|Erna Naughton (Nurse Ernestine Pirolt) 3rd from right at her graduation.|
Last Friday my close friend Erna Naughton passed away peacefully in the Isle of Man where this lovely Austrian lady had lived since the 60s. Erna was the widow of author and playwright Bill Naughton who was born in Ballyhaunis Co Mayo and moved to Bolton with his family at the age of six.
|With my friend Erna Naughton. 1995|
I first met Erna in the mid 90s when I was living in Ballyhaunis, Ireland. Erna had travelled to Ireland from the Isle of Man for the Kenny/Naughton annual October weekend School, of which she was Patron. The school, celebrating the works of Bill Naughton and also that of P.D. Kenny, brought writers from all over the world, and Erna, after reading my book Marie's Voice (re-issued as With a Little Help from My Friends) wrote to me with an invitation to give a talk about my life and writing at the Kenny/Naughton School.
From that day we became firm friends. I stayed with Erna every year in the Isle of Man and in the last few years accompanied Erna to Bolton's Octagon Theatre where Bill's work is still celebrated today.
Erna was such a gracious lady. She cared about everybody and was generous to a fault. I watched in awe as people flocked around her on those visits to Bolton, especially the children when we visited Bill's old school St Peter & St Paul. That Erna touched so many lives is a testament to who she really was.
|Erna Naughton at Bill's old School St Peter & St Paul in Bolton 2012|
|Headmistress Philomena Tarkowski (now retired) with Erna Naughton 2012|
I was blessed to spend the weekend with Erna in Isle of Man three weeks ago. She was frail and I was saddened as I realised it was probably the last time I would see her. Her friends on the island (they'd probably kill me if I mentioned their names) rallied around her, dropping in meals and taking her to hospital appointments, so she was surrounded by love and support. She ate like a little bird and as a special treat I bought us some naughty fish & chips. Erna laughed at the size of the meal, ate the fish and typically saved half her chips for the birds. How she loved the birds..
My life is going to be so different without my friend - the letters, cards and parcels we sent each other, the phone calls that began with 'Michelle my deayar' and ended with 'Goodbye darling' phone calls that left me laughing for days... Now the phone will be silent and the postman will walk past but in my heart I have wonderful memories of Erna that I will treasure forever.
Erna sent me the following updated piece last year to be included in a book I was embarking on. It has previously been printed. It is Erna's tribute to Bill and our tribute to her.
|Graduation day 1952|
|Erna Naughton R.I.P.|
© Copyright Michelle Daly 2014