Catherine Czerkawska

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Catherine Czerkawska

Catherine Lucy Czerkawska, (born 3 December 1950) is a Scottish based novelist and playwright. She has written many plays for the stage and for BBC Radio 4 and has published numerous novels and short stories. Wormwood – about the Chernobyl disaster – was produced at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre to critical acclaim in 1997, while her novel, The Curiosity Cabinet, was shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, to Julian Czerkawski and Kathleen Sunter, she attended Holy Family Primary School and Notre Dame Grammar School. The family moved to Ayrshire, Scotland in 1962 where she attended Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr. After graduating from Edinburgh University with an honours degree in English Language and Literature with Mediaeval Studies, she went on to study for a postgraduate Master's degree in Folk Life Studies at the University of Leeds. Her research dissertation on Fishing Traditions in South Ayrshire formed the basis for one of her first non-fictionsn books, Fisherfolk of Carrick. She taught English as a foreign language in Tampere, Finland for two years and at Wroclaw University, drawing on her Polish connections, (sponsored by the British Council) for a further year. On her return she took up a position as Community Writer with the Arts in Fife, based in Cupar and thereafter became a full-time freelance writer.


Czerkawska began her writing life as a poet and radio playwright in Edinburgh. Her first collection of poems, White Boats, was a joint venture with Andrew Greig, published by Garret Arts in 1973. Her first solo collection, A Book of Men, was published by Akros in 1976 and won a Scottish Arts Council New Writing Award.[citation needed] Her first radio play, The Hare and the Fox, was broadcast around this time and she went on to write more than 100 hours of drama for BBC Radio 4. She wrote numerous original plays of which O Flower of Scotland won a Pye Award for Best Original Drama 1980, while Bonnie Blue Hen won a Scottish Radio Industries Club Award for Best Production of 1982. She also created many dramatisations of classics as diverse as Stevenson's Kidnapped and Catriona. Ben Hur and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Her BBC dramatisation of Treasure Island is still available as a CD. Through the 1980s and 90s she continued to write successfully for radio and for television including a six-part series for STV, called Shadow of the Stone, starring Alan Cumming and Shirley Henderson. She wrote stage plays for Edinburgh's Lyceum and Traverse Theatres including Wormwood, a meticulously researched, ecologically themed play about the Chernobyl disaster. She worked for several years on Borderline Theatre's community projects, with artistic director John Murtagh. She was also commissioned to write audio material for the National Trust for Scotland, for Falkland Palace, Bannockburn and Culross in Fife. Her first published novel was the book of the television series, Shadow of the Stone. This was followed by The Golden Apple, written while she and her husband were living and working aboard a 50 foot catamaran in the Canary Isles. The novel is largely set on the Canarian island of La Gomera. The Curiosity Cabinet, a novel based on a trilogy of the author's own radio plays of the same name, was shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize in 2005 and subsequently published by Polygon. John Burnside describes it as 'a powerful story about love and obligation… a persuasive novel, very well written'. A Kindle version, published by Wordarts, is now available. A major hardback history of the people of Gigha, God's Islanders, was published by Birlinn in 2006.[citation needed] Her stories have been published in an eclectic mix of magazines and anthologies including She, Company, Vogue, New Edinburgh Review and The London Review of Books. Her poem Thread was published in Antonia Fraser's well known anthology of Scottish Love Poems. More recently, Czerkawska has written three plays for Glasgow's lunchtime theatre venue: the Oran Mor’s A Play A Pie and A Pint. Her plays have been published by Nick Hern Books. Other novels include The Amber Heart, Bird of Passage and Ice Dancing, all published by Wordarts. She is currently serving on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland, and offers occasional advice to other professional writers who are considering engaging with digital publishing. She is a regular contributor to online political magazine, The Scottish Review, edited by Kenneth Roy. She writes a monthly blog post for the Authors Electric blog and runs her own writing blog.


Czerkawska has run classes and workshops in all aspects of creative writing. She tutored Kilmarnock Gateway Writers for 15 years. She has tutored three courses for the Arvon Foundation at Moniack Mhor, ran workshops for the Traverse Theatre and worked with artistic director John Murtagh on community projects for Borderline Theatre. From 2005 to 2009 she was Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland. She is now part of the Live Literature Scotland's Writers in Public scheme, giving talks and lectures to writers and book groups throughout Scotland. She gives illustrated talks and lectures on Scottish textile history, specifically Ayrshire Whitework and other embroidery, with particular reference to how she uses antique textiles in her fiction.

Personal life[edit]

She lives in rural Ayrshire with her artist husband Alan Lees. Their son, Charlie Czerkawski, is a video game designer with Guerilla Tea,[1] living and working in Dundee. She is an active member of her community and is on the management committee of the village's community shop and café. She collects antique textiles and gives illustrated talks about how she incorporates them into her fiction.

