Bill Kirton was born in Plymouth but has lived most of his life in Scotland. He was a lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen until taking early retirement to concentrate on writing. He has also been a television presenter and has written, presented and directed countless commercial and educational videos.

He has written revues and many stage and radio plays, which have been performed in the UK and elsewhere. He has been invited to the USA on several occasions to direct plays and give classes on creative writing and theatre.

He has published a large number of books including two crime novels, Material Evidence (1995) and Rough Justice (1996) and his short story, Missing, was included in the Crime Writers' Association's 1999 anthology. In the same year, his verse translation of Molière's Sganarelle won a BCLA translation prize. He has also written books for students explaining how to use language effectively when constructing essays, reports and dissertations. He is a member of Equity, the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers' Association.

His website is at


Notes about the plays are shown underneath the list below.


An Old Man and Some People (Radio 3 and Radio 4) March 1971
Poor Tom, Poor Martha (Radio 4) May 1972
Shapes in Another Day (Radio 4 and ABC) April 1975
The Land of Nod (Radio 4) May 1979
Inside Stories (Radio 4) April 1987

An Old Man and Some People (Radio 3 and Radio 4) March 1971
Producer Martin Jenkins
Cast: David Howe, Jack Woolgar, Martin Jarvis, Alethea Charlton, Nigel Lambert, Sean Barrett, David Valla

Review, in The Times, 26 March, 1971, by David Wade.
Radio 3 have been promising us more plays their listeners are not going to like and, for some, Bill Kirton's first radio play which goes out tonight may well be one of them. No one is likely to hear An Old Man and Some People through to the end and take much comfort from it. At the same time I would be surprised if many people felt they had been exposed to a bit of gratuitous unpleasantness or even to unreasonable pessimism. There is a note of truth in the events of Mr Kirton's work which, in my view, justifies everything he tells us.

George forms a friendship with the young son of one of his persecutors, and this, in spite of an attempt to turn it into a case of molestation, lasts and deepens. He tells the boy incidents from his life – a moderately trying one, but in some very important sense he is undefeated by it. As Mr Kirton suggests with impressive economy and feeling, George possesses a fundamental cheerfulness. The vicious beating up with which the play ends reduces him to abjection, but by this time we know him well enough to think he will transcend even that. That the character comes over so well is due in no small measure to an exceptional low-key performance from Jack Woolgar. There is also some very good acting indeed from David Howe as the boy and from Martin Jarvis, expertly crystallising the purposeless malevolence of the persecutor in chief. Martin Jenkins's production is nicely paced and displays the most original and literally shattering use of sound effects.

Poor Tom, Poor Martha (Radio 4) 3 May 1972
Producer Martin Jenkins
Cast: Cyril Shaps, David Buck, Jane Wenham, Manning Wilson

Martha has to scatter her husband's ashes from a fishing boat off the Eddystone Lighthouse. As she prepares for and starts on the trip, she talks with a family friend, Bill, and the story of her relationship with her husband, Tom, is told in flashback. On the one hand, Bill thinks that Tom's terminal illness was brought on by stress associated with their jobs on the trawlers being undermined by the new boats of owners such as the Turpin family. Martha, though, confesses that, left alone so often by Tom, who seemed to love the sea more than he loved her, she'd had an affair with John Turpin. She thinks that telling Tom about it was the event that triggered his death. In the end, her frustration and her growing sea-sickness cause her to throw the box of ashes over the side. Bill has to go back later to a spot at the quayside where he knows the box will be brought by the tides. He retrieves it and has no option but to dispose of it in the sewer.

