Story inspired by war-time bombing of Aberdeen scoops creative writing prize

A short story based in war-time Aberdeen has scooped a literary award and a £500 prize for a university student.

Aemilia Balkham Ross, from Inverness, was awarded the 2015 Toulmin Prize at a special event at the May Festival.

Organised by the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, the Toulmin Prize has been running since 2008 and commemorates the work of John Reid – otherwise known as David Toulmin – one of the finest and best-known exponents of written Doric.

Entrants were asked to submit work which concerns some aspect of life in North-East Scotland, in either English or Doric/Scots.

Aemilia’s work, titled ‘Siren City’, was selected as the winner by a panel of judges and she received her award at the May Festival, a celebration of literature, music and science held annually in Old Aberdeen, where her entry was read by writer and story-teller Sheena Blackhall.

It tells the story of one woman’s childhood experience during the worst bombing to hit Aberdeen during the Second World War.

Aemilia, 19, is studying for a Joint Honours degree in Politics and English Literature at the University of Aberdeen. The Toulmin Prize is her first win in a major writing competition and marks another step towards her ambition to become a published author.

Her winning entry will be printed in the July-August Leopard magazine later in the year and she is working on a number of other writing projects alongside her studies.

Aemilia said: “The Toulmin Prize, and the May festival as a whole, is a wonderful celebration of all the artistic and literary talent on offer in Aberdeen. To have been able to participate in, far less have won, a competition which is so closely connected to one of Aberdeen’s great writers was incredible, and having my short story read by another of the North-East’s best literary minds was a wonderful reward in itself.”

Dr Tom McKean, director of the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We are so pleased to be involved with the Toulmin Prize again and it’s wonderful to have a young, promising writer coming forward.”

“We’re already looking forward to next year’s competition and hope to get some schools involved for next year’s competition and May Festival event.”