"I was born on 4 March 1928....in the front bedroom of a red-bricked council house on the outskirts of Nottingham." So writes Alan Sillitoe in his autobiography Life Without Armour. His father was a violent, illiterate and often unemployed tannery worker. Alan had to witness his father hitting his mother Sylvina, and he remembers her "bending over the bucket so that
Alan's rather itinerant family eventually settled into No. 5 Beaconsfield Terrace, in Radford, a house that was to feature as a film set in Saturday Night and Sunday Mo
Aged fourteen, Alan Sillitoe left school and worked as a lathe operator in various Nottingham factories including the famous Raleigh cycle works just round the corner from where he lived.
Keen to join the Forces, he enlisted with the RAF in 1946 as a wireless operator, and was posted to Malaya, and even now he is still a dab hand at tapping out Morse Code - something he still uses today as a form of relaxation.
When he left hospital, Sillitoe was 'pensioned off' as being physically unfit for the RAF. Back in Nottingham, he met a young, married, American poet, Ruth Fainlight, in a bookshop. In love, the two lef
Whilst in Majorca, Sillitoe befriended the poet and novelist Robert Graves who encouraged him to use his boyhood experiences in Nottingham in his writing. "I am sure it is an interesting town, if ever you write a novel," Graves told him. He heeded Graves' words and many of his novels and short stories are set in Nottingham.
Among Sillitoe's other acclaimed works from the 1950s is The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), a collection of seven short stories which was awarded the Hawthornden Prize. The title story is narrated by a borstal boy, Colin Smith, set to run in a race, and finding a kind of freedom in the isolation of running. ru
The Death of William Posters (1965), A Tree on Fire (1967), and A Start in Life (1970) formed a trilogy about a Nottingham factory worker, and in the 1970s Sillitoe produced another trilogy consisting of The Flame of Life (1974), The Widower's Son (1976) and Storyteller (1979).
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was eventually published in October 1958 by W H Allen. It was immediately a critical and commercial success, and voted the best novel of the year by the Observer. Alan Sillitoe's literary career had now begun in style! The novel was made into a film (directed by Karel Reisz) in 1960, starring Albert Finney.
Alan Sillitoe was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Nottingham (an honour granted to people of distinction who "have rendered eminent service to the City") at a special ceremony in June 2008. Only 34 others since William Booth (the founder of the Salvation Army) became the first in 1905, have been honoured in this way.
Two of Alan Sillitoe's most recent novels are worthy of mention. In The Broken Chariot (1998), a boarding school boy leaves his upper-class upbringing behind to become a Nottingham tearaway, out for revenge on his doting parents. A Man of his Time (2004) is the powerful story of Ernest Burton, a womanising Nottinghamshire blacksmith. It is interesting to note that Sillitoe's maternal grandfather was also a (one-eyed) blacksmith called Ernest Burton!
Alan has a son David who is a photographer with the Guardian newspaper, and who also took the photographs for his father's entertaining look at his home county Nottinghamshire (1987). Alan's adopted daughter Susan is a teacher of journalism.
I met Alan Sillitoe on three occasions in 2008. The first time was in Norwich, in the Waterstones bookshop at the University of East Anglia where he was giving a lecture to students. I met him again at Waterstones in Nottingham in May, and also at the main library in Nottingham in June.
Alan is a real Nottingham man, and writer of one of my all-time favourite films Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. I am delighted to have had the chance to meet one of our greatest authors - a rare privilege indeed!
the blood from her cut head would not run on to the carpet". Alan had an
an older sister Peggy ("she was my patient mentor"), another younger sister & several younger brothers.
.....and again in Nottingham, June 2008
Alan Sillitoe's birthplace
Forster Street School, Nottingham
Radford Boulevard School, Nottingham
Sylvina Sillitoe (left) in 1960
Filming Saturday Night & Sunday Morning at the Sillitoe home
Whilst in Malaya, he was diagnosed
diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent a year in an RAF hospital where he began to read avidly, and also started to write.
Alan attended two schools nearby - Radford Boulevard School and Forster Street School. His teacher at Forster Sreet was Ada Chance who "taught me the importance of correct spelling". It was she who told him that "if you have something you
Spain, where they lived hand to mouth on Alan's pension for more than six years. Sillitoe wrote a lot - numerous short stories (some of which he destroyed), poems and full-length novels, but despite many attempts, couldn't find a publisher who was interested.
left for France, and later
An early example is a short story written in 1954 called Once in a Weekend. Its location is the White Horse pub in Radford, just round the corner from where Sillitoe lived off Salisbury Street. It tells of a young Nottingham factory worker who, after enjoying himself in the pub on Saturday night, wakes up on Sunday morning in bed with his absent workmate's wife. The beginning went: 'with eleven pints of beer and seven small gins inside him, Arthur fell from the top of the stairs to the bottom.' Rejected by many magazines, this story later became the first chapter of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Sillitoe composed much of the novel as he says, 'in the autumn of 1956, sitting under an orange tree'.
The White Horse, Radford
Rachel Roberts,Shirley Anne Field & Alan Sillitoe at
the Premiere of Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
Alan Sillitoe signed my DVD of
Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
Key to the Door (1961), was a sequel to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, where the main character is Arthur Seaton's older brother Brian. Arthur himself returns, forty years older in a second sequel Birthday (2002).
Alan has signed this original lobby card for me
Tony Richardson's film version, starring Tom Courtenay, was another success for Sillitoe.
A further short-story collection, The Ragman's Daughter (1963), was just as successful, and again the title story was made into a film, with most of its locations in Nottingham.
Alan signing a book for me at Nottingham's main library-June 2008
Alan Sillitoe speaks at Waterstones, Nottingham
Alan signing my copy of Life Without Armour
at Waterstones in Nottingham
The 1972 novel Raw Material, is an autobiographical portrayal of his
Alan has always enjoyed a smoke!!
Alan Sillitoe in a recent TV interview
Alan's wife Ruth
Alan Sillitoe's Nottinghamshire
The first edition of the novel
Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
Alan Sillitoe in 1959
Alan Sillitoe in 1975
Alan Sillitoe in 1968
Alan Sillitoe becomes the 35th Freeman of the City of
Nottingham in June 2008
I met Alan Sillitoe in Norwich, February 2008.....
Alan Sillitoe (1928 - 2010)
Click on a name below to take you to that page
I felt very privileged when Alan invited dad and me to visit his cottage in Leicestershire in May 2009, so that he could sign my set of eight lobby cards from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. He put a suitable quotation on each of them and added his signature. He also signed my copy of his book Nottinghamshire, along with my very rare quad poster for the film The Ragman's Daughter (1972). He said this was the only one that he had ever signed, so that now makes the poster a unique item!
This is another one of the eight lobby cards that Alan signed for me
Ciaran Brown with Alan Sillitoe - Leicestershire 9th May 2009
Alan signing the lobby card shown on the right
I was really saddened to hear of Alan's death on 25th April 2010.
Alan Sillitoe (1928-2010)
in Beaconsfield Terrace
you believe in strongly enough, you must always stick to your guns" - advice he says he never discarded. In an interview in 1966, Ada
Ada Chance recalled that,"..he looked a very clean little boy, and very quiet, not a noisy child at all, and so he was never in trouble." Alan acquired his love of books from time spent at his grandparents house - "I had never seen so many books in one home."
His talks are fascinating, and he has signed a number of items for me. I have been able to chat to him each time I have met him.
The links below will take you to my webpages on Alan Sillitoe's two films Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The Ragman's Daughter.