Short story competition remembers Doric writer

A new search is underway for budding writers keen to capture the North-East way of life on paper.

Today (Monday, December 7) the University of Aberdeen’s Elphinstone Institute launches the 2010 Toulmin Prize, in conjunction with the WORD festival – with £500 up for grabs for the winning entry.

The competition, now in its third year, commemorates the work of one of the North-East’s finest exponents of the short story.

John Reid (1913-1998) was an Aberdeenshire farm labourer from Rathen, Buchan, who spent most of his life working long hours for very small rewards. In odd moments he jotted down short stories, character studies, and bothy tales.

Eventually, as David Toulmin, he had a few articles printed in local newspapers. The first of his ten books was published when he was 59-years-old. They consist mostly of short stories and reminiscences, with his one novel, Blown Seed, painting a harsh picture of farm life.

In the later years of his life he moved to Pittodrie Place in Aberdeen (later to Westhill) and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Aberdeen in 1986.

The Toulmin Prize is open to all amateur writers* over the age of 16. The story should be concerned with some aspect of life in North-East Scotland and may be written in Scots, including Doric, or English or a mixture of the two.

In addition to the cash prize, this year the winning entry will be published in the Leopard magazine and subsequently featured on the website of the Scots Language Centre.

The award for the best entry will be made at the 2010 WORD Festival weekend (May 14-16) at the University of Aberdeen, when the winning story will be read out by the well-known North-East writer, Sheena Blackhall.

Dr Ian Russell, Director of the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We're proud to be able to honour John Reid and his work in this way. His writing is powerful, evocative and witty, and he is one of the finest exponents of writing in the Doric.

"We have had a terrific response to the two previous competitions and the standard of entries has been superb. I am looking forward to seeing the selection for 2010 and would urge people with a tale to tell to pick up their pen and stretch their imagination.”

A short story of up to 4,000 words in length should be submitted by March 31, 2010 to Dr Ian Russell, Director, The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, MacRobert Building, King's College, Aberdeen AB24 5UA.

Hard copy, size A4, should be sent in addition to an electronic submission in MS Word. For more information contact the Elphinstone Institute 01224-272996 or at

*Note that for the purposes of this competition, a professional writer is considered to be one who has had a solo work published with a recognised UK publisher.

The judges for the Toulmin Prize are Lindy Cheyne, Paul Dukes, Norman Harper and Jack Webster.