Margaret Duley (1894-1968) was born in St. John’s at a time when Newfoundland had a sparse formal literary tradition and few public libraries. Duley surmounted these obstacles to become one of the first Newfoundlanders to achieve international significance as a novelist.
Duley published four novels: Eyes of the Gull (1936); Cold Pastoral (1939); Highway to Valour (1941; 1943), and Novelty on Earth (1942), the latter reissued as Green Afternoon (1944) and Sa Stred Sara, or Sara Struggles (1946). Her final book-length work, The Caribou Hut (1949), is an evocative non-fiction depiction of St. John's during World War Two. Duley wrote a number of short stories, sometimes under pseudonyms, and delivered radio talks for BBC and CBC.
During Duley’s lifetime she lamented the lack of an infrastructure to support and encourage Newfoundland authors. She saw public libraries as critical to the advancement of education, a reading public, civic culture, and individual enrichment. She owned a well-worn library card to the then Gosling Library in St. John’s.
A prize bearing Margaret Duley’s name, awarded annually as part of Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library’s program NL READS, is an appropriate way to remember a distinguished literary pioneer while honoring the talented writers of contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador. Through generous donation from a community partner, the Margaret Duley Award provides a $250.00 cash prize to each nominated NL READS author and, to the winner, a grand prize of $1000.00.