Robert at the Mod – 21.10.21

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I unfortunately didn’t manage to make it up to the Mòd in Inverness last week but, thanks to the competition’s increased presence on social media, I was able to follow what was going on from the comfort and sobriety of my flat in Glasgow.

Congratulations to all the prize winners. I am sure a few celebratory drams were had in the Highland capital as the week progressed.

The winners this year were very popular ones indeed. Male medalist, John Joe MacNeil, is a top guy who has done a great deal for Gaelic, both through his work as a teacher but also a lot of voluntary work. Twenty-year-old Mairi Callan won the women’s prize and it’s always great to see young winners of these premier competitions.

he winners of the Traditional Gold Medal this year are both people I know very well. I’ve enjoyed Emma MacLeod from Scalpay’s singing for years at various cèilidhs and concerts, and always felt she was a certainty for the trad medal. That’s not to suggest that winning it this year was anything other than a tremendous achievement. The quality in the female competition was very high indeed; both on paper, with some well-known names competing, and on the night, with some really excellent performances that were shown on BBC Alba.

While I’m delighted for all the singers listed above, I have to admit I’m particularly thrilled for my fellow Lochaber man, Calum MacColl, who won the male Traditional medal. Calum is incredibly musical with great ability on both the pipes and the three-row accordion, as well as a profound understanding and appreciation of his Gaelic musical heritage. Many times when I was a school kid I enjoyed Calum playing a 2/4 march or a Gaelic waltz at the Lochaber Accordion and Fiddle Club.

Singing, and learning the language to fluency, is a relatively more recent endeavour of Calum’s and I think it’s fair to say it’s going rather well! I recall bumping into Calum’s father, the late Charlie MacColl, in a pub in Paisley the year I won the Gold Medal and he told me over a dram how delighted he was that a Lochaber boy had won the medal. Well, think how proud he would be now to know that his son had won the Trad. A brilliant achievement for a very deserving guy.

Finally, congratulations to Alison Rapson and Seumas Campbell who celebrated winning their gold medals 50 years ago this year. Seumas was the first person who adjudicated me at the national Mòd in 2007 and, years later, when I first adjudicated a national competition myself, I arrived at the venue feeling nervous about the role until I saw that my co-adjudicator that day was none other than Seumas – and I immediately felt much calmer! It’s been tough not getting to the Mòd this year and catching up with all the people mentioned above and many more. Roll on Perth next October where, fingers crossed, we’ll all be together again!