A former maths teacher won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize on Monday with his ‘surprising’ story.

High Wycombe- based Cecil Browne bagged the coveted win in the global competition with his story A Hat for Lemer.

It’s set in 19th century Caribbean island of St Vincent and Grenadines – a country Mr Browne left as a teenager to move to the UK.

The former college maths lecturer of 35 years commented his victory: “Discovering that I was the regional winner filled me with a private joy, but this quickly turned into the kind of joy I experience when the family is together for some function, all three generations, along with our close friends.

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A Hat for Lemer portrays early Vincentian society, and the dilemma Lemer faces as she seeks to define a role for herself within that society.

“The story is dear to me.

“Within it are people with energy and drive, optimists negotiating a world restricting and modern.”

Set against the backdrop of Emancipation from slavery, the central character is faced with a dilemma after an estate owner Noah Brisbane wants her to find a missing Methodist minister new to the island.

The fee from the task could help her to build a house for her and her parents, but can she ignore who Brisbane is and what he represents?

Chair of the judges, Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar said: “This year’s regional winners offer a cornucopia of riches for readers globally from sources located around the world. These stories testify to the varied tones of fiction, from the oblique to the direct reference, with moments of character illumination to those associated with an imperilled planet.

“If a reader harboured any doubt about whether fiction is relevant to today’s world these stories answer with a riposte that resonates beyond a resounding ‘yes’.

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“These stories fulfil a higher function as exemplars of the short story form: vibrant, memorable and indispensable.”

Mr Browne’s short story Coming Off the Long Run was published in the So Many Islands anthology in 2018, and he has just finished his debut novel.

His story was selected from a shortlist of 26 finalists by an international judging panel. 

The Commonwealth Short Story, ran by the Commonwealth Foundation, is an annual award celebrating the best of unpublished short fiction across the 54 member states of Commonwealth.

It’s labelled as one of the most accessible and international writing competitions since submissions can be made in English, Bengali, Chinese, Creole, French, Greek, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Swahili, Tamil, and Turkish.

In addition to the Canada and Europe category, the judges selected a winner for Africa, Asia, Caribbean and Pacific.