancashire neighbours, and in spirit would so contrast with that of an English lower middleclass family as to baffle them. Domestically as such had a quite different meaning - perhaps an older one - and was not much concerned with activities around the place but with the life of the family, the exchange of feeling and talk, the intercourse of natures, the giving or receiving of love - or possibly some negative emotion - the expression of religious beliefs, and the general getting through the day from morning until night. Domestic activities, such as cooking, cleaning and mending, served as a natural and comforting background to family life, but never assumed special importance or took over. Even on a busy Sunday, with a big midday dinner to be prepared and
cooked, the home to be cleaned, the beds made, my mother would still retain some sort of an easygoing manner, talking and above all listening to this one and that, and apologiseing when she had to lift the iron pot of boiling potatoes from the fire and hurry to team the water into the kitchen sink. And when the meal itself was being served, and the roast of meat sliced, although it was all done with style, appreciation and of course the grace in the form of a blessing, the talk would continue but apart from an odd remark, would not be about the food. Obviously such a way domestic living has disadvantages, with mealtimes tending to fit in with mood and circumstances - it may explain the reason for the Irish being considered shiftless - but in my own case I will say that I believe it has much to be said for it. A large part of the enjoyment of a meal to me is in the inobtrusive way it can be prepared and the absense of fuss over its serving.