Robert’s Mod

Robert Robertson singing in the Mod in 2007.

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I often say that the success of a National Mòd relies upon a good Mòd fringe. I’m a big fan of the competitions – I loved competing and I love adjudicating – but, if the local community in whichever town the Mòd is held has fully embraced the spirit of the festival and filled every bar and hotel with music, then that is where a Mòd becomes truly memorable.

Inverness, where the event was due to be held this year, is usually a safe bet for a good fringe. Plenty of bars to sing in, Eden Court Theatre for slightly more serious events, and I remember playing the final dance in the Ironworks back in 2014 with Skipinnish, which was a great night. How does this year’s virtual Mòd rank as far as its fringe events are concerned? Very highly, I would have to say! In truth, when the Mòd began, it hadn’t actually occurred to me that there would be a fringe at all. The first I knew of it was one night when I was cooking my dinner and my phone started pinging uncontrollably. Either there’s been a crazy football result, I thought, or something funny has appeared on social media. It was the latter. Someone at BBC Alba had unearthed footage of 13-year-old me singing at Mòd Loch Abair back in 2007 and it was all over its Facebook and Instagram.

Having just adjudicated this year’s youngsters, it was an odd experience watching myself singing at that age. And an even odder experiences when adjudications of sorts started flying in from family, pals, band mates, and fellow Mòd goers!

What soon became apparent was that this clip was a very small part of a much larger strategy from An Comunn and the BBC to put together a virtual Mòd full of footage from the archives to run as a kind of fringe alongside the footage from this year’s virtual competitions. A lot of the earliest footage was lost in the infamous fire at the old BBC studios on Queen Margaret Drive, but viewers across television and social media have nevertheless been treated to a cornucopia of memorable Mòd moments. From old choir footage such as Back Gaelic choir in 1995, featuring the McKenzie sisters, or the late George Clavey conducting the Harris choir; to iconic soloists such as Arthur Cormack singing in Sutherland in 1977, Kristine Kennedy in Stornoway in 1989, Margaret Stewart singing in 1993, Kim Carnie singing in Lochaber in 2007, and Joy Dunlop singing for Prince Charles in Caithness in 2010. I particularly enjoyed my good pal Darren MacLean singing in the junior sections in 1993. I hope Darren is reading this article because I would like to point out that 93 was the year I was born!

Great work by An Comunn and the BBC to put together a week of such programmes, however, as I intimated last week, let’s hope the real Mòd returns next year – if only to avoid the airing of any more footage of a baby-faced yours truly!