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Always keen to maintain this column’s hard won reputation for keeping abreast of current affairs, and after a week where our television screens have been filled with the Presidential election across the pond, I thought I would attempt an American theme this week.
My understanding of US politics being fairly vague, I’ll spare you any ill-informed commentary and tell you instead of an absolutely brilliant trip I had six years ago to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I recall writing about it at the time in my Glasgow Letter; so a look into the archives will perhaps reveal how accurate, or otherwise, my memory is!
Each year, the male and female Mòd gold medalists are flown across the Atlantic to sing and judge at the American National Mòd. After winning in Paisley in 2013, myself and Eilidh Goudie (Eilidh Munro back then) headed out the following September: not just to anywhere in the US – but to Washington DC itself where such a seismic transfer of power is occurring this week.
What an absolutely incredible city. We spent days wandering its streets in absolute awe at its architecture – from the White House, to Capitol Building, to Arlington Cemetery, and to (my favourite) the Lincoln Memorial. We even took in a Washington Capitol’s Ice Hockey match. In keeping with my election theme this week, the Mòd itself took place in neighbouring Pennsylvania: the state that held so much sway in the outcome of the 2020 race for the White House.
We rolled into the beautiful, sleepy town of Ligonier and (after an evening of Gaelic songs in a hotel which disastrously had no bar!) we headed the following day for the Mòd. Is it really called a Mòd, I hear you ask, when the hotel has no bar?! The event was part of a Highland Games – the scale of which I had never seen in my life. I was dressed in my kilt but, for a reason I can’t recall, my bag with my brogues, my sporran, and my belt was in another gentleman’s car. On our arrival at the event, I was told that the guy with my bag was running late. Too late. I was ushered onto the main stage and introduced, I kid you not, as a representative of the Royal National Mòd – the pinnacle of Scottish Gaelic song.
Yet there I stood – in front of droves of expectant Americans – with neither belt nor sporran; and wearing trainers with my kilt socks! In an attempt to win over an increasingly skeptical audience, I gave a heartfelt rendition of Mo Mhàthair. As the last line of the song approached, I paused, closed my eyes, and drew breath slowly to deliver the final notes. At exactly this point, I heard a commotion at the back of the crowd. A man began sprinting down the aisle, clutching my bag, and shouting in an American accent that will remain with me for as long as I live: Robert, I got your shoes!!!