Playwright and Dramatist
This man was a talented and a successful Playwright also a Novelist who is remembered in Co. Mayo and further afield today. A short story competition, administered by the Kenny / Naughton Society to honour him is held annually in his native Aughamore in Co. Mayo. [i]
This labourer turned world playwright and author Bill Naughton (full name William John Francis) was born on June 10th, 1910 in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo. His father was from Carrowkeel, Ballyhaunis, his mother nee Fleming from Tubber, Aughamore. His family emigrated to Bolton, Lancashire, England during 1914. He attended school at St. Peter and St. Paul’s in Bolton. On completion of his education he was employed in various positions such as a coal–bagger, weaver. During W W 2 Naughton joined a Civil Defense Unit as a driver. [ii]
His first wife was Nan Wilson they had three children: when the marriage broke up – she remarried twice, he married the Austrian born Erna Pirot who was wife, nurse, also guardian of his literary legacy later in life. [iii] Her demise occured in September 2014. [iv]
Bill Naughton wrote many successful Novels and Plays plus Children’s books, among them: his first publication was ; “A Roof Over Your Head” (1945), [v] followed by “One Small Boy” (1957), “All In Good Time”( 1964). His “Spring and Port Wine” was staged at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton Theatre in 1965, the first of many of his plays. He published an Autobiographical Trilogy; “On the Pig’s Back”, an Autobiographical Excursion (1987), “Saintly Billy, A Catholic Boyhood.” (1988) plus “Neither Use nor Ornament; A Memoir of Bolton, 1920’s during 1995. His work “Alfie” was made into a film. [vi] He wrote for the humorous Magazine “Lilliput.” [vii]
B. B. C.
He worked for the television Industry by contributing short stories and plays. Naughton’s play “June Evening” was televised by the B.B.C. during July 1960, nine months previous to the first edition of “Coronation Street.” [viii]
- Screen writes Guide award 1967/1968
- Prixitalia Prize for Radio Play “The Mystery” in 1974
- Portico Literary Award in 1987
- Children’s Rights Workshop Award 1988
- The Hon. Fellowship, Bolton Institute Higher Education in 1988
Isle of Man
Naughton sold the rights to “Alfie” then he and Erna moved to Ballasalla in the Isle of Man. Naughton’s Autobiographical Trilogy, written while he was in his 70’s was an insightful humorous look at life, the last entitled “Neither Use nor Ornament; A Memoir of Bolton” during 1995.”
Bill Naughton died on January 9th 1992 aged 81. He is buried at Rushen, near Port Erin on the Isle of Man. His wife, Erna acted as patron of the Kenny / Naughton Autumn School in Aughamore, Co. Mayo after his death until her demise in September 2014.
During July 2002 Bolton Council successfully purchased the Bill Naughton Archive that was offered for sale by Sotheby’s for 80,000 with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Friends of the National Libraries, the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent also the Bolton Institute. The Council provided funds for the cataloging also the conservation of the material. [x] There is an eighty- five seated adaptable Studio within the Octagon Theatre named after Naughton. His novels and plays feature on British school Curricula. [xi] The Kenny / Naughton Autumn School in Aughamore, Co. Mayo host a Short Story Competition annually in his honour. [xii]
In his column ‘Auld Stock’ on Johnny Mee’s page 26: an article in Connacht Telegraph 8th September 2020 remembers Bill Naughton as ‘A Proud Son of Ballyhaunis.’ He was described by those who had known him as ‘ an unassuming gentleman who never forgot his Irish roots or Ballyhaunis, he was proud of his birthplace.’
[iii] Mayo News, January 6th 2015, article by Paul Rogers
[v] New York Times, January 11th 1992, article by Clenn Collins
[vii] New York Times, January 11th 1992
[xii] New York Times, January 11th 1992.