Literary competition judges heap praise on young Arisaig author

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Mallaig High School has a new literary star among its ranks after judges in one of the country’s most prestigious writing competitions for young budding authors gave him the joint runner-up spot from among hundreds of entries.

Judges heaped praise on Wallace Dempster’s essay, P T Barnum and our approaches to history, calling in ‘engaging’, ‘outstanding’, and ‘elegantly and wittily written’.

The competition was organised by the Institute of Contemporary Scotland (ICS) in association with the Young Programme charity and was open to pupils in Scottish schools who were between the ages of 15 and 18.

Pupils were asked to imagine that they were writing a feature or column for an intelligent magazine or serious newspaper, and had to be between 900 to 1,100 words.

S5 pupil Wallace, 16, from Arisaig, who was one of three joint runners-up, received a cheque for £250 and had his article published in a special edition of the Scottish Review magazine.

Judge Bill Jamieson said Wallace’s article, which the youngster composed after seeing the recent hit movie The Greatest Showman, was an outstanding accomplishment – ‘elegantly and wittily written, with pace and grace, and a real pleasure to read. But beneath the smart and sassy style was a discussion of real maturity on how we treat history and its monuments – a resonantly topical subject.’

Comments from fellow judges, included Rebecca MacDonald: ‘Engaging and thought-provoking…a sassy piece.’

Rose Galt: ‘Grips the reader in the first paragraph and barnstorms its way to a devastating critique of a man, a culture and a nation. Uses irony and humour to great effect.’

Sally Magnusson: ‘This article impressed me with the energy, range and readability of its argument.’

Morelle Smith: ‘The language is engaging and the metaphors punchy and sometimes unusual.’

Ron Ferguson: ‘A vivid, engaging and inventive piece of writing. I learned new things about P T Barnum, and the story itself was told with humour, style and seriousness.’

Wallace says he was delighted to have done so well in the competition, but admits writing is not something he is currently looking to pursue as a possible future career.

‘But writing is something I do enjoy doing. I based my article on this particular film after I went to the cinema with a couple of friends to see it – it angered me and so I decided to write something about it,’ he told the Lochaber Times.

‘We are very lucky at Mallaig High as the English department we have is excellent and staff are always really encouraging.’

To read Wallace’s article, go to our website at www. and look for P T Barnum and our approaches to history.

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