Sid Chaplin

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Sid Chaplin
Born 20 September 1916
23 Bolckow Street, Shildon, County Durham
Died 11 January 1986 (aged 69)
Occupation novelist, essayist, screenwriter

Sid Chaplin (20 September 1916 – 11 January 1986) was an English writer whose works (novels, television screenplays, poetry and short stories) are mostly set in the North East England of the 1940s and '50s.[1]

Chaplin was born into a Durham mining family and worked in pits as a teenager.[2] In 1946 he won the Atlantic Award for Literature for his collection of short stories, The Leaping Lad. After another stint as a miner, Chaplin began writing full time for the National Coal Board magazine from 1950.[3] He later wrote for The Guardian, including theatre reviews, essays of social observation and, from 1963, his own column Northern Accent.[4]

Chaplin's literary career pre-dated the so-called angry young men genre and has been credited as an influence on the late 50s/early 60s "kitchen sink" social realism of writers such as Alan Sillitoe and Stan Barstow.[5] His 1961-2 novels The Day of the Sardine and The Watchers and the Watched have been cited as classics of "working class existentialism"[6] and were reprinted by Flambard Press in 2004.[7]

In 1968 playwright Alan Plater based his play and musical production Close The Coalhouse Door on Chaplin's early writings, set to songs by Alex Glasgow. The musical was revived in 2012.[8] In 1976 Chaplin contributed to the writing of the TV series When The Boat Comes In. The following year he was awarded an OBE for services to the arts in the North East.

Chaplin died in 1986, and posthumous anthology In Blackberry Time was published the following year. In 1997, the Chaplin family deposited the bulk of Sid Chaplin's papers at Newcastle University's Robinson Library, Special Collections.

His son is Michael Chaplin.

Selected bibliography


  • My Fate Cries Out (1949)
  • The Thin Seam (1949, 1968)
  • The Big Room (1960)
  • The Day of the Sardine (1961, 2004)
  • The Watchers and the Watched (1962, 2004)
  • Sam in the Morning (1965)
  • The Mines of Alabaster (1971)

Short stories

  • The Leaping Lad (1946, 1970)
  • On Christmas Day in the Morning (1978)
  • The Bachelor Uncle and Other Stories (1980)


  • The Smell of Sunday Dinner (1971) [essays]
  • A Tree With Rosy Apples (1972) [essays]
  • In Blackberry Time (1987) [anthology]

Further Reading

  • "The Making of a Working-Class Writer - An Interview with Sid Chaplin", in The British Working-Class Novel in the Twentieth Century, Jeremy Hawthorn [Ed.], 1984, Edward Arnold, London.