Author honour

A blue plaque to mark the former home of novelist James Hilton in Wilkinson Street, Leigh was unveiled by Lord Peter Smith, Mayor coun Myra Whiteside and consort James Hurst with chairman Richard Hughes and treasurer Trevor Hilton Pound and members of the James Hilton Society, with the current owner of the house Alfred Hart
A blue plaque to mark the former home of novelist James Hilton in Wilkinson Street, Leigh was unveiled by Lord Peter Smith, Mayor coun Myra Whiteside and consort James Hurst with chairman Richard Hughes and treasurer Trevor Hilton Pound and members of the James Hilton Society, with the current owner of the house Alfred Hart

A TRIBUTE to an acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter has been unveiled at his childhood home in Leigh.

The blue plaque has been fixed to the property in Wilkinson Street to mark where James Hilton was born in 1900.

He topped best-seller lists on both sides of the Atlantic at the height of his fame and is best known for his novel Goodbye Mr Chips in 1934.

He also wrote the novels Lost Horizon and Random Harvest and helped to write scripts for the classic Hollywood film Mrs Miniver, for which he won an Oscar.

The mayoral ceremony was organised by Wigan Council and the James Hilton Society, which was set up in 2000 in celebration of his life and work. The Mayor of Wigan, Leigh councillor Myra Whiteside, unveiled the plaque.

Lynn Kay, a locality development officer at Wigan Council, said: “The idea came from the community. There was a real sense that Mr Hilton should be honoured in his home town by his home town.”

Society chairman Richard Hughes said: “As the local authority was interested in promoting famous names in Leigh, it got in touch with us.

“Many people know of his books, but no-one had heard of him, so we felt he deserved more recognition.”

A blue plaque to honour his work already exists at Wigan town hall.

James Hilton was the only son of a schoolmaster. He spent his early life in Walthamstow, London and at the age of 14 became a pupil at The Leys School, Cambridge, a Methodist boarding school.

While at the school he was taught by Mr WH Balgarnie on which Mr Chips was based.

Hilton’s first novel And Now Goodbye, was published in 1931, followed by Knight Without Armour, and Lost Horizon.

In 1934 came his classic Goodbye Mr Chips, written in four days, which became an overnight success, leading to him being invited to Hollywood to help write film scripts.

He remained in Hollywood for the rest of his life, with wife Alice Brown, advising on films based on his own novels - including Lost Horizon and We are Not Alone - and also contributing to other films including Camille, Mrs Miniver and Foreign Correspondent.

He narrated the film Madame Curie starring Greer Garson and Walter Pigeon, and also So Well Remembered.

In 1941 Hilton published his novel Random Harvest, which sold 100,000 copies in six weeks. He died of liver cancer in 1954, aged 54.