Isles writers claim major awards for their work

Two isles writers have won major literary awards.

Acclaimed poet and debut novelist Donald Murray, who lives in Sandwick, has won a major award for his first novel As The Women Lay Dreaming.

Meanwhile, poet, filmmaker and musician Roseanne Watt has been awarded two accolades for her poetry collection Moder Dy, an Eric Gregory and Somerset Maugham award.

Watt grew up in the isles and now lives in Edinburgh.

Murray beat off competition from five hopefuls including BBC journalist George Alagiah – writer of The Burning Land – to claim the Paul Torday Memorial Prize – which is given to debut novelists over the age of 60.

Murray said he was delighted to have seen his work recognised by the judging panel.

His back catalogue, which includes such writings as The Guga Hunters and The Dark Stuff, typically dwell on the culture and nature of Scottish islands.

Originally from Lewis, Murray has crafted his skills as a writer and has previously been shortlisted for both the Saltire Literary Awards and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award.

But he said he had “always been the best man and never the groom” – until now.

“When I looked at the list of authors I thought this is another case where I’m going to be shortlisted rather than winning it,” Murray said.

“There were people shortlisted who have a real depth of experience.”

As The Women Lay Dreaming was based on the sinking of the ss Iolaire as she approached Stornoway Harbour – a sinking that led to the drowning of 200 men as they attempted to return to their homes after surviving the horrors of the First World War.

As well as Alagiah, Murray was up against four other entries from Euan Cameron, Gaby Koppel, Fiona Vigo Marshall and Rosalind Stopps.

Murray has other plans in the pipeline, including a piece of work concerning Scottish lighthouses entitled For the Safety of All, which pays a lot of attention to Shetland locations.

He is also writing a book about the north of Scotland and its past experiments in biological and chemical warfare. Murray says the name In a Veil of Mist has been chosen for that book, which is due to be published in the spring.

Meanwhile, Watt is currently poetry editor for The Island Review and was the winner of the 2015 Outspoken Poetry Prize (Poetry in Film), runner-up in the 2018 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in 2018.

• See tomorrow’s Shetland Times for full story.


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