May 9 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Mod convener Mary Ann Brown was in for a surprise when she began to research the history of the local Gaelic festival which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Although they knew the first local Mod had been held in 1962, none of the current committee members knew much about the event’s origins.
Mary Ann, who lives in Denny but comes originally from the Island of Harris, began to investigate and a couple of phone calls revealed that the founder of the Mod was in fact a relation of hers.
A native Gaelic speaker, Donald John McLennan came from the tiny island of Scarp, just off the coast of Harris, but in the 1960s he was living in the Hillfoots.
She said: “I knew he lived in the Hilllfoots, but I had no idea that he had been the original convener – by the time I became a member of the committee he had been retired for several years. I was amazed and very delighted to discover the connection.”
Mary Ann’s daughter, Karen Fernie was also pleased to discover the family connection. She is the minute secretary of the organising committee and very involved in organising the event.
Mr McLennan and a few others from the Forth Valley area had been inspired by the Royal National Mod, which came to Stirling in 1961.
It was a huge success, with the historic setting making a perfect venue for the annual week-long celebration of Gaelic language and culture.
Following the national Mod, it was agreed that an annual local event, on a smaller scale, should be set up and Mod Ionadail Shruighlea (Stirling Provincial Mod) was born.
The basic format has remained unchanged over the decades. The event is competition-based, and choirs, soloists, duettists and quartets vie for the honours in several competitions which are held on a Saturday every May – this year on May 19.
While the Albert Halls were for many years the event’s home, last year’s enforced move to The Golden Lion Hotel was such a success that it is being repeated this year.
On the Friday evening (this year May 18), there has always been a piping event which attracts as many as 90 young competitors from the Forth Valley area and West Lothian.
A few years ago, however, the Mod committee were told that there was a lack of opportunities for young fiddlers, so a new event was created which also attracts a high number of young entrants, keen to showcase their talent.
Mary Ann said: “We think the Mod is a great platform for young people in particular to perform on the bagpipes and the fiddle.
“We have also seen a rise in the number of youngsters taking part in the vocal competitions, particularly now that pupils from Riverside Primary’s Gaelic Medium Unit regularly enter. It is very encouraging for everyone who wants to preserve the Gaelic language.”
The Saturday afternoon sees adults taking part in various singing competitions and the evening is rounded off with a traditional ceilidh dance, which sees the winners from most of the competitions take to the floor interspersed with dancing for children and adults alike.
This year, the ceilidh dance will be held in the Golden Lion Hotel at 7.30pm and Mary Ann and her fellow committee members hope it will be a great success to mark the Mod’s continuing success as a focal point for Gaelic in the Central Belt.
“We are delighted that Stirling Mod is still going strong after all these years and with competitor levels well up on last year we look forward to many more successful events.”
Mod Ionadail Shruighlea is held on Friday, May 18 and Saturday, May 19. Junior piping and fiddle competitions are in St Modan’s High School at 7pm on Friday, May 18. Junior vocal and choral competitions are in the Golden Lion Hotel on Saturday, May 19, from 9am until 1pm. Adult competitions are in the same venue from 2pm on Saturday, May 19.
For more information contact Stirling Mod convener Mary Ann Brown on 07724 895239 or 01324 823314.