Bill Naughton

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Bill Naughton
Bill and Erna Naughton, photographed by Colin O'Brien, 1962
Bill and Erna Naughton, photographed by Colin O'Brien, 1962
Born(1910-06-12)12 June 1910
Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland
Died9 January 1992(1992-01-09) (aged 81)
Ballasalla, Isle of Man
OccupationPlaywright, screenwriter, novelist

William John Francis Naughton (12 June 1910 – 9 January 1992) was an Irish-born British playwright and author, best known for his play Alfie.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born into relative poverty in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland, he moved to Bolton, Lancashire, England, in 1914 as a child.[2] There he attended Saint Peter and Paul's School, and worked as a weaver, coal-bagger and lorry-driver before he started writing.[1]

Writing career[edit]

His stage play, Alfie, adapted for the 1966 film starring Michael Caine in the eponymous role, originated in a radio play, Alfie Elkins and His Little Life, first broadcast on the BBC Third Programme in 1962, which became a production at the Mermaid Theatre in 1963. It transferred to the West End before a very brief run on Broadway. Naughton was a prolific writer of plays, novels, short stories and children's books. His preferred environment was working-class society, which is reflected in much of his written work.

In addition to Alfie, two of his other plays have been made into feature films, All in Good Time (1963), filmed as The Family Way (1966), starring John Mills, and Spring and Port Wine (1970), starring James Mason in the role of Rafe Crompton, an adaptation of a play first performed in 1959. His novel Alfie Darling, the sequel to his earlier novel and play, was also filmed, with Alan Price succeeding Michael Caine in the lead role. Both Alfie and Alfie Darling were drawn upon for the 2004 film with Jude Law in the eponymous role.

His work also includes the novel One Small Boy (1957), and the collection of short stories The Goalkeeper's Revenge And Other Stories (1961). His 1977 children's novel My Pal Spadger is an account of his childhood in 1920s Bolton.

Many of his plays were performed at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton. An 85-seat adaptable studio theatre within the Octagon is named after him.


During his lifetime, he received the following awards:

  • Screenwriters Guide Award (1967 and 1968)
  • Italia Prize for Radio Play (1974)
  • Children's Rights Workshop Other Award (1978)
  • Portico Literary Prize (1987)
  • The Hon. Fellowship, Bolton Institute of Higher Education (1988).


Naughton died in 1992, aged 81, in Ballasalla on the Isle of Man. A "Bill Naughton Short Story Competition", administered by The Kenny/Naughton Autumn School, was named in his honour.[3][4]




  • A Roof Over Your Head (1945)
  • ‘’Pony Boy’’ (1946)
  • One Small Boy (1957)
  • Alfie (1966)
  • Alfie Darling (1970)
  • My Pal Spadger (1977)


  • The Goalkeeper's Revenge (1961)
  • Late Night on Watling Street (1970) [new edition 2013]
  • The Bees Have Stopped Working: And Other Stories (1976)
  • Spit Nolan (1988)
  • Ricky, Karim and Spit Nolan: Adventure Short Stories (2003) (with Jenny Alexander, Pratima Mitchell)

Short stories[edit]

  • "Seventeen Oranges"[5]
  • "A Real Good Smile"


  • On the Pig’s Back: An Autobiographical Excursion. Oxford: Oxford U.P.(1987)
  • Saintly Billy: A Catholic Boyhood. Oxford: Oxford U.P.(1988)
  • Neither Use Nor Ornament: A Memoir of Bolton: 1920s. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe.(1995)


  1. ^ a b Glenn Collins (11 January 1992). "Bill Naughton, 81, a British Playwright Who Created 'Alfie'". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Bolton Museums - Bill Naughton". 27 January 2010. Archived from the original on 27 January 2010.
  3. ^ The Bill Naughton Short Story Competition, 2008, retrieved 2 June 2010
  4. ^ GLENN COLLINS (11 January 1992). "Bill Naughton, 81, a British Playwright Who Created 'Alfie'". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  5. ^ A Goalkeeper's revenge and other stories, archived from the original on 13 March 2012, retrieved 27 January 2012

External links[edit]