Second win for Pen Llŷn as Meinir Pierce Jones claims Eisteddfod prize

By Dylan Davies   |   News editor   |
Tuesday 2nd August 2022 3:42 pm
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Meinir Pierce Jones
Meinir Pierce Jones on the Llwyfan earlier today in Tregaron (Aled Llywelyn/National Eisteddfod )

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Meinir Pierce Jones is the winner of this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize, presented at a special ceremony on the Pavilion stage today.

The task of the 14 who entered was to create a novel with a strong storyline of no less than 50,000 words. 

The prize is the Daniel Owen Memorial Medal and £5,000 donated by Aberystwyth University.

The adjudicators were Manon Steffan Ros, Emyr Llywelyn and Ioan Kidd, and delivering the adjudication from the stage, Manon Steffan Ros said, "It was a great honour to be one of the judges of the prize this year, especially as I was accompanied by Ioan Kidd and Emyr Llewelyn along the way. We were specifically looking for a novel that would be worthy of an award that bears the name of Daniel Owen, one of the most skilled and engaging writers in Welsh history. Our expectations were therefore high!

"Fourteen attempts were received this year, and so there was a lot of reading - and a lot of discussion - about the work. ‘Writing a complete novel’ like this is quite an achievement, and we have to acknowledge the hundreds of hours that are sure to have gone into these novels. That in itself deserves a lot of praise.

"It’s a tradition when delivering the adjudication to divide the work into different classes, but I’m afraid I won’t do that today, as those classes have been quite different from the three judges. So forgive me for not placing the novels in any kind of order – You’ll have to buy the Cyfansoddiadau at the end of the week to read our individual critiques. But it’s safe to say that I’m of the firm opinion that the standard in general is very high this year, and that I’ve really enjoyed reading each one.

“...And on to ‘Captain’ by Polly Preston. I immediately got hooked on this lovely novel and couldn’t put it down. The style is subtle but beautiful; The characters are completely real from the very beginning; The story crystallises an era that’s gone, without feeling sentimental or nostalgic. It’s difficult to think of any novel similar to this, but I feel that the strength of the characters and their relationship with their communities reminds me of the work of Kate Roberts. I have no doubt that ‘Captain’ is the best novel of the competition this year. It’s a lovely, lovely, lovely novel.

"Although the three judges initially agreed that Polly Preston was the deserving winner of this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize, after the three of us had one last look, a re-read led to second thoughts, and there were further discussions. We did not come to a unanimous decision.

“Emyr Llywelyn’s great concern was that there’s too much use of English in this novel, and Ioan Kidd and I believed that the author uses English as a symbol of alienation and the awkwardness between the worlds of the two language. In other words, the use of English in this novel emphasises the importance and beauty of the Welsh language, and cleverly points out the threat to the communities as a result of the use of English. It’s a shame, of course, that we weren’t unanimous, and as I mentioned before, you will be able to read the comments of the three of us on each of the applications in the Cyfansoddiadau.

"Ioan Kidd and I are fully confident that Polly Preston is fully deserving of this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize, and that the novel will receive a warm response from Welsh readers. It’s a great novel, and I can’t wait for you all to read it!  Congratulations to Polly Preston, and to all the contestants."

Meinir Pierce Jones
Meinir Pierce Jones on the Llwyfan this afternoon in Tregaron (Aled Llywelyn/National Eisteddfod )

Meinir Pierce Jones is a Pen Llŷn girl through and through. She grew up on the outskirts of Nefyn and having spent periods away later returned to live in the same farmhouse. She and her husband Geraint have spent over twenty five years there and although their children Math, Casia, Efa and Sabel have flown the nest they and the grandchildren, Caio and Deri, still enjoy visiting Tacho.

Meinir was educated at Nefyn primary school, Ysgol Glan y Môr, Pwllheli and the University  College of North Wales, Bangor. She started her career as an editorial officer at the Welsh Books Council in Aberystwyth and now works as a creative editor for Gwasg y Bwthyn in Caernarfon. During the intervening years she has made a living as a writer, translator and scriptwriter. However she took on a different role between 2011 and 2019 leading the project to reopen and manage the Llŷn Maritime Museum, and it was during this busy and challenging period that the ideas for the novel Capten began to flow.

Meinir has published numerous books for children over the years including Y Cwestiwn Mawr, Modryb Lanaf Lerpwl, Bargen Siôn and more recently Cnwcyn a’i Ffrindiau. She has written two previous novels for adults Y Gongl Felys, which reached the 2005 Welsh Book of the Year longlist and Lili dan yr Eira. Meinir wrote Capten during the covid 19 epidemic when she had taken a break from paid employment. And how good it was to have an alternate world into which to escape over those long months.

During her spare time, Meinir enjoys pottering in the garden, going for walks, reading, cooking, spending time with family and friends and plotting her next novel!

The Cyfansoddiadau a Beirniadaethau includes the full adjudication for this competition and the winners of all the other composition winners at this year’s Eisteddfod.  The volume is published at the end of the Chairing Ceremony on Friday afternoon.

The Ceredigion National Eisteddfod runs until 6 August. For more information go online, www.eisteddfod.cymru.

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