From bank clerk to band leader, RAF corporal to expert on lifelong learning, Norman Longworth, now in his mid-80s and living in Eus, Pyrenees Orientales, has been named among the top finalists from around the world in a prestigious creative writing competition.

Born in Bolton, Norman was a school-teacher before becoming professor and advisor at six different English universities and manager of international education projects linking companies, schools, cities and regional councils.

Author of several books, including non-fiction, poetry collections and an autobiography-cum-love story, ‘The Boy from the Back Streets of Bolton: And the Girl from Deane,’ Norman has just been named among the top finalists in the non-fiction category of the ‘Wild Atlantic Writing Awards’ (WAWA) hosted by ‘Ireland Writing Retreat.’ (

Norman (center, seated) with international writers from USA, UK, Canada, Iceland and Ireland at Villa Lafabregue
Norman (centre seated) with international writers from USA, UK, Canada, Iceland and Ireland at Villa Lafabregue

Based in Ireland, the organisation hosts week-long retreats for people interested in developing their writing skills, in the Emerald Isle, France and Romania, with one set to take place in Languedoc in March next year. Norman and local author Jane Mackenzie from Collioure were guest authors earlier this year at a writing retreat hosted by the organisation in Prades at Villa Lafabregue.

Jane Makenzie from Collioure

Piano player, composer, cricketer, tennis player, golfer, singer and writer, Norman has lived with his wife, Maggie, just outside Prades for a number of years, after leading a multi-faceted life visiting more than 40 countries in the course of his work on lifelong learning with the European Commission, UNESCO and other global bodies. He describes Maggie, a Lancashire lass and his soul-mate for the last 60 years who cared for him in hospital as a teenage nurse, as having, “the energy of ten nuclear plants and an erupting volcano combined.”

In his uplifting short story for the writing competition, entitled simply ‘Leonard,’ Norman focuses on a shy student he taught when he was a geography teacher whom he took with other schoolboys on a trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Afraid to walk up BeinnaCaillach, a 3,500 ft mountain, Norman finally persuaded the young boy to do so, then proudly turned to see him, “sitting on the summit looking as if he was in a trance over the enchanting beauty of the high mountains of the mainland, the lakes below, the Cuillin ridge and then to the far Hebrides in the west with a new sense of achievement. He smiled, for the first time I had ever seen. His face was beatific.

Norman has circumnavigated the globe, from Lymington to London, Paris to Brussels, Mecca to Johannesburg, Moscow to Cork, Florida to San Francisco, Tel Aviv to Canberra and onwards to Thailand, Russia, Hungary, New Zealand, China, the Arctic Circle and other places too many to name. It has been a mesmerising life’s journey, as he recalls in his autobiography, involving ‘a belly-dancing exhibition and magic show’ opposite the sphinx in Egypt; his experiences in the Senbikiya Shopping Centre in Japan where an apple ‘the size of a child’s head’ costs 20 dollars and a 50-story hotel with thirty restaurants and ten lifts.

Canigou walk with Norman Longsworth

A tireless individual, Norman, aged 75, climbed Canigou, the rugged 9,000 feet high mountain peak; at 79, he won an individual golf award in France; at 81, he embarked on a 32-hour journey to Taipei to speak at a conference and ended up rock n’ roll dancing and performing a rendition of well-known Irish ballad, ’The Rose of Tralee;’ and at 83, he set off to fulfil a long-held dream to see what he calls ‘the dancing lady,’ the Aurora Borealis, in freezing northern Finland. At the tender age of 85, he finished his long-awaited autobiography – thus illustrating the fact that it’s never too late to put pen to paper.

Norman is one of those erudite, effervescent people who are curious about life many’s secrets and always hungry for knowledge and learning,” said Sean Hillen, who was foreign correspondent for The Times and Daily Telegraph in London and Time magazine in New York and is also lead tutor at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat.”.

For more information, contact Columbia at or +353833356243


  1. Well done Sir Norman. Christmas came early for you. Time to celebrate with a glass or two.

Leave a Comment