Mari Williams is the winner of this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Medal, presented at a special ceremony on the Pavilion stage today.
The task of the 10 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 the WJEC to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its predecessor, the Welsh Joint Education Committee.
The adjudicators were Meinir Pierce Jones, Bet Jones and Gareth Miles, and delivering the adjudication from the stage, Meinir Pierce Jones said, “Doe a Heddiw by Ysbryd yr Oes, tells two parallel stories: the story of John Penry, Cefn Brith, Montgomeryshire, the Puritan, and the modern story of John Williams, a History teacher at a secondary school in the Cardiff area – at a time of crisis in both their lives.
“This is an ambitious and intellectual novel as the author, who is a “fantastic storyteller” according to Gareth Miles – oscillates between both stories, drawing the thoughtful reader’s attention to the contrasts and likenesses between them.
“As Bet Jones says, this is a work which will ‘prod the mind and encourage debate’, and one integral reason for this is that this author has understood that history is a process, and this is an interesting start to any debate. Time will tell what kind of response this novel will have; it has definitely given us a picture of a period from our past, and an important man from our past, as well as an uncomfortable look at our modern society. In John Williams, we have an unlikely hero for our time and way of life.
“The three of us managed to agree, firstly, that there is a winner in this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize Competition, and secondly, that the writer who wins this prize for their subtle, crafted and timely novel is Ysbryd yr Oes for their novel, Doe a Heddiw. But in case you become confused when you go looking for your copy on the Maes immediately after the ceremony, it’s best to explain now, that the author now wants to use their pseudonym as the novel title as well – Ysbryd yr Oes is now the title and pseudonym of this year’s Daniel Owen Memorial Prize, giving a new meaning to doing the double!”
Mari Williams was born in Cardiff where her ancestors have lived for centuries and where she now lives.
Educated at Cardiff High School for Girls and Newham College, Cambridge, she was a teacher at a number of schools including Ysgol Brynrefail, Ysgol Cwm Rhymni and Ysgol Rhydfelen. She now teaches Latin to students at Cardiff University.
Mari has written eight novels for different ages, and she enjoys travelling and visiting historical sites. She is indebted to the Bethlehem Congregationalist Chapel, Splott, which she attended as a child.
She is the widow of the late Rev William Elwyn Lloyd Williams from Abererch, who was a schools inspector and an inspiration, mother to Geraint and Delyth and proud grandmother of Huw, Nia, Manon and Geraint-Dewi.
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 Cardiff National Eisteddfod runs until 11 August.