The Raleigh capstan lathe operator turned author died earlier today, aged 82

Alan Sillitoe RIP

Alan Sillitoe was Nottingham-born and started working at Raleigh as a 14 year old. He worked in the Sturmey Archer factory for four years. Sillitoe’s father also worked for Raleigh. When the Sturmey Archer machinery went under the hammer in 2000, one of the lathes bought – and shipped to Indoa – was the one used by Sillitoe.

Sillitoe’s first novel – ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ (1958) – followed Arthur Seaton, a working class anti-hero who shirked his job in the Raleigh factory and squandered his wages on drink at the weekend.

A 1960 movie of the novel catapulted to stardom the then unknown Albert Finney. It was the first of the gritty northern ‘kitchen sink dramas’ and Arthur Seaton was one of cinema’s first ‘Angry Young Men’, although Seaton would have rejected this. A famous line in movie has Seaton saying: "Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not." [This phrase was later re-used by the Arctic Monkeys].

The movie was groundbreaking at the time, featuring violence, post-coital scenes, and strong themes such as abortion.

Talking about a Raleigh foreman, in the movie Seaton said: "Don’t let the bastards grind you down!"

Epitomising a post-War only-do-as-much-as-you-have-to work ethic, Seaton said: "I’ll have a fag in a bit, no use working every minute God sends. I could get through it in half the time if I worked like a bull, but they’d only slash my wages, so they can get stuffed!"

‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ was box-office smash. Clips of it can be seen on YouTube, with Seaton/Finney shown riding his bike to work. The lathe scenes were shot in the Raleigh factory.

The factory is no longer there. It was knocked down to create student flats when Raleigh moved to an out-of-town location.

The Raleigh Park housing development has a street named after the author: Sillitoe Court.

While most famous for ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, Sillitoe wrote many other books, poems, screenplays and essays.

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