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Book about Welsh castle linked to slavery shortlisted for top award

12 Mar 2021 2 minute read
Angharad Tomos, speaking about her novel Y Castell Siwgwr

A book about a Welsh castle that has links to slavery has been shortlisted for a top award.

The novel, Y Castell Siwgwr (The Sugar Castle), by author and prominent language activist Angharad Tomos is up for a prestigious literary prize at the Tir na n-Og Awards.

It is about Castell Penrhyn (Penrhyn Castle), near Bangor, which was built the Pennant Family who made their money from the transatlantic slave trade.

The annual awards, which began in 1976, are presented by the Books Council of Wales. They are named for Tír na nÓg, the “Land of the Young”, an otherworldly realm in Irish mythology.

The story in Y Castell Siwgwr takes readers to Castell Penrhyn and to slave plantations of Jamaica, and follow the lives of two young girls, Dorcas and Eboni. The book has been described as “a tortuous historical novel.”

Angharad Tomos said: “The idea behind the novel was seeing an exhibition in Castell Penrhyn a few years ago, that discussed the castle’s links with slavery.

“It was a very poignant exhibition, and I left feeling that I’d like to convey the history in a novel.”

‘Most difficult’ 

Angharad Tomos says that this was the “most difficult” novel she’s ever written.

“It’s one of the most difficult books that I’ve written.

“Partly because these harrowing experiences didn’t come from my imagination, but rather from stories of real slaves.”

She added: “I feared that it wouldn’t be as relevant as a 200 year old story, but after the murder of George Floyd, it became desperately relevant.

“I don’t think I would have finished writing Y Castell Siwgwr had it not been for the lockdown.

“Hopefully the novel will raise people’s awareness of racism.”

Tomos was born in Bangor in 1958, and now lives in Penygroes. She graduated from Bangor University and went on to receive an MA.

She has won the prize twice before, and has also twice won Prose Medal at the Eisteddfod.

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