Northumberland writer Caroline Neal wins international competition linked with feast for Wilson’s Tales in Berwick

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The announcement of an international competition winner was the culmination of an annual dinner in Berwick celebrating 19th Century Borders storyteller John Mackay Wilson.

For the first time, organisers The Wilson’s Tales Project opened the challenge to produce a ‘Tale’ in exactly 100 words to the public.

It attracted entries from across the world – including Australia, the USA, Greece, South Africa and Iran.

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John Mackay Wilson was editor of the Berwick Advertiser when he began publishing local stories in 1832 and by 1834, he published the first collection as Wilson’s Tales of the Borders, and of Scotland.

Project director Andrew Ayre with a portrait of John Mackay Wilson.Project director Andrew Ayre with a portrait of John Mackay Wilson.
Project director Andrew Ayre with a portrait of John Mackay Wilson.

The venture’s phenomenal success was said to be a likely factor in his early death in 1835, but the weekly Tales were continued by his widow with new editors for a further five years.

The entertainment included a humorous rendition of one of the most amusing Tales, ‘Kate Kennedy; Or, The Maid Of Innerkepple’.

The audience participated in a reading of the poem ‘Beans and Bacon’, which was the inspiration for the menu and the dinner.

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Shortlisted entries to the competition were then read and performed. The judges had no knowledge of the identities of the authors.

The eventual winner, despite fierce competition, was revealed to be Northumberland writer Caroline Neal.

Project director Andrew Ayre said: “Although we expected the number of entries to increase as a result of offering a prize, the judges were hard worked to deal with the volume of consistently high standard entries and arrive at a shortlist.

“Entries were moving, humorous, dramatic, ghostly and sad.”

The winning entry, and a selection of others, can be read online at