Mayo-born author of Alfie & The Goalkeeper’s Revenge believed one of his plays inspired Coronation Street, writes Sean Egan
Rare is the individual who has not, knowingly or unknowingly, enjoyed the work of County Mayo-born writer Bill Naughton (1910-1992).
Naughton’s family moved to Lancashire, England when he was aged four. After leaving school at fourteen, he was employed variously as a weaver, coal bagger and driver. He wrote in what little free time he had as a single parent.
His first book was memoir-novel hybrid A Roof Over Your Head (1945), which is harrowing for the insight it provides into social conditions in the first half of the twentieth century.
Its vignettes of poverty include the author having to stay indoors when penniless because his only set of clothes is in the pawnshop and a home through whose cracked wall he and his children watch football games on a nearby field.
That his children’s book Pony Boy (1946) is a London novel is testament to Naughton’s versatility with vernacular. However, it was his Mancunian grounding that provided the impetus for, and inflections of, 1958 radio play June Evening, set in and around a Bolton backstreet that has a shop on one corner.
Naughton was convinced that it provided Coronation Street creator Tony Warren with his main inspiration: that show debuted just six months after the broadcast of a 1960 television version of June Evening.
The Sixties was the decade where Naughton really hit his stride as the zeitgeist pivoted to the proletarian culture in which he specialised.
His 1962 radio play Alfie Elkins and his Little Life concerned a wideboy Lothario who belatedly realises the consequences of his self-absorption. It became the 1963 stage play Alfie. The story was memorably filmed in 1966 (the same year Naughton novelised the tale) with Michael Caine in the lead role.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own