Austin wins top writing prize

THE mother of a Dundalk cancer specialist who has won the 26th Francis MacManus Short Story Competition on RTÉ Radio 1 has said she is “thrilled” for him.

THE mother of a Dundalk cancer specialist who has won the 26th Francis MacManus Short Story Competition on RTÉ Radio 1 has said she is “thrilled” for him.

Pauline Duffy from Muirhevna, Dublin Road told The Dundalk Democrat that her son, Austin, is delighted to have won the prestigious competition.

Dr Duffy, aged 36, beat off competition from over 800 entrants to land the one of the top prizes in Irish writing with his story ‘Orca’.

The Washington DC-based oncologist’s story tells of the relationship between a young doctor and a paediatric patient, who is terminally ill with cancer.

The story focuses on a young intern confronted by the suffering and death of a teenage patient in a Cork hospital.

A Trinity College graduate, Dr Duffy said his former English teacher at the CBS Dundalk, Sydney Peck, was a “huge inspiration” to him.

Dr Duffy moved to New York in 2006 and two years later, he moved to the Medical Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Unit in Bethesda in Washington.

Shortly after arriving in the US, Dr Duffy joined a writers’ group, The Writers’ School, in Greenwich Village, which he also attributes to his success.

“He’s a chap that always brought good news to our door. He loves writing and works very hard at it. He gets up at 5am every day before going to work to do some writing. He married Naomi, a lovely girl from Manhattan over there last June. It was a very happy occasion for all of us,” said Pauline.

By chance Austin was home recently on a short break to see his new born niece, Eva Duffy, from Blackrock when RTE contacted him to tell him that he had won this year’s Francis MacManus short story competition.

“There was great excitement in the house following the birth of Eva. It was a lucky co-incidence that Austin was home to see his niece,” said Pauline.

Austin’s story is described “as a fascinating insight into the rarely explored world of a cancer ward and a doctor’s engagement with a young life that is ebbing away, written from the inside with a vividness and control that is both moving and assured in style”.

According to Dr Duffy, the story is not based on a real-life situation. For part of his prize, he received a cheque for e3,000 from the Head of RTÉ Radio 1, Jim Jennings. Read by Hugh O’Conor, ‘Orca’ will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday, June 6.