Awards and honours[edit]

  • 1976, A Book of Men, Scottish Arts Council New Writing Award
  • 1978 Community Writer, The Arts in Fife
  • 1980 A Flower of Scotland, Pye Award for Best Original Play
  • 1982 Bonnie Blue Hen, Scottish Radio Industries Club Award for Best Production.
  • 1997 Wormwood, first staged at the Traverse, included in the Scottish Higher Drama school syllabus
  • 2005–2009 Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow, University of the West of Scotland
  • 2005 The Curiosity Cabinet one of three novels shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize
  • 2006 God's Islanders received Scottish Arts Council Book Award
  • 2012 Committee, Society of Authors in Scotland


  • White Boats (With Andrew Greig) Garret Arts 1973
  • A Book of Men Akros 1976
  • Fisherfolk of Carrick Molendinar 1977
  • Shadow of the Stone Richard Drew 1989
  • The Golden Apple, The Bodley Head 1990
  • Wormwood (In Scotland Plays) Nick Hern Books 2000
  • The Curiosity Cabinet Polygon 2005
  • God's Islanders[2] Birlinn 2006
  • The Scent Of Blue Wordarts (Pamphlet) 2007
  • The Price Of A Fish Supper (In Scottish Shorts) Nick Hern Books 2010
  • The Curiosity Cabinet Wordarts (Kindle Edition) 2011
  • Bird Of Passage Wordarts (Kindle Edition) 2012
  • The Amber Heart Wordarts (Kindle Edition) 2012
  • Ice Dancing Wordarts (Kindle Edition) 2012
  • The Physic Garden Saraband 2014[3]
  • The Jewel Saraband 2016

Stage plays[edit]

  • Heroes And Others Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. 1980
  • The Devil And Mary Lamont Borderline Community Theatre 1995
  • Bonnie Blue Hen Borderline Community Theatre 1996
  • Wormwood Traverse Theatre 1997
  • Quartz Traverse Theatre 2000
  • The Price Of A Fish Supper The Oran Mor, Glasgow 2005.
  • Burns On The Solway The Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2006
  • The Secret Commonwealth The Oran Mor, Glasgow 2010

Television drama[edit]

  • Ugly Sisters Scottish Television 1982
  • The Showground Collection Scottish Television 1983
  • The Shore Skipper Scottish Television 1984
  • Shadow Of The Stone, Six Part Serial For Scottish Television 1986
  • Strathblair BBC Television Two Episodes, 1988

Original plays for BBC Radio[edit]

  • The Hare And The Fox 1973
  • A Bit Of The Wilderness 1974
  • O Flower Of Scotland 1979
  • Noon Ghosts 1981
  • Bonnie Blue Hen 1984
  • The Butterfly Bowl 1985
  • Maydays 1986
  • The Golden Man 1987
  • Bright As A Lamp, Simple As A Ring 1990
  • Amber 1995
  • Gnats
  • Sardine Burial
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land
  • Tam O’ Shanter
  • The Curiosity Cabinet (Trilogy)
  • Running Before The Wind (4 Linked Plays)
  • The Peggers And The Creelers (Trilogy) 1997
  • Dark Star (The Life Of Lorna Moon)
  • Vindolanda (5 Episodes)

Dramatisations and abridgements for BBC Radio[edit]

  • Kidnapped And Catriona (10 Episodes) 1985
  • The Bride Of Lammermoor (5 Episodes)
  • The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (4 Episodes)
  • Madame Butterfly
  • The Mysteries Of Udolpho (2 Episodes)
  • Mr Wrong
  • Tales Of The Bizarre:Ray Bradbury Short Stories (6 Episodes)
  • Pilgrimage (2 Episodes) 1997
  • The Summer Book
  • Learning To Swim
  • Treasure Island
  • Ben Hur (Four Episodes) 2004
  • Feelings Under Siege (5 Episodes)
  • La Grande Therese (10 Episodes)
  • A Girl In Winter
  • The Remains Of The Day
  • The Price Of A Fish Supper (from the author’s own stage play) 2007

Short stories[edit]

  • Catch 2 She Magazine 1972
  • Your Own Skipper BBC R4 1974
  • A Warehouse of Cats AMF Magazine 1975
  • The Unicorn in Capercailzie Wood Words Magazine 1977
  • Sardine Burial
  • The Butterfly Bowl
  • Da Capo BBC R4 1980
  • A Bad Year for Trees, The Other Voice 1980
  • Village Eyes BBCR4 1980
  • Hush Pussy BBCR4 1981
  • Stained Glass Ayrshire Life 1981
  • Letter from Warsaw The London Review of Books 1981
  • The Penny Execution Ayrshire Life 1984
  • The Sampler Smeddum Press 1995
  • The Sleigh Amazon Kindle 2012
  • A Quiet Afternoon in the Museum of Torture, New Writing Scotland, 2010
  • (and now on Kindle)
  • Breathe Amazon Kindle 2012


  1. ^ "Catherine Czerkawska". Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "God's Islanders: The Story of Gigha by Catherine Czerkawska". Retrieved 2015-02-20. 
  3. ^ "Publisher of literary and commercial fiction and high quality non-fiction titles - The Physic Garden". Saraband. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 

External links[edit]