Shapes in Another Day (Radio 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Commission) 16 April 1975
Producer Martin Jenkins
Cast:: Kerry Francis, Stephen Thorne, Paul Gaymon, Margaret Robertson, Anna Calder-Marshall

At the centre of the play is an operation, performed by Richard, who's assisted by a trainee surgeon, Hewitt. As they work, key words and images cause Richard to reflect on aspects of his marriage to Isobel and how it broke up. In flashbacks, the stresses of the marriage are acted out. The catalyst for the break-up is Grace, an old friend of Isobel's, who arrives for tests at the hospital. The two women come to recognise the fact that they love each other in the course of the play. Lesbianism and such 'irregularities' disrupt Richard's world view. In one of their many arguments, he lets slip the fact that Grace and Isobel won't be together for long and is forced by Isobel to reveal that he's seen the results of Grace's tests and that she has an incurable condition. Grace already knew of it but the effect of his outburst is to alienate Isobel forever. She goes to live with Grace. Against all expectations, the patient on whom they were operating dies.

NOTE. I had two contrasting responses to this play. The Listener's reviewer began his piece by writing, 'This is a tiresome play about tiresome people. . .' From a distance I now understand what he meant and part of me is inclined to agree with him. The problem was that I'd evolved a (to my mind) clever dramatic structure, which depended on a particular type of imagery. In writing the dialogue, the imperatives of that scheme sometimes forced me to impose words on the characters rather than simply letting them have their usual autonomy. The result was that, at times, they make fine speeches rather than interact instantaneously with one another. The contrast to that came, however, from an ex-student of mine, who'd been given a recording of the play by a friend. She'd listened to it and came to see me in order to say that she wished she'd known how sensitive I was about female homosexuality because she'd had to spend her whole university career hiding her own sexual preferences. She found the characters totally believable.

The Land of Nod (Radio 4) 13 May 1979
Producer Martin Jenkins
Cast: Ray Brooks, Alison Steadman

As the title suggests, this is about both sleep and goings-on in the garden of Eden. In this instance, Adam and Eve are Stan and Mavis. They're talking in bed. Mavis is disturbed at the way Stan has changed since starting his Open University course. Being married to him has become tiring because of his constant digressions into academic jargon. She tells him she's leaving him to live with a scaffold-rigger in Watford. When he asks why, she suddenly realises that it all stems from the visit of an encyclopaedia salesman who, in Mavis's eyes, looked cunning and offered them knowledge. They accept that their lives will go in different directions and their conversation ends with Mavis saying, 'It's time to put out the light,' and Stan responding 'On the contrary, Mavis. On the contrary.'

Inside Stories (Radio 4) 30 April 1987
Producer Martin Jenkins
Cast: Katherine Parr, Jenny Funnell, Susie Brann

Sally is conducting a survey as a school project. She leaves a questionnaire with Maudie, a recluse who has a reputation in the neighbourhood for eccentricity. Stories say variously that she keeps her daughter locked up in her cellar, feeds her dog food, only goes out at night, and is, basically, a witch. When Sally goes to collect the questionnaire, Maudie lets her in. She hasn't filled it in because she's blind. This is the first of many visits by Sally. They form a close relationship, each surprising the other with their very different perspectives. The story of Maudie's missing daughter is told. Central to it is Maudie's grandson, Billy. She claims he's a well-known photographer and that he sends her cards from every place in the world that he visits. Sally goes to the library to check on the existence of this famous photographer. There's no such person, but she maintains the pretence that there is, and she and Maudie, though each knows the other is lying, remain very close friends.

NOTE. The rehearsals of this play threw up an example of the typical gap between the needs of writers and those of actors. Katherine Parr, who played Maudie, asked me whether the much-spoken-of grandson, Billy, actually existed. She thought that knowing the answer to that question would help her to understand the character and some of her responses a little better. My reply, which wasn't really welcome, was that I didn't know. As far as I was concerned, Maudie believed the fiction she'd created about a famous grandson who lived the life she'd never be able to lead. There may have been a spur for the fiction (Billy – if he existed – may have started taking photographs and talking to her about them, for example), but its importance was that it was part of the fabric of Maudie's life, one of the 'Inside Stories' we all tell to give our lives substance. My reply wasn't ingenuous or deliberately provocative; I genuinely feel that there is always a part of the characters we create that resists analysis, that maintains their individuality and their secrets. We don't know the whole truth about ourselves or those we interact with every day, so why should we know everything about people in a play?

Details and notes kindly supplied by Bill Kirton,©.

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website.

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