TRIBUTES have been paid to “kind and generous” Erna Naughton, wife of Bolton playwright Bill, who died peacefully surrounded by friends.

The 85-year-old, who helped Bolton’s Octagon Theatre stage a world premiere of one of her late husband’s plays in recent years, died on Friday evening after several spells in hospital with heart trouble.

The pair were committed and loyal supporters of the Octagon since the first production of Mr Naughton’s play, Annie and Fanny, which launched the theatre in 1967.

She gave the Octagon’s artistic director, David Thacker, access to eight drafts of Light-hearted Intercourse, some of which had never before been seen, in addition to her husband’s private notes on the play and its development.

Mr Thacker said: “Erna Naughton was a close and loyal friend to the Octagon Theatre.

“Since Bill Naughton's death in 1992, she has helped successive artistic directors who have wanted to present his plays and has given warm and generous support to all those working on them.

“I count it a great privilege to have worked closely with Erna on Alfie and particularly on Lighthearted Intercourse.

“I had a memorable few days working on the play in her home on the Isle of Man and will never forget her kind and generous hospitality.

“Erna died peacefully. Her close friends, including two special friends who were witnesses at Bill and Erna’s wedding, were with her so, in the words of one of her friends, she was surrounded by love.

“All of us at the Octagon who were lucky enough to know Erna will miss her, but we'll always remember her kindness, generosity and loyalty.”

Mr Naughton was born in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland, on June 12, 1910, but lived most of his childhood and early manhood in Bolton.

He met his future wife, an Austrian nurse 20 years his junior, in London shortly after the Second World War, just as he was finding success as a writer and the pair settled on the Isle of Man in 1974.

In June 2010, Mrs Naughton visited Bolton to help celebrate the centenary of her husband’s birth with a series of events.

The following year, she donated 15 boxes of material to Bolton Museum, adding to the extensive archive, including handwritten and typed drafts of works such as Spring and Port Wine, The Family Way and Alfie.

Her last visit was in November 2012 to see Light-hearted Intercourse, after which she spoke of her delight at the Octagon’s work.

Mrs Naughton was taken to Nobles Hospital, Isle of Man, on August 25, before being transferred to a hospice where she died at 8pm on Friday.

Her funeral will take place next Thursday.