The highlight of the judging of the 24th Martin Wills Awards was the split decision contest between the winner Chris Humpleby and the runner-up Declan Delaney.
Both entries were as contrasting as the background of the two 24 year olds who wrote them and equally compelling. Chris Humpleby is a big stable assistant trainer at Newmarket, Declan Delaney a City underwriter and part time bookmaker. Chris sent out a stark warning of the danger to young stable staff of the underside of Newmarket life, Declan gave a vivid description of the sweaty palm moments when a big gamble looks about to sink a bookmaker’s ship.
The two pieces were a triumphant justification of what the Martin Wills Awards are about and the fact that there was plenty of establishment spluttering in Newmarket porridge over the winning entry only reinforced the point. Clear, informed writing has made people take notice and given encouragement for others to turn to the keyboard.
The prizewinners in the other categories were also a credit to the competition, but some in the younger groups did not always do themselves justice. We would like to congratulate them all for having the ambition and energy to take part and are here to encourage, not over-criticize. But it’s a good tip to remember that the basic structure of a beginning, middle and end is always a necessity, as is a central idea that the writer is trying to convey. The whole essence, the pleasure of the exercise is the sharing of information or experience and the faultier the structure the harder this is to do.
As every year, I have to stress the need for entrants in all categories to read their entries through before sending them off. Nothing puts a judge off more than the spelling mistake, word repetition or punctuation gaffe that could have been easily avoided by review before despatch. That said, many fewer crass errors did suggest that our warnings were being heeded at last.
As the Awards approach their quarter century, no greater tribute could be paid them than by the latest achievement of the very first winner, Chris McGrath, whose book “Mr Darley’s Arabian,” is a tour de force of which any writer would be proud. Read and believe !
Brough Scott June 2016
Chairman of the Judges
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