In a ceremony held today at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Bala, it was announced that the 2014 Tir na n-Og Awards have been won by two novels based on historic events.
The winner of the primary schools category is Gareth F Williams, for his novel Cwmwl dros y Cwm. Published by Carreg Gwalch, it is based on the fictional experiences of 13 year old John Williams, who moves to Senghenydd with his family from north Wales when his father decides to seek work in the south Wales coalfield. Speaking at the awards ceremony, Gareth noted: "The centenary of the Senghenydd disaster last year inspired me to write the novel. What happened there on 14 October 1913 – the background to the book – was shocking because of the enormity of the disaster. A total of 440 men and boys lost their lives that terrible morning. My aim with Cwmwl dros y Cwm was to bring their stories to life for a new generation of Welsh children, who know precious little about the disaster, and relay that tale through the eyes of a 13 year old boy who lived through it." This is the fifth time for Gareth to win the Tir na n-Og Award, which is presented annually by the Welsh Books Council to the authors of the best books for children and young people published during the previous year. The awards were established in 1976 and, over the years, they have been presented to some of Wales’s leading authors of children’s books. The winner of the secondary schools category is Haf Llewelyn, whose novel was also inspired by historical events. Published by Y Lolfa, Diffodd y Sêr is based on the Evans family of Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd, and their famous son – fallen World War I poet Ellis Humphrey Evans (Hedd Wyn) – whose story unfolds through the eyes of his younger sister, Annie. Haf, speaking at the awards ceremony, noted: "I was inspired to write Diffodd y Sêr following a trip with friends to see the World War cemeteries at Ypres in Belgium, where we visited Hedd Wyn’s grave. It was an odd feeling to see row upon row of white gravestones with Welsh names etched on them, and the full realisation of how young those boys were really affected us. "After I got home I began to read many letters from soldiers on the front to their families, and vice versa. And that was it – I was caught up in the story, and had to start writing." Elwyn Jones, Chief Executive of the Welsh Books Council, said: "It is a privilege to congratulate Gareth F Williams on winning the Tir na n-Og Award for a record fifth time which confirms his ability to write captivating stories for children. We also to congratulate Haf Llewelyn, who has also established herself as an author of excellent books for children and adults. The standard of the books on the short list was particularly high this year, reflecting the wide variety of the titles published. We warmly congratulate both authors, together with their respective publishers Carreg Gwalch and Y Lolfa, on their success." The winner of the Tir na n-Og Award 2014 in the English-language category was announced earlier this month, with first-time author Wendy White from Carmarthenshire scooping the award with her début novel Welsh Cakes and Custard, published by Gomer/Pont. The Tir na n-Og Awards are sponsored by CILIP Cymru/Wales (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), together with Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion