Billy Hopkins, who is better known to his family and friends as Wilfred Hopkins, was born in Collyhurst in 1928 and attended schools in Manchester. Before going into higher education, he worked as a copy boy for the Manchester Guardian. He later studied at the Universities of London, Manchester and Leeds and has been involved in school-teaching and teacher-training in Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Glasgow. He also worked in African universities in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Billy Hopkins is married with six grown-up children and now lives in retirement with his wife in Southport.
Photograph Â© Paul J. Hopkins
Four books ago Billy fictionalised his life and gave us a charming nostalgic book about growing up in Manchester. We went through university, marriage and a job in Africa and are now in 1963 and a very different Manchester. These are excellent portraits of social change and values, well worth a read.Comparison: Rosamund Pilcher, Willy Russell, Charlotte Bingham.Similar this month: None.
The bestselling author of the nostalgic classics OUR KID and KATE'S STORY has based his engaging new novel on the fascinating and inspiring life of his father Tommy, born in a Manchester slum in 1886 Tommy Hopkins' early years aren't very promising. Born at the end of the nineteenth century in a slum district of Manchester, he's blessed with a loving, hard-working mam and dad, but they don't have two ha'pennies to rub together. The family is struck by tragedy not once but twice - but Tommy is a survivor. He quickly makes friends at school, and together they plot money-making schemes, settle scores and play lots of football. Then, at last, it's time to leave the playground behind. Denied the chance of a promising career as an engineer, Tommy finds employment at Manchester's Smithfield market and works his way up, finally becoming a porter. He's turning into a man, and amongst the young women who catch his eye is Kate Lally, who may just be the love of his life...
Billy Hopkins is thrilled to be released from the trials and tribulations of teaching when he takes early retirement. He's just buzzing with ideas for filling his time and making a spare buck - whether it's investing in apparently fail-safe business enterprises, starting up himself as an entrepreneur specialising in doll's houses or writing up the story of his life. Only one of those is likely to have the desired result on the financial front - but Billy's hilarious descriptions of his efforts, together with lovely glimpses of his ever-expanding family, make WHATEVER NEXT! a delightful and absolutely satisfying novel, which will update on-going readers and introduce many new ones to the unique world of the Hopkins household.
It's December 1963 when Billy Hopkins and his wife Laura arrive home in Manchester after five years in Africa. The world has changed beyond recognition: it's the swinging sixties, with headlines full of the Beatles and the pill, LSD and mini skirts. Billy's youngest son still believes in Santa Claus and while his daughter's reading Jackie, she's not even a teenager yet, so Billy's not too worried about the impact of modern society on his family. He's more concerned about the welfare of his increasingly forgetful father and about the daily challenges he faces as a college lecturer. When the four junior Hopkins start to choose their own, unexpected paths in life, though, Billy finds it harder than usual to see the funny side of things...
It's 1950, and when Laura and Billy Hopkins return to Manchester from their honeymoon, they're in seventh heaven despite the austerity that has been going on since World War II. But the euphoria gradually evaporates and they settle into a penny-pinching existence on Billy's teaching salary, as babies and bills appear with alarming regularity. When Billy spots an advertisement for Education Officers in Kenya, it sounds like the answer to all their prayers, despite worries about the Mau Mau rebellion and the omnipresence of dangerous creatures. After much family debate, Laura, Billy and the junior Hopkins set off to Nairobi on a BOAC Argonaut and start on the biggest adventure of their lives...
'Dad, it's the happiest day of my life,' Kate said. 'I wish time would stand still and it could be today forever.' It's June 1897, and Kate is celebrating her eleventh birthday on the day of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Kate's joy is short-lived, as tragedy strikes, threatening her family with the loss of all they hold dear. Before long they are evicted from their home in Ancoats, Manchester, and with no wages coming in and a mother unable to cope, Kate has to grow up fast. Her deepest desire is to keep her brothers and sisters together. A journey of hope and heartache takes Kate from the hardships of the workhouse to the dubious comforts of a position in service to the rich; from the joys of marriage to a good man, to the sorrows and losses suffered during the Great War.
Billy Hopkins' OUR KID, the first of his novels based on his experiences growing up in Manchester, has delighted hundreds of thousands of readers. 'How wonderful to have a book like this... A glimpse of a lost reality' Manchester Evening News It was on a Sunday night in 1928 that Billy Hopkins made his first appearance. Billy's tenement home on the outskirts of Manchester would be considered a slum today, but he lived there happily with his large Catholic family, hatching money-making schemes with his many friends. When war came, and the Luftwaffe dominated the night sky, Billy was evacuated to Blackpool. There he lived on a starvation diet while his own rations went to feed his landlady's children - 'I might as well be in Strangeways!' But even the cruel blows that were to be dealt to the family on his return to Manchester would not destroy Billy's fighting spirit - or his sense of humour.
Billly Hopkins' delightful novel HIGH HOPES is based on his own experiences as a young teacher in Manchester in the aftermath of war in the 1940s. From the author of OUR KID. It's September 1945 and Billy Hopkins is off to London to train as a teacher, with only ten bob in his pocket. Despite his dad's gloomy warnings that he'll pick up bad ways from the toffs down South, Billy survives two years in the Big City, and returns to take up his first teaching job in Manchester - on GBP300 a year! The catch is his first class, Senior Four, who bitterly resent the raising of the school leaving age, and are all set to take it out on their teacher. Luckily the kid from Collyhurst has some tricks up his sleeve. And then Billy meets the beautiful Laura. But is she, as his dad says, 'too good for the likes of us'?
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