William Holt

This SideTrack looks at some aspects of the life and works of WilliamBillyHolt


Billy Holt, the eldest son of Arthur Holt, was born in Joshua Street, Todmorden in 1897.

As a boy, Billy worked in the local mills.

He was largely self-educated.

In the 1950s, he became a well-known, local character wearing his Panama hat and riding his white Arab horse – Trigger – around Halifax. He had rescued Trigger from a Todmorden rag-and-bone man's cart for £5 in 1956. In 1964, the two – a 66-year-old man and a horse, well over 10 years old – made a 9,000 mile trek across Europe.

With the outbreak of World War I, he volunteered for the Lancashire Fusiliers - despite being under age. He returned to Todmorden when the war was over, but he lead an unsettled life and frequently travelled abroad.

He was a great adventurer whose jobs included:

He lived at Kilnhurst. There is a blue plaque in his honour at the house.

He married twice.

In 1920, he married (1) Florence Silman.


  1. child
  2. child
  3. child
  4. Florence Dolores

In 1975, when he was 78, he married (2) Unknown.

His wife was a brewery heiress who had written to him about Trigger in Europe

The marriage lasted about 6 months before the couple divorced. He let his wife have the house and he moved into the barn with Trigger.

One of Billy's stories was that he became friends with Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, in Cambridge, in the 1920s. When the potential of penicillin was recognised during World War II, Fleming realised that he had given his original laboratory notes to Billy. Billy was able to return the notebooks to their place in the history of medicine.

In the 1930s, he started the British Mobile Libraries service, based in Manchester.

In 1949, he was voted Radio Personality of the Year.

Billy died in 1977 at the age of 80.

Trigger died on 14th May 1980. The animal was buried along the lane from Kilnhurst

Books by William Holt

His travels, exploits and experiences were described in his published works which included autobiographical adventures and novels

A novel

Published by Nicholson [1934]

I haven't unpacked
An autobiography. This sold over 250,000 hardback copies.

Published by Harrap [1939]

A Second Edition was published by Michael Joseph [1966]

A paperback edition was published by Pan [1968]

I still haven't unpacked
An autobiography

Published by Harrap [1953]

A Second Edition was published by S. R. Publishers [1971]

ISBN: 0-85-409654-X

I was a prisoner
An autobiography. This was based upon his time spent in Wakefield Prison after demonstrating with the Todmorden Communists against the Means Test in 1932

Published privately [1934]

A Second Edition was published by S. R. Publishers [1971]

ISBN: 0-85-409660-4

The Price of Adventure
A novel

Published in 1934

Ride a White Horse

Published by E. P. Dutton & Company [1967]

Rucksack Reflections

Published by S. R. Publishers [1971]

Trigger in Europe
An Autobiography. This chronicles Billy and Trigger's 9,000-mile journey through France, Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands in 1964.

Published by Michael Joseph [1966]

A Second Edition was published by Pan [1968].

A German Edition entitled Zu Pferd Durch Europa: 20.000 Kilometer im Sattel was published by Müller Verlag [1968]

Under a Japanese parasol
An autobiography

Published by F. King & Sons [1933]

The Weaver's Knot
A novel. This and The Wizard of Whirlaw were written as one book, but the story was broken in two in order to get the book published

Published by Werner Laurie [1956]

A Second Edition was published by S. R. Publishers [1971]

ISBN: 0-85-409665-5

The Wizard of Whirlaw
A novel set in Whirlaw – see The Weaver's Knot

Published privately [1959]

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 12:33 / 3rd April 2024 / 9502

Page Ref: MMB5000

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